A view from my window

This is my first blog post on The Times of Israel. It started out as a reply to a Facebook thread, where I felt compelled to answer. We Israelis are so often vilified in the media, on Social Networks, and in the blogoshphere. I try not to get upset by how we are being portrayed, but I can only stay silent for so long. So here it is, the view from my window.

We are all sickened by the situation. We Israelis live in constant fear as our children are being targeted. I think its high time the international community takes into account the damaging effect this war is having on our children. We are repeatedly running into our safe rooms daily, as sirens go off. Today, my son Shalev (almost 3), wanted to rush to the safe room, and cried out “I’m scared” as he thought the sound of a lawnmower outside was the red alert. This week my daughters Neshama (7) and Eden (5) had to huddle in the center of the room during a ballet class, during a siren, for fear they might get cut by the mirrored wall were it to explode. Hodaya (10) fears to venture far from home. My eldest Shirel (14), broke down in tears during a siren, as we heard the missiles falling nearby. We have to make the terrible decision whether to let our children sleep through a missile attack and prevent psychological trauma or wake them, and to seek the protection of our bomb shelter. I ask you this: Is this a normal, healthy reality? We are heartbroken with loss of lives of innocent children and mothers. On any side. We want to live in peace, but we are dealing with an officially acknowledged terrorist organization. Hamas was deemed one of the US Department of States Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997.

A few months ago, I saw pure hatred in the eyes of Hamas terrorists that tried to kill us, throwing boulders at our car, while driving home on Friday morning from the supermarket. My wife Geula huddled over our twins, Mia and Źoe shielding them with her body. While I gunned the gas pedal.

We are worried sick about Geula’s brother who was called up for emergency reserve duty. Is he a monster? A violent thug that rapes women and murders innocent children, as the world colors the IDF? No. He is a husband, a father of 3. A social worker.

I wish we didn’t have to go to war. We all do, and we try any and all ways to end it. Israel accepted an Egyptian brokered cease fire and allowed breaks for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. Both were broken by Hamas rockets. We set up a field hospital on the Gaza border to treat wounded Palestinians, which was then fired upon by Hamas RPG’s. There have been more than 3,000 missiles targeting our civilians in major         metropolitan cities during the last few weeks. More than 13,000 total in past years. What would you do if Mexico started firing missiles on Los Angeles? Would you stand Idly by?

When Israel bombs a hospital or school, it is because it is a terrorist stronghold. Hamas stores it’s weapons and fires rockets purposefully from highly dense population centers. (See below for several conversations Israeli military intelligence had with a neighboring hospital in Gaza, before it was bombed).

We warn civilians to leave beforehand, by dropping leaflets in Arabic urging civilians to evacuate. While Hamas tells them to stay put. Often blocking their civilians from exiting. We Israelis have invested heavily into education and security. Great minds developed systems to warn and protect our citizens like the Red Alert App, that lets us know exactly where a rocket is heading. Or the Iron Dome system that shoots down over 90% of rockets fired at us. If we have fewer casualties, are we to blame? Is it fair to judge us the aggressors due to our lower casualty rate?  It boils down to this: We use rockets to protect our citizens, Hamas uses citizens to protect their rockets.

Yesterday I was escorting an American Radio Broadcaster, John Batchelor, on a tour of the south. While in Sderot, standing half a mile from the Gaza wire, I witnessed the intricate tunnel systems that Hamas terrorist built to raid and kill residents of the area. Just two days ago,the IDF stopped an infiltration into a Kibbutz, where 10 Hamas terrorists were killed, they were dressed like Israeli Soldiers.Our soldiers gave their lives in that operation, protecting our citizens. This was not a spontaneous attack. This was a well thought out plan, aimed at terrorizing our citizens. Everyone is scared. Everyone feels the pain.

