The election is behind us, and in many countries it would be the time to commence assessing how the pre-election “promises” marry with the post-election realities.
This is not likely to happen here, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, the leaders of the two major contestant parties, the Likud and Blue and White, barely addressed the concerns facing the Israeli citizen, whether this be a failing education system; a health service deprived of sufficient doctors and nurses; the fact that too many young families can never see a time when they will be able to buy a home of their own; the cartel of supermarket owners that keeps food prices exceedingly high; and a major question as to how secure we feel in relation to our surrounding enemies.
Yes, we did hear from Netanyahu that he had no intention of removing even one settler from Judea and Samaria, which leads us to wonder how this decision will marry with US President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century.”
In the weeks leading up to the election, Israel’s security was tested. Rockets continued to be fired on the residents living in the Eshkol/Gaza border area, Sderot and Ashkelon. Rushing to a shelter in the middle of the night or any other time has become the “norm,” however horrific and unrelenting it is for these residents; attacks have resulted in an increasing number of children suffering trauma.
Aside from the rockets, the South has had to endure kites and balloons carrying explosive devices together with increasing numbers of menacing Gazans approaching the border, hurling rocks and incendiary mechanisms at the IDF based on the Israeli side.
The “Great March of Return” grew with each successive Friday, reaching a climax on March 30, its first anniversary, coinciding with Land Day.
THE MAGAZINE spoke with Lucille Eilon, who lives on Moshav Netiv Ha’asara – right on the border with Gaza – close to the Erez crossing, the central point of entry and exit for pedestrians from Gaza. The moshav is home to 850 Israelis, including 250 children.
Eilon made aliyah from South Africa in 1978 with her husband and two young sons. Their third son was born in Israel. Their eldest son, at age 22, was killed while serving in the IDF. The family made its initial home in the Yamit region, in Sinai. Israelis were evacuated from this area as part of the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement in 1982 and relocated in the then newly constructed Moshav Netiv Ha’asara. Their son, his wife and their three daughters also live on the moshav. Their house suffered a direct hit, from a Gazan rocket, six years ago.
Eilon shares the reality of living in an area of combat that intensified 14 years ago with prime minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to evacuate Israelis from Gaza in 2005. The hope was that removing Israelis from Gaza would bring quiet, but the opposite proved to be the actuality.
Some children are afraid to sleep alone, preferring to sleep in the safe room, or with their parents or other siblings. The babies’ and toddlers’ kindergarten has a limited, small play area because there is a need to gather the children together quickly, as there are only 15 seconds to reach the safe room.
There is the ongoing trauma of not knowing what will happen from one day to the next. Will the schools be open or not? Is today a one-day war, or will it continue – but for how long? The constant uncertainty results in anguish for both parents and children.
Eilon wonders whether there is comprehension of what the citizens in the South are facing on a daily basis. This thought intensified when she recently attended a performance at Tel Aviv’s Opera House. During the interval, it became known that a rocket, fired from Gaza, had exploded somewhere in the center of the country. Virtually all the members of the audience were on their phones anxious about their families’ safety.
“This is how we, in the South, live each and every day,” says Eilon. “Tel Avivians don’t appreciate the trauma we are consistently experiencing, and yet Tel Aviv is only 55 minutes away from our home.”
The Eilons were at the Opera House on the day a powerful rocket exploded in Moshav Mishmeret, near Kfar Saba, totally destroying the home of the Wolf family who, miraculously, managed to reach their shelter just prior to the explosion, although members of the family suffered shrapnel wounds.
It was interesting to note the immediate strong government response to the attack in Mishmeret. Reservists were called up and tanks amassed on the border with Gaza. Watching the IDF buildup, one could be skeptical at the strong reaction when a rocket hits the center of the country. Rockets being hurled against the residents in the South, virtually on a daily basis, appear to be “acceptable” in the eyes of our government.
BACK TO the post-election period in which we find ourselves. As Netanyahu gathers together his coalition partners, we can but wonder where the new government will place its priorities. Will it address the socioeconomic challenges? Will it be able to close the increasing gap between the haves and have-nots? Is it able to find a solution to the constant suffering of the citizens in the South?
Much as I would wish to believe there are positive answers to these questions, my fear is that the status quo will endure. We live with an electoral system where a government is able to survive only if it adheres to the minority, whose aims are frequently far removed from that of the majority.
However, in the words of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister: “In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.” For sure, we have enjoyed many miracles in this remarkable land. Let’s hope my fear – and all of our fears – will be unjustified!
The writer is public relations chairwoman of ESRA, which promotes integration into Israeli society.
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