By Larry Gordon
By the time I get to my computer at home most mornings, half the day is already over in Israel. These days, I feel like I have to fasten my seatbelt before reading the latest news and getting down to the business of seeing who is online in what parts of the country and what it is that they have to report.
Sam Sokol is a reporter for the Jerusalem Post and he occasionally submits freelance pieces to the 5TJT. When I see that he’s online, I never know where he might be—in Israel, the U.S., or other locations around the world. The other day when I typed “GM,” or good morning, he replied that he had just returned from a one-day visit to the Ukraine.
Sam resides with his wife and four children in Bet Shemesh, and he was planning on visiting family here in New York this week. “My wife said I can go if the sirens stop. Earlier this week, it didn’t look like I would be going to New York anytime soon. But that might be changing,” he wrote the other day. Sam is an excellent reporter with great analytical skills and the ability to knock out a breaking story with very little notice.
He said that during the first few days of the Gaza incursion, it was difficult to grab all his children at all hours of the day and night and run to his building’s bomb shelter. He said that it is not something that you get used to but just something that has to be done. It is impossible for his wife to handle the task on her own. That’s why his New York plans have been on and off and on again over the last few weeks.
At the start of the Gaza operation, Sam told me that he was anxious to be called up for reserve duty to join the fight. Like all Israelis—all thinking people, for that matter—he finds this business of having people constantly shooting missiles directed at you and your family beyond absurd, not to mention very dangerous. He has not been called up, but the Post sent him down to S’derot to report for a few days.
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I visited Anita Tucker in her temporary makeshift home in Nitzan about five years ago. Because her first name starts with an “A,” Anita is on the top of my list of people whom I can find online during those early mornings at my desk here in New York. Anita and her husband, Stuart, are originally from the Bronx but made aliyah decades ago and lived in Gush Katif in Gaza for almost as long.
Anita and her family were forcibly evacuated from their homes and farm in 2005. The resettlement process has been long, arduous, and emotionally challenging for all. Believe it or not, Anita told me at the start of this latest Gaza war that she was thinking about the possibility of Israel recapturing Gaza and someday perhaps even being able to move back.
The members of her community in Gaza—Nezer Hazani—share a closeness and connection that defy time. They have put together another community that almost a decade later is still under construction, and many of the former residents have scattered as well. During the first weeks of the Gaza war, some of the former Netzer Hazani community members gathered near the Gaza border and set up tables of food for soldiers returning from the battlefront. They met with soldiers fresh out of battle who, upon learning that they were refugees of Gush Katif, related that they were recently inside the borders and ruins of the uprooted old community. Everyone involved—former residents and soldiers—was moved, even shaken. There is a sense that something is amiss. The longing for Netzer Hazani was more profound on that day than it had been in a while.
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Another early-morning-in-New York, midday-in-Israel friend is our columnist Shmuel Katz. I returned from two weeks in Israel a few days before the beginning of the rocket onslaught. I met with Shmuel at the time and all was good and copacetic. Shmuel is one of my heroes for his courage and forthrightness and the fashion in which he takes on obstacles with the confidence and determination to overcome them. As readers may be aware, we posted his “Bomb Shelter Diary” on our website and Facebook page and those posts acquired quite a following.
Constantly having to run into a sealed room or a bomb shelter with just a few seconds to spare is not a normal way to live. But that is how millions of Israelis lived over these last few weeks. And whereas in the past, locations like greater Jerusalem and cities like Bet Shemesh were unreachable by terror rockets, it seems that has all changed. Yes, it does look and even feel sometimes like Hamas has had an edge over the IDF. But rest assured that Hamas is not militarily superior to the IDF. The fundamental difference is that Hamas is made up of ruthless, cold-blooded killers while the IDF is the most humane army in the world, regardless of what the corrupt propagandists in the UN have to say.
Shmuel says that he can anticipate upcoming IDF action by the movement of planes and helicopters over his city. Very often, he says, “Something is happening; I can hear the planes and copters overhead.” So it was in and out of their home’s sealed room for the Katz family. This has to wear people down, especially young children. Here from my box seat at my computer screen, I am cheering on people like Goldie and Shmuel Katz and their families.
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Then there is Marc Prowisor, who consults on security matters in the Shomron through his work at the One Israel Fund. Marc spent at least three or four days a week near the Gaza border bringing relief to the troops coming out of Gaza. These young men and women near the border are working on the war effort. Through funds provided by donors to the One Israel Fund, Marc is providing the troops with all kinds of ancillary pieces of equipment to help make all that they have to do just a bit easier.
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And then there is my longtime friend Yossi Baumol, a veteran of every aspect of what it takes to get American Jews to interface with Israel. For the last few years, Yossi has been with the Yeshiva of S’derot. There is no city in Israel that has borne the brunt of the terrorist onslaught directed at Israel like S’derot. This is no “settlement” that the Obama administration would tell you is the cause of all the problems in Israel and once upon a time all that ailed the Middle East in general.
This is a city of hard-working, salt-of-the-earth people who desperately want to live in peace. Baumol drives down to S’derot from his home in Efrat several times a week, and when I see that he is online when I get up in the morning, I know I will get the latest updated news from him. Frequently he gives me a play-by-play of the booms he hears over the city as the Iron Dome system intercepts any number of missiles on a given day.
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These are my informal correspondents—Sam, Anita, Shmuel, Marc, and Yossi. Sure, there are others with whom I write and speak on a regular basis. But these are the people with whom I tend to share an IM or e-mail exchange daily. I consider them to be, in one sense or another, on the front lines. ϖ
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