Monday, August 4, 2014

A message of hope and peace from Beersheva

Here is another guest post from our Cousin Ronna who lives in Beersheva.   It has to been an easy month and to see her resilience, the resilience of her friends, community and the whole country gives me great hope.  Please read how Israel has pulled together.  Stay safe Kramer- Gabay Family, we love you and miss you.  Vanessa

Ronna Kramer

2 August 2014
Hi everyone,
Lots going on.  Yesterday was a tough day, starting with a ceasefire and some hopes that were quickly extinguished.  We all had a very strong reaction to the taking of a soldier, given the situation and knowing the implications.  The fact that the Hamas had agreed to a ceasefire and then broke it so early on, strongly suggests that it was all planned.  Which again shows the kind of enemy involved: one for whom an agreement has no meaning and all means to an end are acceptable. The implications are what happened with Gilad Shalit – that there would be lengthy negotiations resulting in the release of Hamas prisoners, which is just what Hamas wants.  Like many others, I felt the lust for blood at first.  The radio was full of politicians and other public figures calling for re-occupation of Gaza, of getting rid of all Hamas, etc.  As my initial reaction wore off, I felt at a loss as to an alternative. However, towards the evening, cooler heads began to be heard.  It was suggested that the soldier be referred to as a "POW" rather than as kidnapped.  This is not just semantics; it puts things into a "bad but regular event of war" framework and makes it more possible to consider how to proceed.  I may have said this before, but I'll say it again: I have no liking for Bibi Netanyahu, but I think he has done a good job of keeping a cool head and exercising restraint, despite the heavy pressures from his own coalition members to "go all out against Hamas" (a  hotheaded and irresponsible approach).

As I have mentioned before, in Israel, everything is personal.  Every soldier that is killed is presented all over the radio and newspapers, his family, friends, teachers, wife/girlfriend all interviewed and talking about him.  There are no unknown soldiers here.  In fact, at a funeral for a "lone soldier" – a soldier whose family lives outside of Israel, there was a call for people to come to the funeral so that he would the respect he deserved.  30,000 people were at the cemetery.
Which brings me to an incredible phenomenon, that I believe is singularly Israeli.  The outpouring of support for the soldiers and the people of the south – who have been hardest hit by the rockets and tunnel threats – has no limits.  Northern communities have opened their doors, offering rooms, guest houses, activities, etc at little or no cost.  Several of the families of kids from my school went to some kibbutz north of Tel Aviv – they stayed there 4 days, went to the swimming pool (in the south the pools are all closed), on a jeep trip, to a water park, had all their meals – all for free.  Last night we went to one of Yogev's performances in Tel Aviv; anyone showing proof of address in the south, didn't have to pay for the tickets.  If all that isn't enough, it is beyond imagination what is done for the soldiers.  People send literally tons of food and baked goods, underwear, socks, tshirts and cigarettes to the border where the army is based.  Along the road on the way to the base, a man set up a little coffee and pastry stop.  It quickly grew into sandwiches and then a BBQ stop.  There are now over a hundred volunteers there all day, every day.  They grill meat, cut vegetables and make sandwiches to send to the base. All the food is donated – one day someone went online, saying he had 500 tons of meat to donate, but no refrigerator truck to bring it from Tel Aviv.  Within 15 minutes, there was a truck at his door, loading up the meat.  Then there are the hospitalized soldiers.  People who have no prior connection, go to visit the soldiers, bringing (of course) lots of food, baked goods, gifts. The corridors are filled with people.  Last night in one of the bigger hospitals in the center of the country, a well-known chef came with dinner for all the wounded soldiers and their families – over 250 people in all.  The hospital found some hall where tables could be set up and a full course, gourmet meal was served.  Soldiers came on crutches and in wheelchairs.  Everyone wants to feel that they have contributed, helped, done something.

It's an amazing country.

On that more upbeat note and with hope for some positive developments, I'll say goodbye for now.
Love and hopes for peace,