“Imagine yourself having two or three small children,” she said. “Your husband is not home and there is an alarm and you have to get to the shelter in 15 seconds. You cannot take them all. Who do you take first?”
Nissim said her cousin in Ashkelon was once driving when a “code red” siren sounded. Her then 3-year-old and 10-month-old children were strapped into the car. She stopped the car but in less than 15 seconds needed to decide what to do: either take them out to lie in the middle of the street, or grab one and run for shelter.
“She took the small baby and ran and left the big one in the car,” recalled Nissim. “He sat there crying. She will never forgive herself for the choice she made. These are the dilemmas that lots of parents are dealing with.”
On the other side of the border, in Gaza, Hamas does not build bomb shelters but rather takes its own citizens hostage and uses them as “human shields.” This refers to the deliberate placement of civilians in harm’s way in order to prevent a strike on a particular target.
The Israel Defense Forces uses leaflets and phone calls to warn Gaza’s civilians to evacuate buildings prior to air-strikes on Hamas terrorists. Israel used the same approach during its 2008-9 and 2012 operations in Gaza.
Mahfouz Kadariti, a father of five in the Palestinian coastal enclave, confirmed that Israel tells Gazans to leave their homes before an offensive. But he claimed that in some instances, as many as 50-60 family members live in one home, and that the time allotted to leave is not enough.
“My children are panicked. ‘Where can we go? Where can we go?’ they ask me. There is nowhere to go,” Kadariti told JNS.
Yet the Hamas Interior Ministry on Sunday urged Gaza residents to ignore the IDF’s pre-air-strike warnings, saying in a statement, “To all of our people who have evacuated their homes – return to them immediately and do not leave the house.”
Indeed, Israelis understand that while their government goes to great lengths to protect them, the same cannot be said about the leadership in Gaza.
“In Israel, we have the full support of the entire nation of Israel, we have psychologists, and shelters, and [the] Iron Dome…. While the IDF is doing everything in its power not to harm innocent people, I know Hamas is trying to use those innocent people so the IDF will hit them,” Nissim told JNS. “I pity them.”
Israeli research, meanwhile, sheds light on the long-term effects of the conflict with the Palestinians. Clinical/community psychologist Golan Shahar of Ben-Gurion University, working with Georgia State University’s Dr. Christopher C. Henrich, followed 362 adolescents from southern Israel between 2008 and 2011. Four times per year they measured the adolescents’ exposure to rocket attacks and their levels of anxiety, depression, aggression, and violence. Longitudinal results evinced modest effects of rocket exposure on anxiety and depression, and no effects on aggression, but robust effects on violence commission.
“I am not talking pushing and shoving, I am talking carrying weapons, carrying knives,” said Shahar, explaining the increased violent tendencies produced by subjects of the study.
On the Palestinian side, Shahar said, there is “no reason to expect the kids in Gaza are not becoming more violent from what they have to endure.”
“Unless this conflict is contained, unless it is resolved, the worst is yet to come,” he said.