Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

The Way We Live

When I asked the person in charge of the trip to Eilat organized by the association of pensioners of my former place of work whether there would be some security or at least someone with a weapon on the bus he expressed surprise and answered in the negative, insisting that the roads were safe. Still, we went, having decided that we needed a change from our routine, and hoping for the best. In the event, our journeys to and from Eilat were uneventful, although a missile fired by the Houthis did get through Israel’s defences while we were there. One evening we heard a muffled ‘boom’ as we were sitting in our hotel room. Luckily no damage was caused, but the consequences could have been dire. How and why our defences neither caught the missile nor set off any alarm in the town is a mystery. But there have been worse failures of Israel’s defences in the last few months.

Since the assault on Israel by Hamas terrorists on 7th October we in Israel have learned to live with a sense of vulnerability. Our confidence in the ability of our intelligence and surveillance systems has been severely shaken, and it seems unrealistic to rely on the current government for any practical resolution to our situation. Awareness of the plight of the hostages still in Hamas’ grip is another constant in our daily lives, and until that issue is resolved there can be no peace or confidence in our lives.

It is about ten years since I last visited Eilat, Israel’s answer to Bournemouth but with a better climate. In that time the town in the far south of the country has been cleaned up and beautified, with plentiful greenery in the form of trees and bushes as well as many colourful flower-beds and a constant attention to improving the facilities. The beaches are clean and welcoming, the hotels aesthetic and friendly with varying degrees of luxury, and the artistically-paved promenade seems to be undergoing an incessant process of improvement. In addition to its various attractions such as outings on boats, snorkeling and swimming with dolphins there is now an indoor skating rink and trips to interesting sites such as the impressive archaeological site of Timna as well as the ornithological observatory where many different kinds of migrating birds spend time on their way to and from Africa and northern Europe.

And so we try to stay optimistic and carry on as before as much as possible, but with the constant nagging awareness that the situation is probably going to go from bad to worse before there can be any improvement. The results of an opinion poll carried out by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion and Research among Arab residents of Gaza and the West Bank (can the situation be that bad if it’s possible to conduct a statistically reliable opinion poll there?) show that support for Hamas and denial of the atrocities it committed is stronger than ever. The explanation for this provided by Dr. Halil Shkaki, the Director of the Center, is satisfaction that this has brought the Palestinian issue back into the international limelight. The question remains, however, to what extent this will help the Palestinian cause, as the idea of a Palestinian state alongside Israel is now regarded as an existential threat by many Israelis who once saw it as a viable option. After all, Gaza ruled by Hamas was in essence potentially the longed-for Palestinian state.

After the events of the night of 13th April, the Night of the Long Missiles, when Iran fired hundreds of missiles of various kinds at Israel and their successful interception by Israel’s air defenses, something of Israel’s previous spirit of confidence has been restored. But no one in Israel is deluding themselves about what lies ahead, and whatever it is, the consequences may well be grim. That is the uncertain reality with which we have learned to live.

About the Author
I was born and brought up in England. I am a graduate of the LSE and the Hebrew University. I have lived in Israel since 1964. I am an experienced translator, editor and writer.