By Yossi Baumol
Last week, at the beginning of the renewed missile attacks from Gaza, S’derot Mayor Alon Davidi proclaimed: “Once again S’derot has become Israel’s front line, but we—experienced at suffering these attacks—will stand strong as long as it takes our government to end this once and for all.”
This week, the entire country has become a front line and the entire country seems united in this same spirit. We will continue our daily lives (while taking the necessary precautions) so that our government will have the patience and fortitude to see this battle through to the end.
It is this same spirit that President-elect Ruby Rivlin brought to S’derot on Tuesday. “I heard that little children are sitting and playing here in bomb shelters so I came to sit and play with them. I heard that the S’derot hesder yeshiva boys are here studying Torah and so I came here to be with you. When I look around and see the hundreds of calm, smiling faces here in the beit midrash, I know that we have won!”
I spent the rest of Tuesday talking with friends in the United States, calling and sending out e-mails until after 9:00 p.m. when I packed up and left my office for the hour-long drive back to my home in Efrat. After spending the day in S’derot with the constant booms and air-raid alarms, I thought I was home free—but boy, was I mistaken!
On the way into Gush Etzion from the west, there is only one little Arab village called Jabba and just there, at the curve in the road, I heard a loud boom—a large boulder had been heaved onto my car. I kept driving until I reached a safe distance, reported the incident to the local emergency call center, and then saw the miracle that had taken place. The boulder had totally demolished my left-side mirror, which took the brunt of the attack, and then lightly bounced off and scratched my side window. A few inches higher and the results would have been disastrous.
So after spending a day in war-torn S’derot, I now have to say Birkat HaGomel due to an attack just 10 minutes from home! The whole country is now a front line.
Wednesday morning I decided to go daven at the new outpost set up by Women in Green near the Gush Etzion intersection adjacent to the biblical site “Migdal Eder.” As those who have toured the area with me know, I have a special love for this place and the many Torah sources associated with it. In the summer of 1983, when my rosh yeshiva from Brooklyn, Rav Tuvia Goldstein, zt’l, honored us with his presence at our housewarming party in Efrat, he looked around at a house with no sidewalk and no paved road. He asked me in Yiddish, “Why are you living here?” I took him to my backyard and pointed to the hill of Migdal Eder and told him: Yonatan ben Uziel clearly says that the Mashiach will reveal himself here in the end of days (Bereishis 35:21). Shouldn’t we be here to greet him?
After davening, I was happy to meet an old friend of mine there—Professor Eugene Kontorovich—a recognized expert on international law who had recently come on aliyah from Chicago to Gush Etzion. Gush Etzion Deputy Mayor Moshe Saville and I had a nice discussion with him. The IDF has a policy called “Knocking on the Roof” which basically means that before they bomb a terrorist’s house in Gaza, an IDF intelligence officer politely calls the family and, assuming the husband is already elsewhere in hiding, he warns the rest of the family to get out and save their lives. This worked for the first day or so, but then on Tuesday, one terrorist invited lots of friends over to party on the roof, assuming that the crowd of “innocent civilians” would deter the attack at the last minute. The IDF attacked anyway and five people were killed. Prof. Kontorovich told us that according to international law, not only is there no concern for “collateral damage,” the IDF would have been justified in targeting each of those civilians, because they volunteered to aid the enemy out of their own free will.
I then drove down to S’derot, because Dr. Pesach, another friend from Chicago, insisted on visiting S’derot with me. Sitting in Rabbi Fendel’s office, through the protected double window, we witnessed an Iron Dome interception right in front of our eyes accompanied by five plumes of smoke on the horizon marking the sites of IAF attacks in Gaza.
On Tuesday, Dr. Pesach had left his hotel in Tel Aviv to do some consulting for Syrian refugee patients in Safed’s Ziv Hospital. “Only Jews would do something like this,” he said. When he told me he was staying at the InterContinental Hotel, I asked him, “Do you know what happened there while you were gone? The Haaretz newspaper held a ‘peace conference’ where Minister Naftali Bennet was shouted down and even got punched in the face by the attending ‘peace-lovers.’ Divine retribution was swift in coming when a short time later the siren sounded in Tel Aviv and the peaceniks were forced to retire to a bomb shelter in fear of the rockets coming from the land we had given away for ‘peace.’”
I asked Dr. Pesach to sum up his day in S’derot. He said, “I have been coming here to Israel for 50 years now, but today was the day that struck me right in the heart! The courage and confidence of these young men, the message of Torah, construction, and Zionism under fire is just unbelievable!” v
Yossi Baumol is the executive director of American Friends of Sderot.