There are no tourists and no summer camps. But there are challenges.
This evening, as a CIJA delegate to the World Jewish Congress Mission, I heard about challenges. A commander from the Home Front Command told us about the logistical obstacles in insuring that everyone gets to a shelter in time; Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman spoke of how difficult it is to get other countries to understand that Israel is under attack from a dictatorial and fanatical regime that is intent on destroying Israel.
And then there’s the lack of tourists. Hotel lobbies are empty. My friend Lorne said his travel agency normally counted on next week to be their busiest week of the year; now it will be the quietest. And in Beersheva, all of the regular day camps are shut, by order of Home Front Command, in order to ensure that children don’t congregate together and exposed to rockets as a group. Parents are stuck home with their kids, unable to send them to camp.
This situation is frankly not normal; how could it be with danger constantly overhead, waiting for the handful of names drawn in this tragic lottery of death. Yet people find a way to make things more normal. At a visit to makeshift trauma center, Tirzah, the director, told us about different techniques they use to help kids get over the trauma of rocket attacks. They teach the children to imitate the siren sound when it goes on, to get a sense of control over the uncertainty. And a genre of “rocket” humor has popped up, with jokes about how the rockets travel all the way to Tel Aviv and even they can’t find a parking spot. Somehow, with humor and determination, people are finding how to make the intolerable tolerable.
Yes, despite it all, there’s still hope here. We had the privilege of visiting an Iron Dome unit. (We brought them 40 pizzas for lunch, which made us pretty popular for a few minutes.) These young soldiers in their teens and twenties are in charge of protecting Israel from Hamas’ rocket attacks. And they are doing a really good job of it, having shot down 225 rockets that presented a threat to population, with a remarkable 95+% rate of success.
Actually, there’s even more than hope here; there are man made miracles. When we met with Beersheva mayor Ruvik Danilovitch, the talk wasn’t about whether Israel would get past this crisis; the only question was how to create festivals that will raise people’s spirits after the war is finished. Arie Levy, the Federation CJA’s director in Beersheva, did a masterful job of helping organize our day, and spent the morning with us. He showed us young entrepeneurs, exciting new housing developments, and all of the plans for the future of Beersheva. And then it hit me. In the middle of the desert, a former camel trading post had transformed herself into a bustling metropolis, with budding hi-tech industries and a cutting edge university. And even with rockets overhead, this city was planning more, planning a bigger future. That’s not just hope; that’s a miracle.