Thanks to the generosity of Eagles’ Wings Ministries’ Israel Experience program, I was able to finally take a dream trip to Israel, which included camel rides, sleeping in a Bedouin tent in the Negev Desert, meeting members of the Knesset and other government officials, and visiting all the high-profile places in the country, such as Jerusalem and now-Muslim Nazareth as well as Bethlehem and Efrat in the West Bank. As beautiful as those sites are, one location and its people stand out above all others: the brave citizens of Sderot, an Israeli town that borders on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Israel has been willing to exercise any option that doesn’t cause its destruction in an attempt for peace. When standing on the edge of Sderot and looking into the Gaza Strip, one can see the barren land where in 2005 the Israeli government forced peaceful Jewish settlers to leave behind their homes so they could be demolished in accordance with the demands of the Palestinians and international community, who failed to appreciate the economic contributions the settlement had made and could make in a tolerant, peaceful Palestinian state.
The Palestinians returned the favor by electing Hamas, who responded to this olive branch with rocket fire. Since the withdrawal from Gaza, over 7,000 rockets have been fired at Israel, including 226 since the end of Operation Cast Lead in January. Critics of the Israeli offensive into Gaza frequently state that the response was not proportional, as if not enough innocent Israelis had been killed to warrant retaliation aimed at preventing further casualties.
The focus on the relatively low number of Israeli casualties disguises the tremendous damage the rocket attacks caused, both to Palestinians and Israelis. The Palestinians need to direct their anger at Hamas’ aggression, which has resulted in unnecessary and regrettable suffering for them, and recognize that the terrorist organization is not the “liberation” force destined to save them. On the Israeli side, the psychological and economic damage is hard to comprehend.