While In Ashkelon, I witnessed Iron Dome intercept 2 rockets right over my head. We ran for cover in Eshkol, where they have 15 seconds to reach a safe room when the red alert sounds. We mourn loss of innocent life. To us, life is sacred, yet they rejoice in it. We hear it from our neighboring villages, as they shoot guns and set off fireworks in jubilation when our soldiers or towns are “successfully” targeted. I pray for justice, peace survival and thrival for all. But, it starts with acknowledging my right to exist. My children deserve to go to sleep at night in a secure and safe environment.

We tried the peaceful route, when we disengaged from Gaza in 2005. We left, handing over a vibrant agriculture economy ready to be put to use with enough produce to feed many villages and to provide them with an immediate source of income, but they destroyed it all. Fields of produce and greenhouses up in flames. Hundreds of Millions of dollars in foreign aid has been used by Hamas for weapons and underground terror tunnels instead of investing in education and building an infrastructure to better their civil society.

Our strength is our collective heart. Our compassion. Our commitment to teaching our children love. To hope and dream. That anything is possible. Herzl said it best, ” If you will it, it is no dream”.

We are not perfect, no society is, not by a long shot, and for all of our differences, we Israelis have one thing in common, we all believe in Israel’s basic right to exist. We will stop at nothing to defend our children when attacked. Our main fault is that in the past, we have been less than effective in the PR department. Always getting sucked into being on the defensive. The Palestinians have been fighting a psychological war for years, using their poverty and devastation in Gaza as a way to gain sympathy. They realized early on that their strength against us could never be physical. The Israel Army is known world wide as highly sophisticated and capable force, that is why we have won every war we have fought, regardless of the foe. They realized the only way to “beat us” is by waging war in the heart and mind. They’ve become masters of PR & propaganda. Launching campaigns to show the world the “atrocities” we commit in every mainstream news outlet in the world. This explains why Hamas uses their own people as human shields. There is a huge on-line campaign using pictures of dead children from internal wars in Syria, Iraq, and Iran, passing them off as “Israeli war crimes”. You can easily check out a picture you find online by searching Google with the picture to see when and where the original was posted. When it becomes clear that it is indeed a picture of a massacre in Syria, where is the outrage? Where is the cry of human rights violations of massacres in Syria? Sudan? Iraq? When a Gazan School was destroyed killing some 15 children, in the international community, we are to blame. Even if it is uncovered that the school was damaged by friendly fire from Hamas rockets. It was confirmed that during a humanitarian cease fire, Hamas executed 25 Palestinians thought to be Israeli collaborators, they then reported to the media that Israel perpetrated, and celebrated them as martyrs. (See link)

It’s all about education. Hate breeds hate. If Palestinian Children are taught from a young age to hate the Zionist “Infidel”, If they are sent to Jihad summer camps, parading around in military outfits and taught to fire weapons, what chance could we ever possibly have for peace? Is it a wonder that Israel has had 12 Nobel Laureates to date and the PA just 1? Chairman Yasser Arafat, of course.

I pray that the world, especially my family in the US, is capable of seeing our truth, of hearing our narrative. I hope they will be willing to learn the history of this region and our people, and not to so easily buy into the sensationalist, biased media.

I invite anyone of you out there, to come and be my guest in my home, and see Israel for yourselves the view from my window. It is a beautiful country, much more than a place of conflict. A place with a rich history & culture. A bastion of freedom. The only democracy in the Middle East that offers fair treatment to all of her citizens, regardless of race, creed, religion, denomination or sexual preference. A society that invests in the future generation and vows to protect her minorities. Try being a Christian or homosexual in Any of the neighboring Arab countries,and dare to live to see the outcome. There are over 1,000,000 Arab Israeli citizens offered the same rights and protection as Jewish citizens.

So please come for a visit, together we can pray for peace, for an end to the suffering, and hate. Blessings to all.

About the Author
Chanan Elias is North American director for the Face of Israel. He lives in Tekoa with his beautiful wife and 7(!) kids.