This morning, as I was trying to put the recent attack on Gaza in some perspective, I told the story about my visit to Sderot--the closest I have ever come to Gaza. From our bus we could see Gaza in the distance where the wall took off downhill and we could see the farms of Bayt Lahiya (or maybe it was Bayt Hanoun) in the distance. This was in 2010, when I visited Nativ HaAsara, a moshav (a small town, a bit like a kibbutz) that sits in the south of Israel, right along the border with Gaza.
Our Compassionate Listening group met that morning with two women, Julia and Roni, in one of the community rooms on the moshav. I sat with one ear attentive to the two women, the other ear listening for the air raid sirens warning us a rocket was inbound. No sirens that morning. Although just a couple of days before the nine people had been killed on the ship to Gaza, the Mavi Marmara, our visit was during a relatively "peaceful" interlude--nothing like the last few weeks.
Roni and Julia told us about their work with a local organization, Other Voice, which works for peace with their Palestinian neighbors just on the other side of the wall. Other Voice urges the Israeli government to end its occupation of Palestinian lands so that they will be safe from the rocket attacks. During the most recent attack on Gaza, the group wrote a letter to their government asking for an end to the fighting and a dialogue that will lead to peace. They wrote:
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu
Minister of Defense Ehud Barak
We, members of Other Voice, from communities along the Gaza Border, call for the Israeli government to stop playing with our lives and to immediately begin talking to the Hamas government in Gaza! We are tired of being sitting ducks in the firing range that serves political interests.
Rockets and bombs do not protect us. We have tried these war games for enough years, and both the Israeli and Palestinian populations have paid, and continue to pay, a high price of suffering and loss. It is time to work for a long-term agreement that will make it possible for citizens on both sides of the border to live normal lives.
Roni and Julia do not take this stand because they feel safe, but because they feel that their government is making their lives more precarious with its attack on Gaza. We may think Israel's attack on Gaza is something out of our control--something that does not concern us. But the US gives Israel $3-4 billion/year in military aid. Some of that is used for Iron Dome, the defense system that shot down the rockets fired into Israel by Hamas and other Gaza militants. But some is also used for weapons and planes to attack Gaza. So Israel's attack on Gaza is our problem too.