Football in Beersheva

It was a typically Israeli bachelor party. Most of us were friends from the army and it was a fantastic excuse for a reunion. In small groups of three or four, depending on where in the country we were coming from, we made our way to a small beach to the South of Haifa to celebrate Elad’s last days as a single man. A big tent was put up on the beach and a whole load of steaks and lamb were on the BBQ, beers were plentiful.


It was well into the bachelor party and I was sitting in a corner munching on a huge slice of steak that I caught some of the words coming from Aviad’s mouth. Gravitating towards him and the guys he was chatting to I heard words like ‘explosions’ and ‘insanity’. Arriving at the enthralled circle of people I insisted that he start from the beginning and tell me what had happened. Luckily I wasn’t the only one to take an interest and so the 27 year old student from Be’ersheva started from the beginning.


We always play football in Omer at least twice a week, sometimes more. If we can get enough people then we play a tournament with like 25 guys; he began. Omer is a sleepy town slightly to the North of Beersheva with a high school that has a five-a-side football pitch. “So we are playing and then suddenly we hear the sirens and we start to run for cover, only problem is it’s Shabbat and the high school itself is locked, which means we can’t get to the bomb shelter. So there we are, like 20 guys all running in different directions looking for some tiny piece cover around the school to duck into.” He shakes his head as he tells the story, even now not quite believing that it had happened. Of course there have been rockets consistently for some time, but this was the first time he had been caught outside and without access to shelter.


So the first time the siren wailed we heard two explosions and then the all clear sounded and we went back to our game. About 40 minutes later we heard the siren again, we ran away from the pitch again but this time was different. First we heard one explosion, then another and then another and they just kept on coming.” He closes his eyes as he shakes his head, reliving the anxiety of the moment. By this time the bachelor party has pretty much ground to a halt as everyone crowded around to listen to him.


The day Aviad is talking about is the 21st of August, the day Yossi Shashon was killed by the missiles emanating from Gaza. Now I live in Tel Aviv, although I read the news about rockets being fired into Israel I have never felt the fear of attack since the days of the Al Aqsa Intifada. People like Aviad who live in the South and what nothing more than to play a football match without fear for their lives have been exposed to this terror almost every day since the attack in August that emanated from the Sinai desert.


Aviad finished up by saying we haven''t done anything to them, we should be hitting them hard, they fire all these rockets at us and we do nothing! Now that’s patently untrue, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) has been hitting Gaza hard of late and has had achieved results in terms of terrorists killed, though it has not ended the rocket attacks. Aviad''s point of view is shaped by his experiences, the longer this continues the more people will see red and demand more death. I argued with him then but the truth is I am not subject to the same kind of danger in my every day life as he is and it makes my arguments for restraint sound just a little hollow despite my belief in the necessity of ending the spiral of violence.


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