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OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Finding safety (and sanity) on the ground in Israel

My daughter has tried to make the sealed room a sanctuary of peace and comfort for her two young daughters. After all, she knows that the harsh reality of hatred will hit them soon enough.

Two Jewish families spend their days in a bomb shelter, as rockets are fired by Hamas from Gaza into Israel in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, May 13, 2021. Photo by Avi Roccah/Flash90.
Two Jewish families spend their days in a bomb shelter, as rockets are fired by Hamas from Gaza into Israel in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, May 13, 2021. Photo by Avi Roccah/Flash90.
Sarah N. Stern
Sarah N. Stern
Sarah N. Stern is the founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a think tank that specializes in the Middle East. She is the author of Saudi Arabia and the Global Terrorist Network (2011).  

As I write this, I am traveling 35,000 miles above the earth en route to Israel. I know that many of my friends and colleagues believe that I am certifiably insane to be flying directly into what some have deemed “a war zone,” but I am proud to be doing so.

I am flying into Tel Aviv, as Hamas in Gaza has rained more than 2,000 missiles on Israel since Monday. I am flying into Tel Aviv as many Israeli Arabs in Lod, Akko, Bat Yam, Jaffa and Haifa are torching cars and smashing windows of synagogues, engaging in an insurrection in their own streets. I am flying into Tel Aviv as imams have incited their population into believing that “Jerusalem is at stake” and have whipped up their population into a renewed intifada, as they have allowed their Holy site, the Al-Aqsa mosque to be used as a weapons arsenal in which to store boulder-sized rocks.

I am flying here primarily, to be together with my daughter, Rachel, and her husband, Jeremy, and their young family, as she is about to give birth to her third child. I am proud to be able to be with her and her beautiful growing family whose roots she has firmly planted in this vibrant, thriving Jewish soil.

I know that I have contributed to making Rachel the strong Zionist woman that she is and have often felt I belong in her sealed room together with her. I know that there have been far too many prior moments of tension that she has experienced either alone, or with her husband at her side. I longed to be with her to hold her hand through the suicide bombings, the rock-throwing, the knife-stabbings and car-rammings of the intifada—let alone the wars when missiles have rained down on Israel, or when Jeremy was called up to the Gaza border in the 2014 summer war, also with Hamas—all harrowing experiences she has had to endure since they made aliyah to Israel more than 10 years ago.

I wonder how the eminent news broadcasters of CNN or the BBC who speak of “proportionality” would respond if a terrorist organization wanted to rain missiles down on New York or Washington or London, or how our leaders would.

I wonder, similarly, how the members of the United Nations would react if terrorists were to do so over their own capitals and residential neighborhoods.

I wonder if those members of the U.N. Security Council who wanted a resolution condemning Israel earlier this week have ever bothered to read the U.N. Charter. I wonder if they have heard of Article 51, which speaks of the “inherent right of any individual or collective set of nations of self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations.”

I wonder if they know that it is the fundamental responsibility of all nation-states to protect their civilian populations. That is, after all, why nation-states exist; so we would not have what 17th-century British philosopher Thomas Hobbes called “a war of man against man.”

I wonder why most political analysts refuse to see that the bankrupt, failed leadership of the Palestinians has immensely contributed to this. I wonder if they even know how many exceedingly generous offers the Palestinian leadership has walked away from, and how they have chosen the cowardly path of hatred, terrorism and resistance over the hard path of building a state.

Does anyone even remembers the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, where every last remnant of a Jewish presence was uprooted, and where successful greenhouses were left behind in order to give the nascent Palestinian state a source of economic support. They were burned to the ground. And when synagogues that were left to be turned into mosques since, after all, as some rabbis argued, “we all pray to the same god.”

I wonder if anyone remembers how IDF soldiers were taught not to feel any empathy as they removed every last Jewish resident of Gaza from their homes.

I wonder if people remember how as soon as the last IDF soldier turned the key in the gate from Gaza, those mosques and synagogues were destroyed in a frenzied, feverish display of anarchy and antipathy.

And now, Gaza has served as the launching pad for thousands of missiles to rain down on Israel ever since. In 2005, the missiles could only reach southern Israel. Today, thanks to their limitless supply chain from Iran, Hamas has missiles that can reach the entire state of Israel.

I wonder how many understand that Fatah is not a moderate organization, but has been staking the flames, all along, and that when Jerusalem was under siege on Monday, Fatah’s Facebook page and their official Awdah cannel called upon their followers to “sacrifice for the sake of Al Aqsa until your last breath” and to “liberate Jerusalem with their lives.”

It is a privilege to be among a nation whose leadership speaks up clearly and strongly condemns the few deplorable, outrageous acts of vigilante violence by Jewish extremists in Bat Yam, Tiberias and other towns with mixed Arab-Jewish populations. I am honored that, as opposed to Palestinian leadership that incites and rewards its population to kill Jews, the leadership of the Israeli government has zero-tolerance for such atrocious behavior.

Once in Israel, I was greeted with a siren at the airport, and one shortly after we put Rachel’s daughters to sleep.

Rachel and Jeremy have approximately 90 seconds from the time the alarm sounds to wake up her two sleeping daughters, Eden, 6, and Aviya, 4, and get into the sealed rooms.

As I sit in the sealed room, trying to comfort the children, I think of the more than 24,000 soldiers of the IDF who have given their lives for an independent and free Jewish state—something our ancestors could have only dreamed of in the past. I think of the more than 3,000 victims of Palestinian terrorism whose lives were snuffed out since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 by this same baseless hatred.

My daughter has tried to make the sealed room a sanctuary of peace for her two young daughters. She has tried to shield them from the thunderous bombs of the missiles by making the mamad a cozy, comfortable and safe place.

She has tried to shield them from the reality of the growing antipathy all around them from their Palestinian neighbors and enablers in the “woke” international community.

She and Jeremy feel that at the girls’ young ages, they have to nurture their sense of security, innocence and childhood. They know that the harsh reality of hatred will hit them soon enough. After all, this is the Middle East.

Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy institute in Washington, D.C.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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