If you’re an Israeli mother, then as the school year began on Sunday the thought uppermost in your mind was likely: Will my children be safe in the coming days? Are the bomb shelters ready? Have the teachers been trained to respond to alerts?
At the back of every Israeli mother’s mind is a strange phrase: “Color Red.” Echoing from loudspeakers, radios and TVs, this phrase warns residents of towns in the western Negev that they have 15 seconds to seek shelter from incoming rockets. Heard thousands of times in recent years, it has become etched into the Israeli subconscious.
Israel’s Iron Dome defense system often manages to stop the missiles from Gaza, but the threat grows more acute and sophisticated daily, not only in the southern Israel but also in the north.
Shi’ite Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah possesses hundreds of thousands of missiles, which are just sitting there, pointed at Israel. Threats from Hezbollah’s long-time leader Hassan Nasrallah have been in the air of late—”Wait, we’re coming,” he says from his underground lair, just like a monster in a fairy tale.
Israel is unimpressed; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has invited Hezbollah to “calm down.” Indeed, Israel is prepared for any attack—but this requires constant vigilance, without a moment’s respite. Israelis have to live in a very special way as a result, for example dividing to exercise their democratic right to choose their leaders, but then coming together quickly, like the Red Sea closing on the ancient Egyptians.
Sometimes, however, the alerts and missile defense system aren’t enough, resulting in death, destruction and trauma. Israeli soldiers on the border are subject to constant ambushes. This is Israel today. It’s a country forced to endlessly contain a long-term strategic plan for its destruction, driven not by the Palestinians but by Iran, the true “Islamic State,” which is both stronger and smarter than the Sunni terrorist group.
Last Sunday evening in the western Negev town of Sderot near the Gaza border, a large crowd—mostly families—were enjoying a summer concert. Children danced, people relished the cool breeze. “Color Red” began to roar from the loudspeakers: “Open the gates, do not crowd, proceed immediately to the nearest bomb shelter. If you can’t reach one, lie on the ground and cover your head.”
Many couldn’t reach a shelter in time; the ground was strewn with mothers covering their children with their own bodies.
Rocket exhaust glittered in the sky; Israel’s macabre falling stars. Fortunately the Iron Dome blew them up in the air, but nonetheless families returned home horrified and frustrated.
The people of Israel live in manner unimaginable for most Europeans or Americans. These people must be heroes every day.
A very high birth rate and the constant celebration of life on the one hand, and on the other gritted teeth and an invincible determination to keep moving forward in the face of an implacable hatred that claims innocent lives seemingly on a weekly basis, whether by shootings, stabbings, bombings, vehicular assaults, rockets, incendiary balloons—while the Iranian threat on the borders grows.
Iran’s efforts to entrench itself on Israel’s borders have gradually made it a constant presence for Israelis. Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the south, and Hezbollah in the north, are all funded and armed by this leading state sponsor of terrorism. An explosion is always around the corner, and Israel must often act swiftly to contain the threat, as was the case on Sunday, when Israel foiled an attack by Hezbollah.
Beyond its permanent presence in Lebanon and Gaza, Iran is also seeking to entrench itself in Syria. It already a prominent presence in Iraq (where Israel has reportedly attacked Iran-linked weapons depots and militias) and is fighting a war in Yemen against Saudi Arabia using its Houthi proxies.
It is vital to remember that the Islamic Republic considers the entire Western world to be its enemy, that must be defeated in order to establish a global Islamic empire. Iran’s ideological structure is interwoven with the coming of the “Mahdi,” the prophet of the messianic era predicted by Shi’ite doctrine, and an ultimate clash between the forces of good and evil in which victory is certain.
Those who believe that U.S. President Donald Trump’s openness to talking with Iran might lead to a peace process ignore the fact that Tehran, whatever Trump’s intentions are, ultimately cannot accept one without betraying its core beliefs.
Israel therefore faces a long, multi-front struggle against Iran. And as long as Iran remains undefeated, the Palestinians will continue to believe their policy of non-negotiation and terrorism will accomplish their goal of causing the Jewish state to disappear.
Journalist Fiamma Nirenstein was a member of the Italian Parliament (2008-13), where she served as vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies. She served in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and established and chaired the Committee for the Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism. A founding member of the international Friends of Israel Initiative, she has written 13 books, including “Israel Is Us” (2009). Currently, she is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Translated by Amy Rosenthal.