By Larry Gordon
They are all former residents of the United States, and they are all people who have made Israel home for themselves and their families. But they are more than that; they are my heroes—our heroes—people who in their own ways have carved out an important niche and are making a difference for Israel and thus for all of us here in the U.S.
Anita Tucker is a name you may be familiar with from her trips back here to New York, especially during the time that she and her family and friends were trying to pressure the old government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to stop the Gaza–Gush Katif withdrawal. For decades, Anita and her husband, Stewart, both from New York, were farmers in the often meteorologically as well as politically scorching environs of the Gaza Strip. They were pillars of the community of Netzer Hazani. They did all they could to stop the evacuation. They—actually we all—failed, and today we are living with the further consequences of that fantasy of peace that would come about by demonstrating weakness to terror merchants.
Today, Anita and her husband are still living in temporary ramshackle bungalows in what was supposed to be the impermanent community of Nitzan. That was seven-plus years ago—so much for a temporary community. In fact Nitzan, which is no more than 10 or 15 miles from the Gaza border, was considered to be such a transient experience and the withdrawal was so certain to bring an era of unimaginable peace, that no one thought to build any bomb shelters there.
But no sooner was the forcible evacuation of Gush Katif complete than the missiles and rockets started flying into Israel from the peace partners in Gaza.
• • •
Yossi Baumol is a Brooklyn boy who made aliyah and began making a difference for Israel a long time ago. His work since arriving in Israel has always been about securing the greater land of the Jews for the Jewish people. I got hold of Yossi last week just as he was boarding a plane back to Israel from New York. It was just about the precise time that Israel began to rev up the effort to finally put a stop to missile attacks emanating from Gaza and raining down all around Israel, especially in the southern portion of the country.
Today Yossi works for the hesder yeshiva in S’derot, an institution for which being in the direct line of fire is unfortunately nothing new. And that’s one of the astounding things about this scenario—Israel’s acquiescing to absorbing missiles on its territory as long as it did not go beyond the southern region and as so long as the number of missiles fired by Hamas was within an acceptable and manageable number. And of course if anyone was killed, all bets were off. It’s an arrangement that is shocking but still one that Israelis were willing to live with. But then, last week it got out of hand.
So when I wake up early in the morning in New York and see that Yossi is online, I quickly ask him what’s going on down in S’derot, and the other morning this was his response: “Had a few sirens with booms, a few booms without warning, a few interceptions, a few lack of interceptions. One hit on a house in S’derot—no injured. Another boom—no warning.”
• • •
And then I switch over to see what David Landau of Standing Together is up to. Davis is a businessman who resides in Gush Etzion. He has provided us with some of the most innovative and fulfilling opportunities over the last few years to interface with the young men and women who make up the Israel Defense Forces. We’ve been with him at the Gaza border and last summer at the base near the border with Egypt.
David Landau drives an SUV that has a trailer attached to it that, once stopped and opened up at one of his destinations, turns into a virtual kitchen, bringing much-needed refreshments to the young troops. We have seen how these kids react to David’s arrival. It is more than just the coffee or pizza or ice cream that he brings with him. It is the feeling that someone cares and is thinking about them that is being communicated, using these foodstuffs and snacks as an emotional communication device.
On Sunday, the fifth day of the Gaza operation, David said that he tried to get as close to the Gaza border as possible. As reported on many of the Israel news sites, most of the roads leading to Gaza were closed so that buses and military vehicles could transport the troops forward in preparation for the ground invasion.
David says that driving around the south in his SUV with the kitchen attached to the back, most of the traffic on the road with him was filled with troops and tanks making their way toward Gaza. As the young men of the IDF waited around for orders to move into Gaza, Landau and his son, along with two other volunteers, distributed ice cream, popcorn, and soda to the troops. It might seem like something small, even trivial, but next time you’re in Israel it is a very rewarding experience to spend a day with David visiting the youngsters who are the defenders of Israel.
• • •
Laura Ben David also resides in Gush Etzion. She’s a writer who has contributed on occasion to the 5TJT and is one of the point people in the Nefesh B’Nefesh organization that has facilitated the flourishing aliyah movement over the last decade. In a column posted in the online Times of Israel, Laura describes the air-raid siren that was heard in the Jerusalem area—including Gush Etzion—this past Friday just as Shabbos arrived.
She told me the other day that just as in many Jewish communities around the globe, there is an air-raid-type siren every Friday afternoon that signals that the time for lighting Shabbos candles is just a few minutes away. That one sounded and the women lit their Shabbos candles. But then about a half hour later it sounded again and in view of what was taking place to the south, everyone knew that this was not a Shabbos candle-lighting-time malfunction but rather something else.
It’s somewhat odd how the IDF website has to dedicate an entire section to explaining why so few Israelis have been killed by Palestinian rockets over the last week. In an almost apologetic tone, they seem to be contorting themselves to lamely explain that the death of civilians in Gaza is a military tactic that groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad not only hope for but actually plan.
What type of expectation can there be when sophisticated rocket launchers are deployed in schoolyards, near mosques, and near residential buildings? On the other hand, the IDF website explains, Israelis are well practiced in the drills that allow them up to 30 seconds to get to a bomb shelter once a siren warning of an incoming missile sounds. In addition, they explain, today most homes in Israel have at least one room that is built with concrete reinforcement so that during such an attack a family can gather in that one room and in most cases stay safe.
It apparently seems perfectly sane to many that as rockets are sprayed around Israel, the Jewish state continues to supply electricity and water to Gaza as well as sending hundreds of trucks daily into the Strip with foodstuffs and other essential supplies. This has to pose the question as to whether this is a real time life-and-death situation for the citizenry or some kind of geopolitical game. Certainly Israel has the wherewithal on a multiplicity of levels to have brought the Hamas-ruled territory to submission days ago. But the warped objective here is parity and to heed the calls of world leaders for Israel not to use “disproportionate force.”
In the meantime, the five Israelis that were killed in Kiryat Malachi and elsewhere during the last week of the Hamas missile barrage are now being referred to as “only five Israelis.” And then there was Wednesday’s attack on a Tel Aviv bus that wounded two dozen, five with serious injuries. And now—for today, anyway—a cease-fire. I think that what makes our people so different from everyone else is that this reference seems to be OK with everyone, except us. v
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.