This morning, browsing the news as I began another day of the Ramadan fasts, I read that the yard of an Israeli kindergarten had been hit by a mortar near the Gaza border. Frozen, the only thing I could think as my heart started to race was, “My babies.”
I have no biological children, yet I hold 30 children in my heart. This past winter, I visited a kindergarten in Sderot. The children there spoke no English. I spoke no Hebrew. A few spoke Russian. But the language of laughter knows no borders. When a child climbs on your back and rides you around the room like a horsey, you do not forget that child.
It was not their kindergarten that was struck, but it could have been. There were no casualties, but there could have been. Hamas did not succeed in murdering Jews this time, but they will try again. This is why Israel must fight.
Innocent people, whether Israeli or Palestinian, do not deserve to be killed. Every innocent life lost is a tragedy. I wept in fear for both populations the night before May 14 riots. So when I heard people saying, “Israel killed 62 Palestinians, before any Jews were even killed,” my jaw dropped. Can these people really think that Israel should wait until the border is breached and Jews are slaughtered before they act? How can they demand that the children in communities along the border are left in danger? How much Jewish blood spilled would suffice?
Make no mistake — those who rushed the border fence had one goal in mind, to end Jewish lives. The firebombs attached to swastika kites flown over the border were clear in their message. The guns, the rocks, the knives, the burning tires obscuring protesters’ visibility from the IDF with thick smoke were not just there for fun. According to the Washington Post, some protesters “talked about their enthusiasm to break into Israel and wreak havoc. [One said,] “We are excited to storm and get inside… [and do w]hatever is possible, to kill, throw stones.” Two other young men carried large knives and said they wanted to kill Jews on the other side of the fence.”
Israelis have the right to defend themselves and their families from those who openly declare their intent to murder them. They have the duty to do so. To insist that defending Jewish life is not permissible until some lives have already been lost is heinous.
Hamas has acknowledged that 50 of the 62 were their own terrorists. The Palestinians have removed the eight-month-old baby plastered across the front page of The New York Times from the list of riot-related casualties, as investigations continue into her illness. That leaves 11 deaths which may have been unnecessary, and if that is the case, each death is tragic. But Israel cannot be expected to wait until 11 or more Israelis are killed in order to stop 50 terrorists attempting to breach the border. My babies in Sderot should not have to be in constant danger from terrorist infiltration, mortars, rockets, and firebombs.
Israeli kindergarteners pose for a picture with college students on the Zionist Organization of America’s Student Leadership Mission to Israel, January 2018. Photo credit: Liora Levich
It is estimated that 75 percent of children in Sderot exhibit PTSD symptoms. These children have known nothing but impending doom. Running around on the playground turns into 15 seconds to run to a bomb shelter at the sound of an alarm. Yet, they laugh. They play. They smile and sing songs about diversity and world peace. They are still children. They should not be forced to grow up too quickly.
A child in Sderot asked me in Russian, “Where is your hair? Show me your hair!” He thought it was a game. “Pokazhi! Pokazhi!” he said, smiling and pulling on my hijab. He had never seen a Muslim woman before. A few decades ago, before the second intifada, plenty of Muslims could been seen shopping in Sderot. Terrorism and war has taken that away. Hamas has taken this from Gazans. Hamas sends its people, its children, to be killed for cheap propaganda. Hamas steals millions of dollars meant for aid and uses it to build terror tunnels. Hamas steals childhood innocence from both sides. Little Israeli Dovid and little Palestinian Muhammad will never get a chance to play together. They will grow up mere miles away from each other, yet in different worlds. And Allah forbid, if little Dovid and little Muhammad are taken from this earth by war, the world will only mourn one, and question why more little Dovids weren’t taken first.
It shouldn’t have to be this way.