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March 17, 2009

The Power of "Primitive" Rockets

On the Ha'aretz Web site today, Bradley Burston tries to explain to non-Israelis the significance of the relentless rocket attacks that have menaced Israeli lives and modified their political views. Most pundits don't seem to understand, he argues, that "it was fundamentally rockets and not racism that put Avigdor Lieberman where he is today."

He continues:

It is not the world's fault if it believes that Israelis do not have a right to their anger. The world is really not at all to blame if it prefers to view Israelis as ferocious without provocation, hateful without just cause.

The world only knows what we in the media choose to reveal. For a decade, we have dismissed the rockets as little more than toylike, backroom-cobbled nuisances, convenient pretexts for military onslaughts by Israeli politicians keen to evade graft raps.

Generally speaking, he's right in criticizing what the media "choose to reveal." For all the media's efforts to understand the Palestinian side by relaying human interest stories about their lives, there are scant equivalent articles discussing life, hopes and fears on the other side of the border.

A rare exception to this is reporter Ilene Prusher's piece in Saturday's Christian Science Monitor, which makes some effort to portray how daily Palestinian attacks from Gaza affect Israelis:

For Melul, like other residents in this border town, the challenges pepper the day. The trip to and from school is the most unsettling, as most of the Israelis who have been killed by rockets – 28 in the past eight years – were in an unprotected area. Four years ago, Melul had just left Sderot's shopping center when a rocket slammed into the parking lot, killing 4-year-old Afik Ohayon, a schoolmate of her son, Timor.

"It's scary. Well, when we go in the car it is, because when there's a 'Code Red,' there's nowhere to hide," says Timor, using the term for incoming rockets. ...

Today Timor, aged 8, won't let his mother leave them home alone for even a few minutes: He's afraid the "Code Red" will sound and he won't be able to corral his younger twin brothers into the shelter in time. Timor has been having nightmares, Melul explains. The two younger boys, Dvir and Naveh, who are 6, started exhibiting other unusual behaviors and ticks, and are now in therapy for childhood posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A recent study by NATAL, the Israel Trauma Center for Victims of War and Terror, found that 28.4 percent of people in Sderot suffered from symptoms associated with PTSD, compared with 5.2 percent in Ofakim, a town in southern Israel which has a similar socioeconomic profile but is not under rocket fire. Overall levels of anxiety and depression were nearly two to three times as high in Sderot, and children here are five times as likely to have sleep difficulties. Nearly 1 in 5 has behavioral problems.

"It affects every moment of your daily life in some way," Melul says. She points to the bicycles in the hallway, noting that her kids, like their schoolmates, don't take much interest in going out to ride. "The more you're out and about, the more you're at risk."

About a week ago, a Grad missile hit the Ashkelon school where Melul works. The courtyard where her students play took a direct hit. Fortunately, it happened to be a Saturday.

There have been other close calls. About two years ago, a rocket hit her sister's living room. "Everything was broken. You couldn't recognize a thing," she says. They repaired the damage quickly with the help of government support.

You can read the rest of the piece here.

Posted by GI at March 17, 2009 02:35 PM


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