Taghreed El Khodary in Gaza
Taghreed El Khodary is a journalist for the New York Times who is currently in Gaza, which has been her 'beat' for a while now. She has written a number of articles about Gaza during her tenure there, and some of the best eyewitness accounts from the Palestinian angle are now coming from her reportage. Tonight she was interviewed on France 24.
She described the suffering of the ordinary people of Gaza during this war, and how the children were traumatized, how they cried incessantly and could not sleep; how desperate people felt, the despair about living under enemy fire that enveloped them. Her heart-wrenching account of the loss of one girl's leg, as well as the casualties among other ordinary people, is well understood here.
Welcome to Sderot.
Sderot is a town which has lived under constant rocket and mortar attack for years. Sderot's children cry incessantly, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, have constant nightmares and cannot sleep. Parents are afraid to let their children play outside for fear that their child might not make it to a shelter when the Red Alert warning system of an incoming missile strike sounds.
In Sderot, you have 15 seconds to take cover.
Adults can run that fast. Children, distractable, loud, busily playing, have all too often not heard the warning sirens in time, or else heard them but in playing allowed themselves to stray too far from the nearest shelter.
I watched a video of one of those alerts the other night. In it, the sirens sounded and people ran for their lives -- all but one. The one exception was an elderly woman, nicely dressed for an errand that took her outside of her home, limping along with quiet dignity, leaning on her three-toed cane.
She couldn't run. Age and infirmity made it impossible. So she walked quietly, in dignity and no doubt in both faith and fear, hoping that this was not her day to die, blown into shredded meat by Hamas's attack.
Children and adults here know all about losing limbs to enemy fire. Ask Osher Twito, age 8, whose dream of being a soccer player came to an end on February 8, 2008. The missile alert sounded, and the family was running for cover when one of the enemy rockets landed about two meters from them. Another rocket landed close to a residential building. This was only one of a number of rockets fired at Sderot from Hamastan that day, three of which exploded in the center of Sderot, a residential town with no military value whatsoever.
Contrary to what I have heard from and read in blogs and the MSM, Israelis are not without empathy for the ordinary people of Gaza. Before the Intifada, before the suicide bombings, car bombings, shellings and shootings, Gazans worked in Gush Katif and Israel proper. Commuting from Gaza City to Ashdod to work was commonplace.
But that empathy is tempered by our collective knowledge that once again, the world has stood by and said nothing, done nothing, and not even bothered reporting much about Hamas's atrocities against Israel's civilians.
The political decision to take the war to Gaza, instead of allowing Hamas to murder us incrementally, is not a wildly popular decision, but rather one that is accepted with "Ma la'asot?"
What else was there to do?
**The pictures are the aftermath of Palestinian rocket attacks on Ashkelon and Sderot. The shoe belongs to a toddler who was critically wounded by the rocket shrapnel (and no, those don't look like combat boots to me, either); the crying child is not Palestinian--she is an Israeli child wounded in a Kassam attack.