Beersheva is the sixth largest city in Israel with a population of approximately 200,000 people. Beersheva is first mentioned in the Bible and represents the heart of the Negev Desert. There’s a hospital there, a university with a medical school, many malls, gas stations, and schools. They have a Rugby team and soccer and a movie theater.
A few years ago, a Palestinian woman tried to blow up the emergency room. She’d been a patient there, been given excellent medical care and continued to be treated on an out-patient basis. She hoped to take advantage of this status to sneak in to the emergency room with an explosive belt and kill the people who saved her. Caught on video, she was distraught when she realized she had been caught and would kill no one that day.
When Elie was in the Commanders course, my brother came to Israel to visit and we drove down to pick up Elie so he could spend some time with his uncle. We met in the mall in Beersheva, sat and had pizza, and talked for a while before heading back up north.
When my kids were little, we often stopped in Beersheva on our way south. It’s the natural place to stop on those long north-to-south or south-to-north trips, a welcoming oasis on the long road home. Tonight, this city of 200,000 people was hit with long-range katyusha rockets. A kindergarten was hit, empty by the grace of God.
And the thought that goes through my mind…is a simple one: are we insane?
What world do we live in that allows this to happen? Two hundred thousand people were just used for target practice! The news today was all about Gaza. Israeli airstrikes. Warplanes flying and hitting target after target – but we didn’t aim at 200,000 people. Our bombs hit training camps and trucks laden with rockets. But we missed the rockets that were used tonight against Beersheva.
Spain is sending $1.5 million in aid to the Palestinians. The United States is sending $85 million and China offered $1 million. In London, they burned the Israeli flag; in Chicago, a synagogue was firebombed.
Our leaders are taking to the airwaves, trying to explain the simplest of realities. The Palestinians have been firing rockets at us for days…for weeks…for months…for years. During the period the world refers to as “relative calm,” we were attacked 214 times by rockets. That’s an average of more than one rocket per day over the six months Hamas claimed they were refraining from attack. “Are you going to accept a cease-fire?” the media wants to know. Have they heard nothing? Four people were killed in Israel yesterday by these rockets that were fired at our cities. So the media quotes Palestinian casualty figures and ignores the fact that there would be no casualties in Gaza if they hadn’t started firing rockets at us.
Only an insane world would believe that Hamas has some basic, fundamental right to fire rockets at our people and not expect to be stopped. Fire at Manhattan, and you’ll be flattened. Launch rockets at London? Impossible. Can you imagine the French people sitting huddled in bomb shelters as Katyushas rained down on the Champs-Elysées?
In the last 7 years, we have been hit by more than 10,000 rockets and now, after weeks of asking the world to stop Hamas, we have finally taken our country’s future into our own hands and started defending ourselves. And for this act of self-defense, for these targeted operations – carefully uploaded to YouTube and elsewhere for all the world to see, the United Nations demands we stop. Where was the United Nations for the last 10,000 rocket falls?
Several trucks in Gaza today were caught on video, loaded with missiles – just before our air force blew them apart. There is little doubt about the fate of those men who were busy loading the missiles onto the trucks seconds before our missiles hit, though it is impossible to know whether they died as a result of our missile or the detonation of the rockets they were busy stockpiling. Their deaths have been added to the growing count of dead in Gaza, unfairly paraded in the media as part of Gaza’s growing death count.
Years ago, our UN Ambassador said something so simple, so true. This then, is the only sane answer to Hamas. As Ambassador Dan Gillerman said, “When you sleep with a missile, sometimes you may not wake up.”
Tonight, the people in Beersheva go to sleep with a new reality. Two hundred thousand more Israelis have now been attacked. Our government would join the insanity of the world if they stop this operation before dismantling Hamas‘ ability to launch rockets.
Our soldiers are determined and dedicated to this purpose. My son and his unit are waiting for the word, as are tens of thousands of other soldiers near and far from Gaza. If the government lacks the courage to do what must be done, if the Defense Minister falters, the day will come again when Israel will simply have to start again what it fails to finish now. No nation can allow its sixth largest city to come under attack and do nothing to stop it.
Tonight, many in Gaza will choose to sleep with a missile; that is their choice. It is our job to make sure the missiles are destroyed, even if the cost of that action means those people will not wake up in the morning. We will do all in our power not to hurt others. But if you put your head down to sleep, knowing that close by there is someone shooting rockets at 200,000 people, you may not wake up tomorrow morning.
The alternative, if the government loses its determination, is to wonder how many Israelis won’t wake up tomorrow or the next day or next month or next year. When Gazans refuse to sleep with a missile, the people of Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod and Beersheva sleep better, but so too will the people in Gaza.