As I write this, Israel is being heavily bombed. City after city in the north, like Sderot in the south, is reeling from the intense rocket attacks. The streets are empty. The people of Safed, Nahariya, Carmiel, Meron, Kiryat Shmona, Shlomi and Haifa are huddled in their safe rooms and community shelters. The rockets are deadlier and far-reaching.
We are glued to the television. We see families leaving their homes and moving south. The army is warning the public that even Tel Aviv is in range of Hizbullah rockets. Day after day we watch the war move closer to the center of the country. We will run out of places to flee.
In Nitzan, our refugee camp located between Ashdod and Ashkelon, we hear the thud of artillery. We hear the planes and helicopters overhead and the sounds of explosions from northern Gaza close to the border of Ashkelon.
We worry about the people of Israel. We received a notice on our internal community cellphone asking for volunteers to go north to help our brothers and sisters with repairing damage, cleaning shelters and the like. These are the same brothers and sisters who not long ago called for our eviction from Gaza, who demanded that our army cease protecting us because we were “settlers” and not worth protecting.
“Our boys shouldn’t have to give their lives to protect settlers” was a popular refrain. And we asked these people, “Who will come to protect you when it is your turn to be bombed and shot at? Shall we send our sons to fight for you?”
We see our soldiers firing artillery into Lebanon. We watch the devastation of Israeli cities. We watch the ZAKA men in bombed-out ruins searching for body parts. The scenes are reminiscent of our own bombed-out homes in Gush Katif. How bravely we held out. We did not run away. We accompanied our children to school each morning despite sniper fire. We went to work while Kassam rockets rained down on us.
We saw the future. We knew that our enemies were stockpiling more effective rockets. We saw and spoke out, but were ignored. Most of the good people of Israel agreed that we were not worth protecting. Those who chose to ignore us are now being bombed.
A friend called. Her son had been one of “our boys from Beit Shemesh,” teenagers who had lived in Gush Katif and spent many a Shabbat in our home in Neve Dekalim. We talked of the war.
“Rachel,” she said, “Jewish history is replete with wars started on this date, the Three Weeks before the Ninth of Av, our day of mourning for our destroyed temple. History tells us that, as today, the invasion began from the north. As Israel was threatened by Babylon, we sought help from Egypt. The Prophet Jeremiah said ‘Do not depend on treaties with foreign governments. They will betray you.’ It looks like we’ll be betrayed today as well.”
I cry for my country. It is bleeding and I am torn between my loyalty to my ancient homeland and my sense of betrayal by the modern state that has turned me into a refugee. Many of our men, called up for reserve duty, are torn. A good friend told his commanding officer that he would not serve: “You destroyed my home. You destroyed my farm. You destroyed my life. And now you want me to fight for you?”
But most will serve.
Hundreds are fleeing. Destroyed homes have now created new refugees. Businesses have closed down. Parts of the country are in flames.
And we of Gush Katif go out to fight.