Chesler Chronicles

Israel's Quiet Nightmare: Words are Worth a Thousand Pictures.

Try to imagine sitting in a bomb shelter, shaking with terror, day after day, year after year. No, try to imagine having to run to get to that shelter; once the siren screams, you’ll have only one minute before the rocket will strike. Imagine that you’re elderly or disabled, imagine that you’re diabetic but have forgotten your insulin, imagine that your children are freaking out or that you can’t find them.

Imagine that you’re faced with a version of (the very fictional) Sophie’s Choice: Do you seek shelter yourself or do you keep looking for your children? Do you give up your job, keep your children at home and out of school? Do you scatter them among your relatives elsewhere in the country? How does a person resign herself to not being in control of ordinary life “for the duration?”

This has been the reality, year in, year out, for Israeli civilians who live in Sderot, and it is now the reality for those living in Ashkelon and Ber-Sheva. The media has not covered this: Not enough blood, too little death, the photo opportunities are not…sexy. Thus, the world did not open its heart to this nerve-wracking, soul-deadening suffering, only a handful of protests were ever held, international pressure never built, the UN presided over no urgent meetings.

And now, this utterly demoralizing reality, together with the grim fact that kidnapped Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, is still missing–well, it all does not seem to “count” as much as does a photograph of one dead Palestinian child–one of Hamas’s smaller human shields. You can see her right there, on the front page of yesterday’s New York Times. Hamas is not blamed for putting her in harm’s way purely for propaganda purposes. Israel is blamed for daring to finally try to put a stop to the endless barrage of artillery aimed at its civilian citizens by exterminationists. Still, it is a terrible image.

Funny, there are no frontpage photos of the three month old Israeli infant who has just been “lightly wounded” by Hamas rocketry in Gadera.

How can we capture Israeli suffering in a single photograph –assuming the world wanted to see it? In this instance, a few words might be worth a thousand pictures. I have begun to write to Israelis I know. Yesterday, I asked one woman to help me “humanize” Israel’s plight. Here’s the first response, from Jennifer Roskies. Her words are ironic, bitter, thoughtful, eloquent, and manage to convey both the “larger” and the more personal picture (so to speak). She writes:

“Unfortunately, I don’t think that I have much to offer that would “humanize” what Israel is experiencing, because there is nothing that compares to the morbid orgasmic effect of dead children and babies’ corpses. In terms of what the 900,000 hostage-citizens of Israel’s south (“south” makes it seem remote; with the expanding radius of Hamas missiles, “the south” is a half-hour drive from my door), there is not much to say, either.

There is nothing that spectacular about a government doing pretty much what it is supposed to do–namely, prepare the groundwork for the rockets, equip shelters, build protective structures, put an entire branch of the army, the Home Front Command, in charge of a comprehensive infrastructure of resources and personnel that provides information, hot lines, supplies, essential services, and most of all, makes sure that all public spaces and vulnerable areas are evacuated when the alarms sound.

I mean, what’s the emotional thrill of seeing a kindergarten with a hole blown through its ceiling, or a crater in a soccer field after it’s been evacuated and is now empty, when you could look at panic stricken civilians running through, (or buried under), blown apart, dilapidated, unenforced structures without a shred of a notion of where to go. No place to run to–because the game plan was to leave them exposed and vulnerable, wedged deliberately between the rocket launchers and terror masterminds and the Israeli attacks.

Not only that: the seething hatred from Palestinian masses and fanatic fervor, (along with the self-righteousness in demonstrations around the world), bring such a high voltage rush that everything else is bland in comparison. That includes the unassuming nobility of young warriors who march into harm’s way to try to stop the rockets, knowing that nothing can quell the hatred.

I knew the time would come when my children and their contemporaries would be the soldiers behind the headlines, and that time has come. My daughter gets “shipped off” to the Sderot area tomorrow to join her fellow, rather, sister, soldiers assigned to shelters, underground community centers and elsewhere, keeping kids and grownups busy, alleviating anxiety and stifling her own. Her classmates and buddies are in infantry units God knows where inside Gaza and in naval gunboats off the coast. Nothing dramatic about those kids hanging out with my daughter in my living room who are nervous and scared, yet focused and determined. No photo-op.”

Jennifer Roskies has brilliantly captured the public relations nightmare that Israel is facing. Israel is being punished because she is taking care of her citizens, or at least, trying to do so. Indeed, Israel is expected to not defend herself. Leftist Jews, both here and in Israel, believe that Israel can only be deemed a “good Jewish” nation if it agrees to endure endless wars of attrition and to participate in the evisceration of its already small territory. Hamas and Hezbollah, Iran’s proxies, agree with the leftist Jews that the only”good” Jewish nation is one that is not so…”Jewish,” one that is, perhaps, gone.

Hamas is being rewarded with sympathy and international support precisely because they use their civilians as human shields and have spent the last three years, after Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, not in creating a Palestinian state, but in trying to destroy the Jewish state.