I’m driving to Sderot, the border town that for years has gotten the brunt of the rockets Hamas aims at Israel, especially at Sderot kindergartens.
They like to shoot their rockets off exactly at the hour that parents drop their kids at school, because that creates the most terror in Jewish parents.
And that’s the point, after all.
It’s not military versus military.
Hamas is a terrorist army.
And how do you plant terror in the heart of a Jewish parent? Go after their children.
And still these people stand fast and raise their kids as “normally” as possible. So I’m driving to Sderot to look at a playground filled with gaily painted bomb shelters which the kids will think are playhouses. They’re supposed to have a lot shelters in that playground, so wherever the kids are, they’ll be safe when the rockets start falling. That’s how we live, spitting terror in it’s eye.
But today, I’m running on fumes. Got only three hours sleep last night and right now I’m more in danger of nodding off at the wheel then getting hit by a Hamas rocket.
Besides, there’s supposed to be a cease-fire. Israel’s already accepted it. Hamas hasn’t given its answer.
Actually, that’s not true.
They’ve been firing rockets at us for the last two hours.
Maybe that’s their answer.
Anyway, Hamas is not my concern right now. Coffee is.
I’m dying for one of those little Demi glasses of real Turkish coffee, the kind with three teaspoons of sugar and grounds turned to mud at the bottom of the glass, like my friend Itzik makes. I pull into a gas station, because you used to be able to get great Turkish coffee in any self-respecting gas station cafe.
It doesn’t exist any more.
Today it’s all espresso, cappuccino, Pishkeh! So I pull into a crowded gas station with a little coffee bar, order my double Pishkeh espresso and look for a place to sit down. There are a lot of army guys, reservists and regular IDF and truck drivers.
No place to sit. There’s an old guy in his mid-eighties, by the looks of him, sitting alone at a table.
“Any one sitting here?” I ask.
“Looks like you are,” he says, dryly.
I like this kind, old guy, so I sit down. He looks me over, notices my gray hair and says, “They mobilized YOU?” “Shows you how desperate we are,” I say.
“Bah! How old are you?” he asks.
“Sixty-seven,” I say.
“Tsutsik!“ It’s a great word, meaning “baby.”
I now like this guy even more. He asks where I am in the army. I tell him I’m driving to Sderot to see the playground. I might want to write about it.
“I know that playground,” he says. “My grandson lives in Sderot, My great-grandson plays there. I take him there.
Little cutie. Nice play ground.
Very sweet. You have grandchildren?” he asks, noisily sipping his coffee.
That’s when I see the faded blue numbers on the inside of his forearm, and in spite of myself, I get the feeling I always get in the presence of a Holocaust survivor: a complex feeling, pity, somehow shame, somehow pride, humility. There but for the grace of God go I.
I have a friend who is Israel’s greatest writer, Amos Oz. I’m not worthy of bringing him a glass of water. He said once, “Scratch any Israeli, I don’t care what age he is or how tough he looks, and you’ll see the numbers just under the surface of his skin.” That’s the feeling.
I tell him I have a grandson three years old. I show him a picture on my iPhone that my son just sent, and say, “My grandson found a caterpillar.“ I say as if such a thing has never happened before.
The kid’s a genius! “Ah,” he says and smiles, but there’s not a lot of mirth in his smile. “My great-grandson found a caterpillar too.
He plays inside it. In that playground you’re going to.”
“What do you mean he plays inside a caterpillar?” “It’s a sewer pipe,” he says.
“They painted it to look like a caterpillar. So he plays in it, and if a rocket falls... so, he’s safe... in the sewer pipe.”
And I suddenly feel sick to my stomach, because I know this guy spent some time in a sewer pipe himself, hiding from other Jew-haters looking to kill a Jewish child.
There’s a lot of talk on TV about the Palestinians who have been killed in Israeli air strikes, compared to the fact that only one Jew had been killed thus far.
But that’s forgetting the three Jewish boys who were forced to kneel by Hamas terrorists and shot in their heads, just as neat and clean as any Nazi ever did when this old guy was hiding in a sewer pipe somewhere.
My heart goes out to the Palestinian parents whose innocent children were killed despite the super-human efforts of the IDF to prevent those deaths. As a bereaved parent, I know their pain, and my heart aches for them in an all-too familiar way.
Don’t bring that bill to my people. Don’t even think about it! You take that bill and deliver it straight to the leaders of Hamas who started this war, despite Israeli pleas that “calm will be answered with calm.”
You take that bill to the leaders of Hamas who hid behind their wives and children and built their headquarters under a hospital and turned their own women and children into human shields – not for jihad, not to resist an occupation of Gaza that hasn’t existed for almost ten years, but to save their sorry asses and their own greed for political power, bought and paid for with the blood of both our peoples.
And just for the record, I thank God every day of my life for the army of Israel, which wants neither empire nor caliphate, but just to protect our people – our women and children and our elderly, some of whom wear numbers on their arms and carry memories too horrible to contemplate, while Hamas happily pledges to finish the work Hitler began.
So don’t you dare present that bill to us.
And with all due respect, we make no apologies for defending our nation in a war we never began, from an enemy which has so far answered our agreement to a cease-fire with dozens of rockets in the last two hours alone.
I’m a movie guy. I appreciate great writing, and I remember a scene in the movie Exodus, written by the great Dalton Trumbo, based on the book by Leon Uris. I don’t remember the exact dialogue, but I think I’m pretty darn close.
An American woman is trying to persuade a Hagana fighter, played by Paul Newman, to allow her to adopt, take to America and thereby “ save” a Jewish Holocaust survivor child. Newman is giving her a hard time, and she says, “How can you be so cynical ? I’m trying to save a human life... a Jewish life!” “ Don’t get hysterical,” he tells her, “and don’t expect me to get hysterical either. You’re too late, lady! They butchered Jewish children and nobody cared! Don’t tell me about Jewish life, because nothing is cheaper in this world than Jewish life! Not beef, not herring, not even chopped liver.”
Well, no more, pal.
Not as long as the IDF has anything to say about it.
And on the day that the Palestinian people demand that their leaders place a higher value on THEIR lives... on that day we won’t just have a cease-fire. We’ll have peace.
And not a day before.
The writer, an American screen writer, is a captain in the IDF Reserves.