My first war: regrets and observations

The outpouring of concern and support we have received since I posted on Facebook and e-mailed my brief message about our first (and hopefully only) experience with a red alert and taking cover has been heartwarming. Thanks to everyone. It does mean a lot.

The experience was disconcerting but we are doing fine. Things are calm in Jerusalem now, while Tel Aviv, Ashdod, Ashqelon, and a couple of other cities have been targeted by rockets today. You do listen up a bit when you hear a siren or another loud noise.

We went out to the open-air Mamilla Mall Saturday night and while it was not quite as crowded as usual, there were plenty of people, including tourists, out enjoying themselves. Of course, we did note where we would go if the sirens went off. In fact, we decided that the parking garage was a lot better bet than our apartment staircase.

Newer Israeli homes and apartments are all required to have safe rooms, rooms that are reinforced and that have one window that can be shut airtight. Older apartment buildings have basement shelters, where all of the residents can take cover, once they have been cleared out of all the old stuff that has been stored in them for years.

Our apartment, which is even older, has nothing, so we are left with the choice of sprinting toward a public shelter a few hundred meters away or taking refuge in the stairwell, which we are told is the safest place in the building because of the number of walls between us and the outside of the building.

I keep telling my wife that the concrete stairs look like they will collapse with a hard knock of a hammer, let alone a rocket attack. Hopefully we will not find out whether I am right.

We are praying and hoping for peace. We have several friends and acquaintances whose sons are now being called up for a possible ground operation, and that is truly frightening. Everyone dreads the thought of a ground war. We know that most of the world will condemn us, that innocent people will die and suffer, and that we will lose wonderful young people.

However, as much as everyone hates the idea of a ground war, most people do not want a ceasefire unless it includes guarantees that the terrorist infrastructure is dismantled and the rockets are stopped long-term. Otherwise, we just go back to the way it was: rockets coming in whenever Hamas feels like it, and the world paying no attention.
Watching CNN International and other international news stations would lead one to conclude that life was quiet and beautiful until Israel, unprovoked and on a whim, just decided that it would be fun to start a war with Gaza. No mention of the 800-plus rockets fired into Israel this year alone, and the thousands in prior years.

Many people have asked how they can help. Here are a few ways: Keep reminding the world why this is happening: incessant rocket fire directed at civilians by Hamas, whose stated aim is to destroy Israel. Write letters to papers, post on Facebook and other media, attend pro-Israel rallies, and speak up wherever and whenever. And plan a visit to Israel soon.

A funny way to fight a war: An IDF spokesman said yesterday that 124 trucks carrying supplies crossed from Israel to Gaza since the morning. The trucks are carrying goods, medical supplies, dairy products, and gas. The checkpoint between Israel and Gaza is being kept open so that diplomats, members of the press, and other people with urgent business can get through.

In all of the years of rockets, in all the years that Gilad Shalit was kept captive, Israel has continued to supply water and electricity to Gaza. While rockets have targeted the electrical plant that supplies electricity to Gaza, killing Israelis, Israel has continued to supply electricity. The world would only expect Jews to fight a war this way, and only Jews would be crazy enough to do it.

My family often tells me that I dwell on the past too much.
I confess that, despite my best efforts, they are right. And, today, after years of rockets targeted at Israeli civilians, and after four days of Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense aimed at stopping the rockets, and with a treacherous ground operation looming, I could not help but look back with regret.

In 2005 Israel unilaterally pulled out of Gaza. Every soldier, every civilian was gone. Greenhouses were left standing with the hope that the Palestinian people would continue growing products, and with the hope that they would plant the seeds of a country.

Not only could the seeds of a country have come of this, but one of the key ingredients necessary for peace between Israelis and Palestinians could have flourished: trust. The writing on the wall was clear: start to develop your country, live in peace, and Israelis would feel safe in giving up more territory in the West Bank.

Instead of choosing peace and development, the Palestinians in Gaza, fed up with the corruption and oppression of Abbas and Fatah, freely elected Hamas, an Islamist terrorist group dedicated to the murder of Jews and the destruction of Israel. But Fatah still had some control in Gaza.

So, in a vivid demonstration of their commitment to peace and democracy, Hamas wrested complete power in a bloody and vicious war against their own brothers. They threw Fatah soldiers out of windows, they shot people in the knees, they tortured and they maimed.

And then they turned to Israel and started their campaign of rockets, terror, murder, and kidnapping.

Yes, I do look back too much. But I cannot help thinking about what could have been.

About the Author
Alan Edelstein was a lawyer and lobbyist in California for 30 years. He currently lives in Jerusalem and Sacramento, California and consults on governmental affairs, communications, politics, and business development. He blogs at Inquiries regarding speaking engagements: