Fiamma Nirenstein

Me in the city under the bombs: every minute a rocket

Sderot- What does war make of a man? What is created by all these missiles that chase us every five minutes while traveling along the border with Gaza? What situation awaits us this evening in Tel Aviv, in Jerusalem? Fear? Tension? No, after every blast, after every air raid siren, the Israelis in the border city of Sderot, but also the self-assured Tel Avivian teenagers, or the calm youngsters in Jerusalem express their determination, with infinite endurance, and anger; they want them to halt, “Those idiots, who are marching towards their own destruction, for we are stronger” says Zafrir, while we run together towards a bunker.

But especially this war (the same enemy, the same methods, the same mindless international refusal to hear) does not make one afraid: it instead breaks your heart, it makes you sad. It will never end the Arab refusal to accept this small State, sighs Mary, an Argentine mother from Ashkelon.
On Friday evening, the eve of the Sabbath, the tanks are lined up in an unusual number. Near Gaza, religious soldiers in the army involve the laity in an embrace of solidarity and dance in a circle. They are together, united by the same sense of mission, their lives will be in danger, if the order, which is imminent, arrives, at least for some special Units: in a few hours, the darkness of Gaza, and 1.8 million inhabitants who watch closely, could swallow the steps of the soldiers who have to stop the rain of missiles and have blocked the life of a nation. Hamas is continuing its bombing from that wild and wound fierce-city which we see on the other side of the border beyond the sand; a modern city with skyscrapers and narrow streets where we have ventured many times to interview those special, particular protagonist of the Modern Age, the terrorists.
The Israeli planes roar and bombard in response, while the number of injured and dead multiplies. Today, Gaza does not produce farmers, scientists, technology experts, as the world hoped with Israeli disengagement in 2005, but instead produces missiles and Islamic fundamentalists, a special production decked out in black and green, with caps, machine guns, and schools that teach suicide terrorism to the kids. Obama’s proposal to mediate with the army, with little intention of Netanyahu to commence an adventure that would cause the usual international criminalization, hasn’t convinced Hamas to desist: “There is no interest in mediation,” life must be dedicated to destroying Israel, to kill Jews, to hate Christians, to not accept agreements either today or ever in the future.


The logic of these missiles which are falling around us by the minute, the progressive emptying of their reserves, one after the other, of Kassam, Grad, Katyusha, can only be intended as the policy of somebody who has won looking for attention, allies, money, after Egypt abandoned them. Looking at those houses, I’m sorry for the inhabitants who are slaves of a dictatorial system that does not permit defection. There in their midst are placed launch ramps and terrorist bases which Israel is hunting: just yesterday, Khaled Mashaal, one of the most important leaders, told inhabitants to not leave their houses, which instead Israelis require with phone calls and flyers distributed every time before they aim and fire. Instead, an order to become human shields calls for them to go up on the roofs.


Descending towards the south of Israel along the Strip that was evacuated in 2005, leaving Gaza in the hands of Hamas: the radio recites the rosary of the strangest and most important names from Gan Yavne to Tel Aviv. The more you approach Gaza, the more the names of Beersheba, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Sderot resonate, while the rockets pursue you at every step. If there is a “red alert”, and you are travelling by car, the Home Front asks you to get out and lie down on the ground, or get up against a wall. A few meters away, there on the road, a burning beast that creates a crater of death could drop at any minute. But the people save themselves because there are shelters everywhere and because they obey the orders without discussion.


About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.