The news story really came to life for me when a close friend started sending me WhatsApp messages from a bomb shelter in her Tel Aviv apartment building.
By Lela Gilbert
On May 20, a news alert on my computer tersely announced that Israel was launching retaliatory strikes into the Gaza Strip. And, as always, this was in response to volleys of rockets launched by Hamas from Gaza into southern Israel. In fact, since some 50 rockets had struck Israel just since April, it was about time to react—yet again.
But the news story really came to life for me when a close friend started sending me WhatsApp messages from a bomb shelter in her Tel Aviv apartment building. She also forwarded photos and videos of skies alight with rockets and explosions in her own neighborhood.
She described how her building was shaking. And, later, on a phone call, I could hear blasts as Israel’s Iron Dome defense system blew up rocket after rocket, disabled before they could strike Israeli homes, hospitals, and schools.
Another friend wrote briefly that she was also in a shelter—safe but “Sleepless in Tel Aviv.”
Since I’d lived in Israel for more than a decade myself, those Hamas rocket attacks on civilian Israel neighborhoods sounded sadly familiar. In fact, by the time I returned to America in 2017, I had experienced several of Israel’s “operations” in Gaza. Time and again, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fought back to stop relentless attacks on Israeli cities, villages, and kibbutzim in the “Gaza Envelope”—the civilian area within reach of Gaza’s earlier short-range Qassam rockets.
The Hamas terrorist organization, which is funded by Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other radical Islamists, is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the United States, European Union, and United Kingdom, as well as other powers. The Hamas Charter is lengthy, but it quite clearly calls for the destruction of Israel, declaring in part,
Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious. It needs all sincere efforts. The Islamic Resistance Movement is but one squadron that should be supported…until the enemy is vanquished and Allah’s victory is realized. It strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine…
I first arrived in Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War. At that time, rockets and missiles were being launched from Lebanon into Israel by Hezbollah—another Iranian proxy. In several places I visited, sirens wailed and people grabbed their children and ran for shelter. It was an amazing introduction to Israel and its people.
Just after the Lebanon War ended, I moved into a Jerusalem apartment. And once there was a peace agreement, I traveled with some new friends to Kiryat Shmona, an Israeli city close to the Lebanon border, to see the widespread damage and talk to some traumatized residents.
So I was introduced to warfare early in my lengthy stay in Israel. Between rocket and mortar launches from Gaza in the South, a seemingly endless string of terror attacks in Jerusalem, and insistent threats and posturing about Hezbollah’s arsenal in the North, wars and rumors of wars never really went away.
On a couple of occasions, I traveled south to communities in the Gaza Envelope during rocket attacks. With other Christians, I visited a kibbutz where residents had been under sporadic fire for some months. A group of elderly men and women were being bussed to Eilat—a tranquil beach resort—for a few days of relief from persistent, jolting “red alerts” in the night.
One woman with shaky hands told me that most of the children in their community were bed-wetters and many of the adults required anxiety medications. “I’m really surprised you came,” she said. “My own children won’t visit me here.”
As we were about to leave, we heard a large explosion nearby, just as the bus to Eilat was pulling out.
Another trip to the South was with representatives of a Christian group that was installing a donated bomb shelter in a children’s school. Again, the assaults on that small town of unarmed civilians had been relentless.
In November 2012, during Israel’s “Operations Pillar of Defense,” for the first time I heard air-raid sirens in my own neighborhood as Gaza’s rapidly-expanding Hamas rocketry arsenal attempted to reach Jerusalem. The sirens warned us to seek shelter more than once.
In every case, the starting point of the conflicts that I witnessed was Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists attacking Israeli civilians. And after tolerating relentless and unprovoked rocket fire, the misery on the ground demanded a military response. This most recent battle was no exception.
In early May, Israel pushed back against rioters on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, who had gathered piles of large stones to drop on the heads of worshippers at the Western Wall. Also, because of an eviction notice issued to Arab families who were living rent-free—thanks to a decades-long property dispute—there was increasing violence, rioting, and a tough response by the Jerusalem Police.
And so it was that Hamas, once again, declared war on the Jewish State. They launched volleys of rockets—totaling some 4,000 deadly missiles—on civilian Israeli communities. At least 248 Palestinians were killed by Israeli air strikes during the conflict. Gaza’s rocket attacks killed 12 people in Israel, while countless lives were saved by Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system, which intercepted some 90 percent of the incoming Hamas missiles.
Based on what I’ve learned, and on what I’ve seen and heard with my own eyes and ears, Israel has the absolute right to defend its existence. It also has the moral obligation to protect its endangered civilian population. And as long as the Iranian regime, Hamas, and other radical Islamists continue their quest to “Drive the Jews into the Sea,” Israel will eventually have to go to war all over again.
Let us all remember Israel in our prayers. As the Bible teaches us,
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, “Peace be within you.”
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your prosperity. — Psalm 122:6-9
An award-winning writer, Lela Gilbert has authored or co-authored more than sixty books, including “Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner” (Encounter Books, 2013). This article was first published by the Family Research Council.
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