Last Wednesday, when Operation Pillar of Defense was launched, our classes were interrupted and we were asked to stop everything and evacuate the university according to the Home Front Command’s orders. A few hours later, Beersheba was deserted, empty, silent – except for the Color Red sirens blaring a few times an hour.
I’m not judging those who chose to leave at the beginning of the last round of attacks on the south of Israel. I respect and understand their choice, whatever it may be. I for one have decided to stay, like others, in order to show to ourselves, to the rest of the citizens of Israel, to our allies and enemies all around the world – that the home front is stable and strong.
Even in those moments when the sirens sound in the south of Israel, my home is here, in Beersheba, and I’m not going anywhere.
Video filmed by Assaf Farhadian for Israeli PR purposes
It’s not a feeling of a special mission, but the simple basic understanding that this is my home. Not in the center of Israel where my parents are, and not up north where my friends are – but here, in the south. And like many others, who were not willing to leave everything behind in light of danger, the residents of the south will not be evacuated either.
It’s clear to me that not everyone will agree with this statement. For example, Ariana Melamed, who in her op-ed asked the citizens of the south to leave their pride behind and go to safety.
I’m not saying that I disagree about the danger. There really is not rational reason for staying here. I’m not helping with the fighting, combating terrorists or risking my life for my country. I guess the emotion tops rational in this case. National morale is actually important to me and it calls the shots in my game.
Assaf thanks Israel's supporters abroad as siren sounds in Beersheba
I’m not calling on anyone to risk his or her life, God forbid. But staying in safe places like bomb shelters won’t hurt us. It will only send out the message that the citizens of Israel, who are being targeted by rockets from Gaza, are strong and stable. We’ve been through worse, we’ll survive this, and we’re not going anywhere.
Don’t believe everything you read
Let’s go back to the first time the home front was in danger. In the past 64 years, since the State of Israel's establishment, the home front – not military bases – have been targeted. Those citizens and homes were the battlefront, protecting Israel and standing strong. The national ethos has been and will always be firm, steadfast strength. “The whole country is the battlefront, and all people are the soldiers."
This time is no different, and we have to understand that our stubborn stance and inner strength is required not just for ourselves, but for our enemies and for those around the world who need to understand what a complex reality feels like.
In the past few years, I have been active in several programs that educate about Israel and fight its de-legitimization around the world and on the Web, including StandWithUs – a non-profit global organization that has been around for 11 years, standing with the truth and with Israel.
My experience working and volunteering has taught me how reality takes on different masks. I have witnessed how our reality in Israel looks completely different from the outside, through media outlets, on the Web and on college campuses around the world. But I will tell you that my choice to stay here is not only about strengthening the home front and putting on a brave face. It is a mission in light of how Israel is viewed around the world.
Don’t believe everything you read or see on the news. This is why I have been recording short videos every time a siren goes on, for anyone who is interested, who wants to hear firsthand what it feels like to live in Beersheba in 2012. We all know that a picture is worth 1,000 words. I believe that it’s our duty to spread the truth, give people the real picture and feeling of the Israeli reality through any medium possible.
I’m not trying to pretend that I understand what the citizens of the south of Israel have been going through in the past seven years, since rockets began directly targeting their homes. This is my fourth year living here in Beersheba and, honestly, it hasn’t been that bad, so I can’t possibly imagine how the families and children in Sderot and the other Gaza vicinity communities have been living.
Their everyday life hasn’t changed much in the past seven years. They have been bombarded with rockets hitting their homes, schools, hospitals and backyards for a long time. Personally, I don’t think anyone, anywhere, deserves that kind of reality.
Nonetheless, in this round, as terrorists target innocent civilians in Beersheba on an hourly basis, I – a student at the Ben Gurion-University of the Negev, a citizen of Israel and a resident of Beersheba – am sticking around, standing tall and strong, in a bid to send a message to the world.
Assaf Farhadian is a third year undergraduate student at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and a regional executive for StandWithUs