Betrayal of a Nation

The Israeli government, first under the leadership of Ariel Sharon and now under Ehud Olmert, and with Sha'ul Mofaz as defense minister, has completely and utterly failed in its responsibility to protect and defend its citizens against armed attacks.

Yehuda Poch

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Arutz 7
On February 3, a seven-month-old baby was seriously injured when a Kassam rocket hit his home in Kibbutz Karmiya. His mother, father and another relative were also injured.

Kassam rocket attacks are hardly news in Israel anymore. There have been thousands of them in the past two years. Five people have been killed in such attacks in the past 18 months and dozens more injured. Tens of thousands of people live in constant fear and tension, leading to additional health problems, reduction in educational performance, missed work hours and an incredible strain on social services in the communities near the Gaza Strip.

On January 19, I attended the Bar Mitzvah of an Ethiopian immigrant boy in S'derot. His two-year-old sister and four-year-old cousin were killed 15 months earlier when a Kassam rocket landed in their grandmother's yard, where they were playing.

This boy's father is an employee of the city of S'derot, where he serves as a liaison with the Ethiopian community. His job includes calming the fears of his community every time a rocket hits the city. He tells them it will be okay, that the rockets are not very accurate and don't do a lot of damage.

But after his own baby daughter was killed in one such attack, how can he continue to even mouth these words? He couldn't even begin to think of what to say. And he couldn't even bring himself to think about planning for his oldest son's Bar Mitzvah. It took the work of the One Family Fund - a charitable organization helping victims of terrorism - to make the Bar Mitzvah happen.

At the Bar Mitzvah, I sat next to the Director of the National Insurance Institute branch in S'derot. He is a jovial man with an easy smile and a reassuring presence. He told me that his office's workload has more than tripled since Kassam rockets started raining down on his city. The local social services department has seen a more than five-fold increase in requests for assistance. There aren't enough social workers in the city to deal with the increased workload. Schools are seeing an across-the-board reduction in grades and performance.

And this is just S'derot.

The family in Karmiya whose seven-month-old son was hurt last weekend used to live in a community in the Gaza Strip. They were forced out of their homes by the government in August. Since then, they have been living in a poorly built and unprotected temporary home that was completely destroyed by a small missile that scored an almost-direct hit.

They were among 53 such families living in Karmiya, all of whom left the kibbutz immediately after the missile strike.

"You cannot blame them," the kibbutz secretary told the media. "In recent weeks the rocket attacks have come closer and closer, people are worried and scared, the children are suffering, people are scared to leave their homes," she said.

The secretary also said she is fed up. All in all, there are 500 people living on the kibbutz, including the Gaza evacuees, and a total of only seven security rooms.

"We are helpless, I have received no response to my requests to beef up and enhance security, the children are scared, we haven't received a response from anyone," she said. "It is about time the government dealt with the situation, a solution must be found for our kibbutz -- evacuees or veteran kibbutz members, we are all one family and need to feel secure."

But this is not just about Kibbutz Karmiya, or even S'derot. Similar missile attacks are now being launched at Ashkelon, and at various kibbutzim and moshavim that lie along the boundary with the Gaza Strip. One such attack claimed the life of Dana Galkowicz in Moshav Netiv Ha'asara. Dana was 22 and engaged to be married. She was killed while sitting on the porch of her fiance's home.

The Israeli government, first under the leadership of Ariel Sharon and now under Ehud Olmert, and with Sha'ul Mofaz as defense minister, has completely and utterly failed in its responsibility to protect and defend its citizens against armed attacks. In the five years since Sharon took office, 1,042 people have been killed by Palestinian terrorists in Israel, among them five people in Kassam attacks, and at least the same number in mortar attacks launched from the Gaza Strip.

The leadership's response has been a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, in the hope that the attacks would stop. Instead, more than 300 Kassams have been launched since the withdrawal, with no let-up in sight.

But it is worse than that. Every person living in Israel knows that we live under the shadow of hate and random murder. We know that we are not wanted here by any of our neighbors. And yet, we still live here. We are still coming here - in increasing numbers - by choice.

The reason we are here, and why we keep coming, is that for the Jewish nation as a whole, throughout history, Israel represents something. Israel represents for us the only place in the world we can really call home, the only place in the world where Jewish life and Jewish blood are to be protected above all else. Israel represents our destiny.

These are powerful ideas that demand a powerful loyalty. That loyalty is not lacking on the part of the people of Israel. The people remain. They continue to live under the strain and exhaustion and fear that have become their norm. That is the power of such loyalty.

Betraying such powerful ideas is immensely dangerous. Babies are being killed and injured. Young boys cannot have a proper Bar Mitzvah. Social service networks for whole cities are collapsing, and tens of thousands of people feel threatened and unsafe. But the danger of such betrayal lies in that it threatens not only an entire nation, but also an entire history. It is dangerous because in order to betray such powerful ideas and such powerful loyalty, the betrayers need to be powerful, as well. And such power in the hands of people with such destructive intentions is never safe.

Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. Reproduction in electronic or print format by permission of the author only.