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Swallow your pride, leave south temporarily

Op-ed: Leaders doing civilians injustice by not instructing them to leave danger zone

Published: 11.17.12, 14:23 / Israel Opinion

The number of Grad rockets, mortars and Fajr missiles that will hit the south during Operation Pillar of Defense is unknown, as is the number of civilian the rocket attacks will cause. That's the way it is in war, say the cabinet members, who served in elite units and are considered top-notch experts on security. And it is crucial that the home front remain resilient, they add, because this is what they used to say during the days when wars involved an army defeating an enemy army and relative calm was restored in the land until the next round of violence began.

 

I am not familiar with the IDF's current war doctrine, but I do know a thing or two about the home front and its resilience. I have gained my experience by living in Tel Aviv during the Gulf War and living under constant Katyusha fire in the Galilee during the Second Lebanon War. My home is located just a few kilometers from Hezbollah bases, so I live under the constant threat of another attack by Hassan Nasrallah's organization.

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From all these wars I have learned that our leaders, regardless of whether they are in uniform or wearing suits, are doing us an injustice by not telling us flat out: Get out of the line of fire and temporarily relocate to a community that is out the rockets' range. Move northward, to the east or to the west, just don't stay in south Israel. Leave behind only those who must stay there. Children, women, invalids, the elderly and other civilians must get out. Leave. Come back only if you really have to. The buses and trains are waiting to take you out of the danger zone. Leave, before you get hurt.

 

A resilient home front is an abstract concept that is mainly used to score points in a psychological war. When the Nazis bombarded London, the resilience of the British home front played a critical role in the public relations war against fascism, but the current war in south Israel is different. Only an idiot would subscribe to the notion that Israelis, who are safe for the most part, are less resilient than Hamas' terrified subjects in Gaza. Our military superiority is obvious, so this sort of propaganda is unnecessary.

 

People may be sacrificed on the altar of an abstract concept that it totally irrelevant. The leaders are well-aware that the Iron Dome missile defense system and secure rooms cannot prevent the loss of life. In such a war, the only thing that can prevent the loss of life is moving away from the line of fire.

 

Rocket damage in south (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
Rocket damage in south (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)

 

So why isn’t the Home Front Command instructing the residents of the south to pack up and move in with relatives in the north or in central Israel? Because of concepts that are just as abstract as "resilience": National morale, we don't abandon, we are not refugees. But when it is clear to all that the current round of violence is just that – another round of violence – what's the point of sitting in a secure room and taking the risk of being hit by a rocket?

 

It is obvious that not all vital services will be provided to the residents of the south in the coming days. Trauma centers will be jam packed, but the government will not be able to fund care for all the victims. Our ministers and army commanders are supposed to understand the situation, because this is exactly what happened during the Second Lebanon War. Remember? Those of us who were there will never forget.

 

Even if the south's residents leave in droves, out national morale will be rehabilitated quicker than a family that has lost a loved one. During the Second Lebanon War, tens of thousands of people from the north stayed at the temporary tent village set up by Arcadi Gaydamak. The all survived the war.

 

Based on our experience from the 1991 Gulf War, the Tel Avivians would also be wise to pack a suitcase, just in case. When some residents of Tel Aviv planned to flee the Iraqi rockets, they were criticized by the mayor. Twenty years have passed, and not one additional shelter has been built in the city.

 

Israel does not have a plan for the mass evacuation of residents, so our leaders must at least care for people whose mobility is limited and provide them with a better solution than standing helplessly in a stairwell when rockets are raining down on their city. They have to admit that the residents of the south would be better off staying with friends, relatives or generous Israeli families in other parts of the country.

 

Residents of the south are more than welcome to stay in a small apartment in Nahariya where a journalist (smoker) lives with her two children and two dogs. Many other families are willing to host residents of the south. This is also a kind of national morale.

 

 

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