Seeking a responsible adult

This is no life for them, and no life for us, once again we find ourselves in the all-too-familiar nightmare.

By JULIA CHAITIN
March 29, 2011 23:53
3 minute read.
Boy looks for shrapnel after rocket fired

Boy looks for shrapnel_311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Once again we find ourselves in the all-too-familiar nightmare. Rocket attacks follow rocket attacks, air strikes follow Grad attacks, which follow more air strikes, more Kassam rockets and more air strikes. The scenario is intimately known and the outcome is tears and fears on both sides. It is past time a responsible adult step in and put an end to this unnecessary conflict.

Here in the Western Negev, we have known 10 years of rocket attacks, snipers and attempted terrorist infiltrations. We go to sleep wondering if we will be woken up by the familiar rocket alert, if we will be instructed by the IDF to remain in secure rooms (which many of us do not have), or begin our morning with terrifying booms and close encounters with exploding metal and glass. We jump when we hear a sound that approximates an alert; we dread driving on roads that put us in direct danger.

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Many regret living here, and exposing ourselves and our families to a life that knows no safety. The Western Negev has been redefined, at least in regard to rocket attacks. The mortar shells, Kassams and Grad rockets reach communities on the border, those within a 20-km. radius, and those further to the east (Beersheba) and north (Ashdod, Yavne, soon Tel Aviv?).

In Gaza, my friends there tell me they and their families are psychologically drained and their lives and homes physically destroyed by the nearconstant air attacks, the seemingly never-ending blockade and the physical isolation from the rest of the world. Israel bombs them and shoots at them; the Hamas government terrorizes them and denies them their most basic freedoms and the Egyptians close the borders, erect a wall and ignore their cries for help.

Connections to the outside world are limited and unreliable. For a few hours each day, depending on the restricted supply of electricity and phone service, it is possible to connect to others via email, Facebook and Twitter and cellphones. This is not the human connection that we, outside this small strip of land, need or take for granted. It is a faceless connection, devoid of opportunities to physically meet one another, to shake hands, to smile at one another. For a few hours each day, Gazans are allowed to electronically connect to the rest of humankind.

This is no life for them or us.

I AM looking for the parent-leader who understands that punishment only leads to despair, sadness, fear, anger and a learned helplessness. I search for the responsible adult who understands that enough is enough, and who is clever enough to understand that if the endless cycle of attacks and responses has not succeeded in solving the problem, we need to engage in different types of behavior.

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I call upon my people to demand that we be put up for adoption, so to speak, so that we can gain worthy “parents” such as Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk, who became responsible leaders for the South African peoples, or Gerry Adams and David Trimble from Northern Ireland, who finally understood that their peoples did not deserve lives of suffering and injustice.

These leaders were far from perfect. At times, they let their people down, and the South African and Northern Irish “families” are still working on the creation of a healthier and safer reality – a process that will take years. But these leaders admitted that their parenting skills needed sharp adjustment. They did not continue to expose their peoples to unnecessary trauma, death and injury. They realized, as our governments do not, that it is unconscionable to play loosely with our lives, and with the lives of our children.

As part of the family of humankind, I demand the basic rights to life, liberty and security of person.

If our leaders cannot, or will not, provide our most basic needs, then we need to disinherit ourselves. We need to become responsible adults, and take concerted steps toward finding good-enough leaders who truly care for their charges.

The writer is a social psychologist who specializes in peace building. She is a senior lecturer in the Department of Social Work at Sapir College and a member of Other Voice – a grassroots organization from the Sderot area that seeks a nonviolent end to the Gaza-Israel conflict.

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