Sderot's not too hot for Canadians

Canadian groups of non-Jews have asked that Sderot be included in their itinerary.

dichter shooting 24 88 (photo credit: David M. Weinberg)
dichter shooting 24 88
(photo credit: David M. Weinberg)
On Friday, April 4, the Board of Directors of the Canada-Israel Committee came under sniper fire near the Gaza border while receiving a briefing from Israeli Minister of Public Security Avi Dicter. The incident, which left our friend and Minister Dicter's bureau chief Matti Gil injured, has been widely reported in both Israel and Canada. We would like to share a few reflections on what happened. We are keenly aware that our brief experience on the front lines of Israel's ongoing battle to protect her citizens is but a small taste of what the families of southern Israel live with on a daily basis. We are all also deeply grateful to Minister Dicter, who has distinguished himself by exhibiting an ongoing and constant concern for the well-being of citizens in the region. His actions last Friday, along with those of his security detail and the soldiers at the observation point, reflected courage and professionalism in what was a frightening situation. And we have been deeply touched by the warm, pragmatic, and deeply human concern expressed by everyone in Israel who became aware that we had been involved in an attack. It's important to note that the CIC board group includes Jews and Christians reaching from Vancouver to the Maritimes. Our annual study visit to Israel is intended to provide our directors with a first-hand appreciation of local perspectives. In that sense, the attack we experienced last Friday was highly instructive. But there are some less obvious elements that deserve comment, both for Canadians and Israelis. First, our Christian board members were every bit as much under attack as their Jewish colleagues. It is far too easy for us to reflexively assume that Canadian, and indeed international support for Israel is confined to the Jewish community. Our Christian members' response to the attack was indistinguishable from that of their Jewish colleagues. Our delegation was unanimous in its decision to continue with our itinerary, including proceeding directly from the site of the attack to a briefing, lunch, and even some shopping in the besieged community of Sderot. Indeed, since the incident last Friday, other Canadian groups of non-Jews have asked that Sderot be included in their itinerary. As well, our delegation has received expressions of concern and support from all segments of Canadian and Israeli society, notably from Prime Ministers Harper and Olmert and Stephane Dion, the leader of the opposition in the Canadian parliament. ISRAELIS AND Canadian Jews need to know that they are not alone in their search for peace, their determination to confront terrorism, and their commitment to Israel's security. The members of our group are not heroes. We are a group of ordinary Canadians who were caught up in a dangerous situation, and who are fortunate and blessed to have emerged unharmed. If there are heroes, they are the residents of Israel, especially in the south, who have found it within themselves to respond to repeated attacks with courage, dignity, and determination. Tonight, we will leave Israel to return to our Canadian homes. We will all be back, some in just a few weeks when we return to share in Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations. None of us will ever forget our experience on the Gaza border. But none will be deterred from our support for Israel, our love for this land, and our ongoing search for a just and durable peace for all the people of this region. The writer is the chairman of the Canada-Israel Committee.