CIVILIANS TAKE COVER in Beersheba 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
For the past year or two, missiles have come raining down on southern Israel
every few months. Somehow, as the pundits endlessly talked it out on different
evening news programs, this became an acceptable situation, as unavoidable as
bad weather. The Israeli government was trying to avoid “escalation” in Gaza and
confrontation with Egypt and the “oref” — the citizens at the front line — would
have to tough it out — or not.
Resilience was the key to maintaining the
We, the residents of southern Israel who live within a 40
kilometer radius of Gaza, were encouraged to build safe rooms in our house, seek
support if we were feeling nervous and otherwise learn to adjust to a situation
where we were in ultimate waiting mode — waiting for the next alarm, the next
school closure, the next “episode” when an occasional missile or two might fall
And oddly enough, like good lab rats, we did just that. We
learned to drive with our car windows open so that we could hear sirens while on
the open road. We taught our children how to fall asleep again once they were
moved into the safe room in the middle of the night. We developed a whole slew
of coping mechanisms that range from “dressing for missiles” – no heels or
straight skirts allowed – to black humor, acknowledging the absurdity of living
in this kind of situation. A child wakes up from a crash of thunder last winter
screaming, “missiles,” and we get to make jokes about how children of the Negev
are more familiar with the sound of falling Grad missiles than actual rain. We
became old war heroes, exchanging stories of close calls from the missiles of
2009 versus those of 2010 and 11.
But as time has gone on, our resistance
has worn away.
Our kids are showing signs of severe stress. Our spouses
have stopped eating when there is news about an attack in Gaza. Our blood
pressure goes up as we count off the locations where missiles have fallen –
sometimes when we were only a few hundred meters away. The sound of a distant
car alarm sets off a crying jag that simply has no real justification other than
that burning feeling of not being able to take it anymore.
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resilient front is still there, but it is being propped up by a million people
living under threat of missile fire, each of us forced to confront our own
individual fears. My own response has already become physical – clearly a
manifestation of PTSD. And I am not alone. All my rational understanding of the
futility of war has simply become raw, unpolished fear that comes over me when I
hear that piercing sound of the siren.
Forget politics. This is Chinese
torture. Adrenalin in overdrive. Kids crying. Powerlessness to the logical
extreme. All I want is for someone to make it stop, but for that to happen there
would have to be an acknowledgement that something was wrong. There would have
to be international pressure on the Palestinians to stop these missile
But when I look at the international press coverage, beyond the
scope of my circle of friends and family on Facebook, I find the world is
indifferent, or even hostile to my situation. Israel is blamed no matter what it
does. And this only strengthens the resolve of the extremists in Gaza to keep
the missiles coming.
So as I sit here at home, listening to the booms of
the endless barrage of missiles falling over Beersheba, I want to make myself
heard. This is an unacceptable situation! War is not like the
Missiles are not something that we have to learn to live with
like the seasons of the year. This is not the blizzard of 2012. And telling me
and my neighbors otherwise is only turning this forecast into one of
Faye Bittker lives outside Beersheba.
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