Ask any school-aged child in Minnesota what are the two most magical words that he can hear between the months of November and March, and he will say, without a moments hesitation, “SNOW DAY!” What child doesn’t relish the thought of a sudden cancellation of school? Probably more than a few parents and teachers also welcome the rare gift of an unexpected day off. Until the roads are plowed, we are all “stuck” at home. Everyone sleeps a bit later, breakfast is leisurely, the day unspools slowly, to a different and quieter rhythm. It is understood that by tomorrow, everything will be back to normal, the usual routines will resume.
The children in the southern communities in Israel have had their own “snow days” of sorts since Sunday. Like our snow days, school is closed because of what is falling from the sky.
However, what’s been falling in southern Israel is not snow, but rockets, hundreds of them, shot from Gaza and aimed at population centers within Israel.
A million people have taken cover in shelters since Sunday, shielding themselves from the barrage. Thanks to the “Iron Dome” technology, developed in Israel with U.S. aid, 78% of these rockets have been intercepted. Nonetheless, some rockets have gotten through, causing injuries and damage to property. Over the years some 13,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza onto communities within Israel. The trauma of the cumulative attacks cannot be overstated.
The Israeli Defense Force responded with airstrikes on rocket launching sites, killing approximately twenty five Palestinians, mostly terrorists.
A cease-fire was brokered by Egypt on Tuesday. If quiet prevails, schools will reopen on Wednesday.
Two terror groups, the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committee (PRC), claim credit for the missile attacks, launched in response to Israel’s killing last Friday of Zuhir al-Qaisi, head of the PRC. Israeli intelligence indicated that al-Qaisi was planning an attack similar to the one carried out by the PRC in August, in which eight Israelis were fired on and killed as they traveled on the Israeli highway to Eilat. According to Amos Gilad of Israel’s Ministry of Defense, the goal behind attacks that originate in the Sinai Peninsula is to disrupt Israel’s relations with Egypt. Relations between Israel and Egypt were severely strained following last summer’s attack, in which Israeli soldiers, fighting against the attackers, killed several Egyptian troops.
Hamas is notably absent in the launching of rockets this time. While killing and injuring Israelis and destroying their property is undoubtedly satisfying for such terrorist organizations, that not the entire objective for Islamic Jihad and the PRC.
In the endless jockeying for power, prestige and patrons that takes place between rival terror groups, this latest round is meant to show Hamas that they are not in total control of Gaza anymore.
Hamas has been widely disparaged since it signed a unity agreement last month with the rival Fatah party, which controls the West Bank. Add to this the fact that Hamas has fallen out of favor with Iran for refusing to back Syria’s Bashar Assad, whose military forces have massacred thousands of Syrian citizens. Meanwhile, Iran continues to supply Islamic Jihad with the Grad rockets it has used against Israel. Said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “Islamic Jihad is a wholly owned Iranian subsidiary, so not only did the violence in the South not push Iran off the agenda, it instead thrust Iran front and center”.
Others suggest that the attacks are the latest attempt by Palestinian leaders to regain relevance. With the world’s attention turned toward Iran’s nuclear program, the Palestinian cause has been sidelined.
What can we do from so far away to be helpful?
We can write to our elected officials, urging them not to ignore the situation. The Israel Project website has an easy to use, automated system to enable you to quickly email your representatives in Congress. While you are at it, acknowledge the $200 million in U.S. support that has helped Israel deploy Iron Dome shields over additional southern Israeli cities. Not only has this technology saved lives, but by keeping the Israeli casualty count low, it has prevented an escalation of the conflict, for now.
These new attacks have nonetheless caused their own kind of trauma. If you are looking for an organization that is on the ground providing assistance to victims, check out The Jewish Agency for Israel. Their representatives are able to respond within minutes of an attack, providing immediate, short-term financial aid. Plans are underway to offer respite care for children in a quieter part of the country during the Passover holiday.
Another option is to support the indoor recreation center built by the Jewish National Fund in S’derot. At 21,000 square feet, it is the largest of its kind in Israel.
Perhaps you wish to thank those who work tirelessly to defend Israel from attack. If so, here is a truly fun idea- you can send pizza,ice cream and other treats directly to IDF soldiers.
Here in Minnesota, it is amazingly sunny and warm. Snow, what little we had, already seems like a distant memory. The skies are beautiful, peaceful, quiet. One can only hope and pray that Israelis will be able to look up at their sky and say the same thing.