Wednesday: New Year's Eve. I was sitting in my apartment in Beersheba, debating whether to go out and celebrate. Suddenly, I heard the siren. I rushed down to the building's bomb shelter, where two frightened families were already huddled with their young children, along with an elderly couple and two well-dressed university students, who at that point decided to stay home after all.
We were sitting quietly, listening to the siren, and waiting to hear the explosion. A few minutes after the blast, we all returned to our apartments. As I was heading to my bed, I heard that missiles were also fired at Ashkelon. I was thinking to myself: Let's hope no missile hits some crowded café; assuming anyone is even out there celebrating New Year's Eve.
Thursday, the first day of the new year. I was supposed to head to university, but classes were cancelled. Apparently, university officials did not want to take any risks either. As I spoke with my concerned mother on the phone, I watched masses of students boarding buses and heading far away from the front. I reminded my mother that our home is no safer, and told her that for the time being I'm staying here.
I try to solve a physics problem, but I can't concentrate. The sound of a door slammed in an apartment below makes me jump. For a moment I thought that another missile landed. This is how I react to every similar noise. I go through news websites, I read that the IDF is operating in Gaza, and I think about the people on both sides of the border.
Proud to belong to this nationI was born in this country and so were my parents. I'm the grandson of Holocaust survivors. I was taught to love this land and to love other human beings, whoever they are. I served in the IDF, and today I am a student at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba. I am proud to belong to this nation, which has such moral army.
I ask myself the following questions: does the world know that the IDF calls and warns civilians before it strikes their homes, used as Hamas arms caches? Does the world know that in response to this, Hamas men place women and children on the roofs of buildings, because they know the IDF won't target them?
Does the world know that the IDF takes care of humanitarian needs and supplies medicine, food, and medical services to the Palestinians ?Does the world know that Hamas men fire from within population centers and turn civilians into human shields?
Does the world know that while we fight for our legitimate right to live in peace and security, Palestinian patients receive dedicated treatment at Israeli hospitals? Did the world hear about the 20 cases where Palestinians exploited their health problems in order to attempt to carry out terror attacks?
I ask myself, where was the world more than a year ago, when Hamas men massacred Fatah men and innocent members of their own people?
Does the world know that ever since Israel withdrew from Gaza in the summer of 2005, Hamas and its allies fired more than 6,000 rockets and mortar shells at Israel and hurt innocent civilians?
Yes despite this, Israel is subjected to harsh criticism on the part of the international community in general, and European states in particular, including Britain, France, and Russia. These are all states that have existed for many years, reinforced their global status, and enjoy security in their own countries. Some of them also had colonies on other continents where they imposed their traditions, cultures, and languages.
The State of Israel, which has been in existence for 60 years now, has no desire to become a global empire or colonize areas in other continents. Israel wants the states of the world and its neighbors to recognize its independence and sovereignty. Israel wants them to also recognize its right to provide protection and security to its citizens (according to Clause 51 of the UN convention, every nation has the right for self-defense, as long as the principle of a proportional response is met. Israel's response upholds this principle.)
Citizens of the world, wake up! If we agree to tolerate the rocket attacks, your own children will be next in line.
Friday, the second day of the new year. I sit in my apartment in Beersheba and eat cookies that the neighbor from downstairs handed out at the bomb shelter. I sit there and I think about better times, where I could sign this piece as follows: Rotem, citizen of the Free World.
Read Rotem's English-language blog