Click here for PDF Edition

2014-09-12 digital edition

ABOUT US   |   ADVERTISE   |   DEADLINES   |   PR INFO   |   SUBMIT   |   DELIVERY   |   CONTACT US  |  FEEDBACK
TODAY in the Jewish World:

Click on logo for link:



Click on logo for link:

The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

September 12, 2014  RSS feed
Front Page

Text: T T T

Locals get taste of Israeli life under constant threat

By BOB FRYER Jewish Press


Rabbi David Weizman of Congregation Beth Shalom in Clearwater, far right, chats with a wounded Israeli soldier. The rabbi was on a solidarity mission to Israel during the Gaza conflict. Rabbi David Weizman of Congregation Beth Shalom in Clearwater, far right, chats with a wounded Israeli soldier. The rabbi was on a solidarity mission to Israel during the Gaza conflict. Israelis are so used to living under the threat of rockets raining down on them that by outside appearances, they seem to be a tough, resolute people, but in the eyes of two recent Pinellas County visitors to that nation, the constant danger does take its toll.

Rabbi David Weizman of Congregation Beth Shalom of Clearwater and longtime Jewish community leader Margot Benstock of Seminole recently returned from trips to Israel that were made as the conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip was still raging.

Weizman made the trip to Israel with members of the New York Board of Rabbis, as well as U.S. Rep Peter King, (RNY), former NY Gov. David Patterson and members of Temple Emanuel in Closter, NJ. The purpose of the trip was to show American solidarity with Israel during Operation Protective Edge.


Pinellas County resident Margot Benstock with her mother, Ester Fisch., a resident of Ra’anana, Israel. Pinellas County resident Margot Benstock with her mother, Ester Fisch., a resident of Ra’anana, Israel. “My colleague, Rabbi David- Seth Kirshner, who is the current president of the New York Board of rabbis, invited me to join them on this mission,” Rabbi Weizman said.

“The people have to survive and we have some sort of notion of the Israelis that they are hardened, but you can tell they are affected by it and their kids are affected by it. Those people are living in real danger … to live every day like you do not know when the next one [rocket] is coming is a lot of pressure,” Rabbi Weizman said.

While in Israel he was among a group who met with Rachel Fraenkel, whose son Naftali was one of three Israeli teens kidnapped in the West Bank and slain. The killings, and an apparent retaliation slaying of a Palestinian teen, were the flashpoints for the latest 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas.


Rachel Fraenkel, whose son was one of three teens kidnapped and slain on the West Bank, brought members of the solidarity mission to tears. Rachel Fraenkel, whose son was one of three teens kidnapped and slain on the West Bank, brought members of the solidarity mission to tears. Rabbi Weizman said many were openly weeping while the mother spoke to the group. While they may have been weeping for her loss, Rabbi Weizman speculated they may have also been “weeping from the fear that all parents push to the back of their minds, until their children are safely sleeping in their beds for the night.”

Both Rabbi Weizman and Benstock told of how alarming the sirens and sounds of rocket explosions were to them and other visitors, but how many Israelis would either continue life as if nothing was happening, or duck into a shelter briefly, then resume normal activities.

Rabbi Weizman said he was at a seminar when sirens and explosions were heard nearby, but the speaker went on and the Israelis in the room were nonplussed. Then one of those attending the meeting spoke up, saying he did not understand why everyone seemed calm because he found the situation alarming.


During his trip, Rabbi David Weizman was struck by how “empty and desolate” the Western Wall and Robinson’s Arch were at 7:30 in the morning on what usually would be a prime time for prayers, especially on the day he was there – Rosh Hodesh Elul. During his trip, Rabbi David Weizman was struck by how “empty and desolate” the Western Wall and Robinson’s Arch were at 7:30 in the morning on what usually would be a prime time for prayers, especially on the day he was there – Rosh Hodesh Elul. “A man explained that you learn from the sounds, so you know if it is a missile firing at incoming rockets and if it is an explosion of rockets being intercepted,” the rabbi said, adding that the Israeli said those sounds are different from rockets that strike the ground.

In spite of the Israelis’ exterior attitude of near indifference to the rockets, the rabbi and Benstock both pointed out the psychological damage that living under constant threat must take on any human, and especially on the children in southern Israel who know nothing other than to run for cover when the sirens go off.

Benstock recalled a time during a previous barrage of rocketfire when her niece, who lived north of Tel Aviv, took in children from southern Israel to keep them out of harms way.

But Benstock said not everyone is lucky enough to move away from danger, noting a tragic incident in which a Hamas rocket fell on the home of an Israeli family near the Gaza border. The parents had three children and did not have time to get all of them into a shelter before the rocket hit, killing their 4-year-old son. Benstock said she cannot imagine the anguish the parents felt.

Benstock did experience her own angst while visiting her 93-year-old mother in Ra’anana last month.

One night, the sirens came on and she knew if a rocket hit, it would do so before she could awaken her mom and get her safely downstairs to a shelter. Knowing she could not save herself and her mom, she went to the shelter, terrified of an explosion.

The Iron Dome kept rockets at bay, but Benstock said if a rocket had hit the home, she was not sure she would be able to forgive herself.

For those in similar situations who live in Israel full time, this is the sort of emotional stress they face all the time, she said. She was grateful her mother slept through the entire incident.

Rabbi Weizman and Benstock both said Israelis are very appreciative of the Iron Dome defense system that intercepts most of the rockets fired by Hamas, but Benstock said even if no rockets were falling and the sirens were silent, virtually everyone in Israel had some family member who was in the Israel Defense Force, so they lived in constant worry over the wellbeing to the soldiers.

“I know that Israel has the reputation of being tough people. To live like that, sometimes Israelis can seem rude, but they live for today because they don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow,” Benstock said.

Rabbi Weizman said he hoped the ceasefire would hold, as least offering “quiet” for the Israelis. But he said both Israelis and Palestinians need to learn how to have peace and not just quiet – a concept explained during the trip by Dr. Tal Becker, a senior member of the Israeli peace negotiation team.

He said Becker explained that in “quiet,” rockets are not falling but the threat of them is constant. The mental approach that warring peo- ple often adopt is that their opponent must be wiped out or put in a submissive position. That, Becker said, is “quiet.”

True “peace” can only come if the opponents recognize that they might not like each other, but that they can live without destroying the other, he explained. To do that, they must tolerate each other’s culture and ways, he said. This is the real challenge for Israelis and Palestinians if they are going to get past on-again and off-again battles, Becker said.


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Click ads below for larger version