Yuval Krausz

Concrete and Steel

Years and years ago we had turned one of the bomb shelters on the kibbutz into a club.  We invested a bit of money, a very small amount of money, and set up a small bar, put in a small stereo system, and advertised in the weekly kibbutz flyer that there would be refreshments and dancing.

Another bomb shelter was turned into a photo studio and dark room, while yet another served a variety of cultural and social functions.

The very fact however, that there had been, since 1948, a need for bomb shelters was an indication of what had been, and what was to be. These shelters had to be built because this particular kibbutz was very close to the Egyptian border, a mile and a half north of the Gaza strip.

During my military service on Israel’s Syrian border, many of the kibbutzim and small towns and co-operative farms also had bomb shelters.  Children would sleep in them, learn there, and survive there, because prior to 1967 the Syrian military would send artillery shells and mortar fire raining down on these farms and towns.

During the 1970’s and 1980’s, when Israel’s border with Lebanon flared up time and again, the villages, farms and kibbutzim sought shelter again and again in bomb shelters.  It was only after American military activities began during the Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm, that Israelis realized that our bomb shelters might not be enough to protect our civilian population from Saddam Hussein’s SCUD missiles, and so laws were passed to build “safe rooms” in every new dwelling, and to have home owners consider turning a room in their home into a safe room.

These safe rooms were constructed of heavy concrete and steel, with steel doors and steel panels for the windows.  When Israel disengaged from the Gaza strip in August of 2005, it did not take long for the rockets, at first just primitive ones, to start flying towards the Jewish farms and towns that bordered the Gaza strip.  In order to protect its citizens, those of Sderot, Netivot, Ofakim, Be’er Sheva, Ashkelon, Ashdod and the numerous kibbutzim and moshavim in the vicinity of the Gaza strip, heavily fortified concrete tube-like shelters began to appear in those towns and farms.  Safe rooms were added to homes.  They were made of concrete, and steel, to save lives, to protect lives, to sustain life.

Israel answered in the affirmative requests that truckload after truckload of cement and construction material and steel rebars, those steel bars that reinforced concrete for the construction of homes, could pass through from Israel into the Gaza strip.

Some of this material was of course used to build homes.  Much of it was used to build tunnels.  These tunnels were built as an underground communication and travel network, and these tunnels were built from the southern part of the Gaza strip into Egypt, and many of them were built from the Gaza strip into Israel.  They were used for travel to and from Egypt by those who could not leave or enter the Gaza strip in any other fashion.  They were used to smuggle weapons from the Sinai into Gaza, weapons on a massive scale from the overthrow of the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, weapons from the Sudan, and of course weapons from Iran, via Hizbollah.

These tunnels were also used to enter Israel and murder civilians, children, the elderly, farmers, teachers, workers, simple folks that went about their daily lives and hurt no one.  This became more and more apparent during Operation Protective Edge, and there was even some speculation that Israel, by uncovering and destroying these tunnels, may have prevented a massive attack on a number of civilian targets, an attack slated for the upcoming Jewish New Year.

Concrete and steel, used for construction and used for destruction.

While Israel uses these materials to save the lives of its citizens, Hamas uses these materials to facilitate the murder of Israelis, and Hamas does not use these materials to protect its citizens.

This is the picture and this is the message that must go out when the talking heads and the media junkies start equivocating and comparing.

This is what the folks at the UN, sitting on the Human Rights council need to consider.  Concrete, and steel, used to save lives and used to take lives.

About the Author
Born in Israel, Yuval emigrated as a baby to Austria and then Canada. He returned to live in Israel in '71 until '91. His military service was in Golani Brigade's 13th Battalion (including Yom Kippur War) with reserve duty as a tank commander and later a liaison officer in the IDF Liaison Unit. He now resides both in the US and Israel, Maryland and Zichron Yaakov respectively.
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