Spending some time in Ashkelon, on Israel’s south-western coast, can be very hot. The breeze gets lost among the houses and only a jump in the water can help counter the oppressive August heat. So we spend our time going from pool to air conditioning to pool to beach. Plans to explore the area are quickly overtaken by the need to jump back into the water and out of the sun.
I don’t know how the locals do it: Their mild winters are a small prize after the humid summer months, and if I had to ditch the pool to go to work, I’d have a hard time showing up at my desk.
Then there’s the politics. A trip to Florida does not include calculating where the missiles will land. Vacations on the Atlantic ocean don’t take terrorism into account. Yet hundreds of rockets from Gaza are aimed here, at Ashkelon, and at Israel’s southern families living anywhere within range. A couple summers ago that range included Tel Aviv; perhaps this time the Gazan terrorists didn’t want to stir things up just that much. I find myself apologizing to the residents of Sderot and nearby, sorry that the rest of us go about our lives while they run for cover numerous times each day, as the sirens sound and the missiles fall near their homes and playgrounds.
I thought I’d hear more about that in Ashkelon this week. People seem to be under the spell of a frail ceasefire, brokered by Egypt and held by Hamas. Would you trust Hamas with the safety of your children? The respite I feel is palpable in the number of people flocking to the beach, in the stores, dining out in cafes on the promenade. We Israelis are a stubborn people, and that shows – We’re going to have summer whether our enemies like it or not!
So as we make the big decisions of whether to sit at the pool or stroll over to the beach, I am aware of the blessing that is Israel. Of our children and time together, of our strong army and our leaders who have bartered a tenuous time of peace and security. And then, as I wander down the block, I’m reminded of why we are here: instead of a house just across the way, the trees are cleared and I stumble upon history. A byzantine structure, with beautiful columns, lies exposed as a reminder of our heritage. We’ve been here before. This is our home, and we have no other. Get used to it.