This piece was contributed as part of our Witnesses of History campaign by Naor Amir, a 2014 CAMERA Israel Trip participant, and a 2014-2015 CAMERA Fellow at the University of Florida.
For young Israelis growing up in Southern Israel, the sound of sirens have long been inscribed into the psyche. The female voice of the Code Red recording serves as a grim reminder that while young Israelis have become increasingly similar to their Western counterparts, they share starkly different realities. Unfortunately, I distinctly remember that voice from the many occasions it sent me sprinting to shelter with friends and family. Born to an Israeli family who immigrated from Southern Israel, where nearly all our family remains, the Israeli experience is all too familiar to me.
A most surreal upbringing has been accepted by many young Israelis in Southern Israel as a simple cold fact, another inconvenient part of life one must grow accustom to like death or natural disasters. This is perhaps the scariest notion of all when discussing the nearly one decade long barrage of rockets from the Gaza Strip. On the one hand, it stands as a testimony to the strength and resilience of Israelis. On the other, it represents a dangerous adoption of an unacceptable situation. When the vast majority of children in battered towns such as Sderot show symptoms of PTSD, you must not take such a situation lightly.
In stark contrast to the United States, where children are free to run the streets and play in parks, landing in Israel as a child quickly immersed me into daily Israeli life. Coming from a place where missile attacks on civilian populations would never be tolerated, I had a unique outlook compared to my Israeli friends. When one grows up with daily attacks, it doesn’t seem all too strange to see a bomb shelter at every bus stop or in every park. However, for me, there was nothing natural about the first tour of a neighbors home including a stop to the shelter room. And thus, in this fashion, daily missile attacks became tolerated. People continued on with their daily lives. The unfortunate family who’s home was hit by the last barrage became a part of the daily gossip. The sirens became to the South, what the calls of prayers are to Jerusalem.
What I knew as an American was simple. No one would allow their families to live under rocket threat for years and years. What I knew as an Israeli said otherwise. It said,”En ma la’asot!” (“there’s nothing we can do!). Well I always have, and will continue to reject this notion. The Israeli government has an obligation the residents of Southern Israel to change their realities. To my dismay, this summer as I traveled to Israel with CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting) I relived the same old experiences as I watched a rocket hit a Sderot factory; and the inferno that ensued. These attacks have continued for too long, the status-quo is no longer acceptable.
It is time Israelis demand what Americans, Europeans, or anyone else would demand if their homes were being bombed day after day. It is time Southern Israel stop being treated as a landing pad for rockets and mortars. My friends and family in the South are not second class citizens of Israel, and we demand they have their peace returned to them. Too many bomb-shelter-centric Israeli children have been denied the right to a normal childhood. The new generation must be one that remembers the voices of their favorite TV characters, and not one that remembers the cold alarming voice of the Color Red alert system. They deserve as much.
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