Remember: There is more to Israel than conflict
May 21, 2021
In these last few difficult days in Israel, there is a moment that I cannot shake. I'm sitting on the sofa talking to my husband who is abroad on a work trip, and suddenly, unexpectedly, the siren goes off. It's nearly 9pm, and the only sound we can hear is that awful rising and falling wail.
My middle son and I start to run for the shelter, and as we go by the window, we see not one, not two, but five, six, seven missiles heading in our direction. Bright lights streaking through the sky from the south. One goes "boom" as the Iron Dome hits it.
"Shit," says my son.
"Quick," I say.
We run to the shelter and I start fumbling with my phone trying to catch my youngest son, who is 15 and out somewhere in the village with his friends. There's no answer.
There's a boom, another boom, more booms.
After 10 to 15 minutes, the explosions stop and we go back out and I finally get hold of my youngest. "It's okay," he says. "I was at a friend's shelter. I'm walking home."
Meanwhile my middle boy is at the window. "Run!" he says. "There's more." And I see more and more of those bright lights coming, one really low down seemingly on a trajectory directly towards our village.
"Go to a shelter," I yell at my son on the phone.
"But, mum," he says, about to give me teenage attitude.
"Go to a shelter NOW!" I shout.
I hear a grumble, and he puts the phone down. Now we're back in the shelter, and there are more explosions. So many explosions. And they go on for quite some time.
And even after we think it's all over, and I go to pick up my youngest from a different friend, where he has been staying during the second attack, we see another missile directly overhead, a long bright arc in the sky, then "boom" as the Iron Dome hits it.
I can't adequately describe what it's like in Israel now. This conflict has erupted so suddenly, and so devastatingly. The mood is grim. Everyone is frightened. We have no idea where this is going, but it really doesn't look good.
In the 28 years I have lived here, I've been through many wars and conflicts, but this is different. It exploded so fast, and so violently, crushing progress in inter-racial relations that has taken years to evolve.
The conflict with Gaza is one element. And for sure this is the worst conflict we have seen in years. We have never had so many missiles fired in barrages at so many places around the country in such a short space of time.
But the second element, the one that worries so many of us, is how this round of violence has spread to the Israeli-Arab population. There is rioting all over the country. Cities like Haifa, Acre (Akko), and Lod that were famous for their peaceful coexistence are now in flames.
This morning, rioters in the Israeli-Arab village next to us began stoning cars that went by on the road. This is our only exit to the wider world. If this village erupts, a village where relations have been so positive for so many years, we are trapped. Not just physically, but in every way.
And it's not just Arabs involved in the violence. Mobs of Jews are also responding. There are attacks on every side. Hate rallies, confrontations, arson, stabbings, beatings.
In an instant all appears broken. It will take years for mutual trust to grow once more, for us to rebuild these damaged relationships.
When ISRAEL21c was founded, our goal was to tell the stories of Israel beyond the conflict. In those days, Israel was only framed internationally in terms of conflict, and we were the first publication to write about the other things happening in Israel. To show the ingenuity, the humanitarian efforts, the extraordinary innovation, and also the fun, and the spirit of creativity.
The stories we write show off the successes of all of Israel's population - the Jews, the Muslims, the Druze, the Christians, people of every faith and every belief. We celebrate the diversity of Israel, the successes of everyone who lives in this country and calls it their home, whatever their color or race.
Our stories are a reminder to everyone that there is far more to Israel than violence. The people of this tiny country can be magnificent. Jews, Christians, Muslim, Druze, there are thousands upon thousands of exceptional people who are working for peace, working to make new technologies than can help us all, people who are creating, developing, thinking and feeling their way to helping others. Even now. Even during this conflict.
We have to remember there is more to Israel than this.