In the middle of the night we spent there, mortars were fired at the village and we heard the explosions. There wasn’t enough time to run – not even the 15 seconds they have in Sderot. I listened to the explosions and waited for the ambulance sirens. After a few minutes of quiet, I smiled in the dark and thanked the Arabs for showing her what life was like for too many Israelis – then and now. In Hebrew, the hosts apologized in the morning and I laughed, “did you fire the mortars?” They smiled and wished me a good day. I turned to the reporter and said it was time to go.
A bit shaken, she asked me to confirm that she had been awakened by the firing of mortars or rockets nearby. “Yup,” I answered without hesitation. “Yes, indeed.”
The time I finally lost my ability to watch her be a journalist in silence was when I was taking her through the beautiful zoo in Neve Dekalim, past the animals and the green lush gardens there. I had let the people speak for themselves but realized there was no one to speak for that place, the animals, the young children who had taken the time to paint such beautiful murals on the walls, for Shauli the Camel, and so much more.
As she took pictures and interviewed the zoo keepers to ask what would happen to the animals, I remained quiet, feeling the anger growing inside and finally I asked her if I could speak. We walked quietly and as we did, I began.
“What harm does this zoo do to anyone?” I asked. “If it wasn’t here, do you think there would be peace?”
“Why can’t the Arabs come to the zoo? Why don’t they have one?” she asked me.
“Because,” I answered in anger, “when they come into this community, they come with weapons. They come to kill and so no, they cannot come to see animals when in coming, some would use it as a chance to murder people. If they made peace, they could come to the zoo but if all they want to do is kill us, then no, we can’t safely let them in.”
And then I asked her, “but why don’t you ask the Arabs why THEY don’t build a zoo? Why they spend money on rockets instead of playgrounds and zoos and hospitals? Why do they find it acceptable to shoot rockets at us? And what do you expect us to do? Not only do you not want us to shoot back, you think we should open our homes up despite the security threat! You think it is okay for them to shoot at us, but not okay that our zoo is closed?”
And more, I told her in the anger that was boiling inside me, “okay, so we’ll destroy this zoo; we’ll move the animals to other zoos all over Israel and we’ll ruin the beautiful communities these people have built…will THAT bring peace? We’ll evacuate all the Jews from Gaza – and what will happen? Do you think the Arabs will be happy and use their money to build zoos and parks? Will the poor Palestinian children across the road who don’t have a playground like this, suddenly get one?”
Instead, I told her, what was most likely to happen is exactly what did happened a few weeks ago and has been happening for most of the 7 plus years since we left Gaza: rockets on Askhelon, Ashdod, Beersheva and even Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
And now I have a choice – I can talk to this international media organization and answer their questions. I can show them E1 and ask them how building up the mountain would cut off a four lane super highway that offers both Jews and Arabs free movement to points north and south, east and west. I can show them my beautiful city and I can point to the barren mountains that surround it on all sides and say – THAT is what these hills looked like before we built here. No one lost anything; nothing was stolen.
I could tell them they were talking to the wrong side. We are the ones building the parks and the zoos and the schools. We built the bowling center, the gardening shops, the furniture stores, the fire station and the ambulance squad that covers a huge region treating Arabs and Jews equally.