I was accepted to be a Times of Israel blogger a few weeks ago, but I couldn’t bring myself to write something until today. Sitting in my quiet split-level home in Overland Park, Kan., my biggest problem a recent root canal, I felt guilty.
And as Operation Protective Edge was launched, those feelings of guilt intensified.
While my good friends in Israel are being forced into bomb shelters, afraid for their lives, the sirens causing their children to scream and cry and wet their beds, I am driving 35mph to preschool and then work with the DVD player blaring Uncle Moishe — my children strapped tightly in their car seats.
“Why am I not in Israel?” I would ask myself. “I should be in Israel,” I would tell myself.
But over Shabbat, something changed. I realized that my being in Israel would have little impact on the situation on the ground. If anything, it would just put my children and me in danger, too. My husband, with his busted knee and asthma, wouldn’t even be able to fight for the Jewish state.
But here, in the breadbasket of the world, perhaps I can have impact.
I am a writer. I make my living by talking with people and telling their stories. And right now, Israel needs more people – all kinds of people – to better tell its story.
It’s not the story of three wars with Hamas in six years. It is not about the tens of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli cities since 2000. Those are just facts.
The stories are the experiences of the people, of the children.
“We run to the shelter in the middle of the night. My oldest one has to walk by herself. We are carrying the little ones so she cannot be carried by one of us,” says Ehud Zion Waldoks, who lives in Beersheba. “It is so hard for her. In the moment, in the middle of the night, she hears the rockets and she does not know what is going on. But she does it – without any physical contact from us, without us holding her hand.”
In Ashkelon, it’s the scream of Esti Day’s 1-year-old. Whenever she hears a siren, says Day, she starts screaming. She refuses to leave the shelter.
“Every small noise they hear, they think it is a siren. It could be an airplane, but to them it is a siren,” she says of her children.
A friend of a friend in Jerusalem was up in the middle of the night last night. She posted on Facebook that she was, “shaking with worry and the adrenaline of running to my children to protect them.”
Real people. Real stories. Real fear.
No matter how much of the Hamas infrastructure is destroyed by the IDF in Gaza, even if somehow the sovereign state of Israel can declare victory against the terrorist organization Hamas, it will take more than a war to demolish the fear and hate that is subconsciously erupting inside Israel’s youth. And it will take more than F-16s to rebuild a sense of trust in Israeli children or hope for peace.
In Gaza, the story is even worse. Fifty or 60 people live in one home in densely populated areas with no bomb shelters and no iron dome. The children in Gaza are sleeping just as little as the children in Israel.
It doesn’t matter that it is because they have no government to protect them and a terrorist organization purposely placing its most vulnerable in harms way. It is still part of the story.
“The children are crying themselves to sleep,” says Mahfouz Kadariti.
He notes that the IDF drops leaflets or makes announcements that the Gazans should leave their homes before it strikes.
“My children are panicked. ‘Where can we go? Where can we go?’ they ask me. There is nowhere to go,” Kadariti says.
“The first concern for all of us here is staying alive,” says Gazan teacher Joe Carton.
Real people. Real stories. Real fear.
The Jewish Diaspora is important. We want and need to have thriving synagogues, people teaching and practicing Judaism all over the world. We need to have Jewish people that love Israel in every country and in every community.
There is no AIPAC without American Jews. There are no letters to Congress. There are no calls to President Barack Obama.
As a marketer, I have had it drilled into me that positive reviews are worth more today than classic first-person advertising. According to a recent Nielsen Report, 92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust word-of-mouth or recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.
As Jews in the Diaspora who are not faced with rockets or F-16s igniting our skies, we need to help humanize this conflict. We need to tell the stories.
Please read my more comprehensive piece about Operation Protective Edge and its impact on Israeli and Palestinian children later this week, on JNS.org.