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READY FOR WAR

by Rachel Saperstein, Neve Dekalim/Nitzan

Friday, Dec.26. We’ve stocked up on dried goods: rice, pasta, lentils, wheat and barley. Canned goods are stored in another closet. Candles and bottled water are ready. We’ve been through past wars and know the routine. We may or may not have need of the stored food but we are getting ready.

A family member has been told he is about to be called up for an indefinite period of army service. He packs his bag and takes leave of his wife and children, not knowing when he’ll see them again.

I call my friend on a kibbutz near Gaza and repeat my offer to have her and her husband stay with us if their evacuation is ordered. Last night my piano teacher, who lives in Ashkelon, admitted she had almost taken up my offer of shelter.

I don’t know how much of my hospitality is actually fair. Our caravilla is close to Ashkelon, certainly in rocket range. We have no ‘safe room’ and there are no shelters or fortified structures here.

Last week my friend and hairdresser began to reminisce about our lives under fire in Gush Katif. “Remember when…” was the opening for every horror story of miraculous escapes as mortar shells and rockets rained down on us.

“Do you know they put up a loudspeaker system near my caravilla.” she remarked. “In case of an attack we’ll hear the ‘Red Alert’.”

“And what are we supposed to do?” I asked naively.

“Well, it would be dangerous to stay inside because the building might collapse on you. So we’ll have to go outside.”

“And do what?”

“Run around in circles!”

We both laughed at the absurdity of our situation. We pictured families running in circles to avoid the rockets as they landed.

I thought of the thick concrete roofs built over the kindergartens and schools in Sderot, Kibbutz Alumim and Kibbutz Sa’ad. Our own children have no such protection. Sderot is dotted with mini-shelters but the walk to the supermarket – a mundane act in ordinary times – is a journey into a combat zone. The supermarket, repeatedly hit, is a scene of broken glass and traumatized people. The shelves go bare as suppliers fear making deliveries. People have learned – as we have – to stock up.

Shabbat afternoon. The planes flew over our house at 11:30. Our friends from Holland had joined us for lunch. “I think the war has started” I said.

“Don’t be ridiculous” my husband smirked. “It’s just noise. It means nothing.”

“Not on Shabbat!” I countered.

We eat, and chat, and pause from time to time as more planes fly over.

At 1:30 the siren sounds. We rush into the street. Neighbors step warily out of their homes. Others are running toward their flimsy caravillas.

“What are we supposed to do?” asks a neighbor.

“Run around in circles” I reply.

We hear the ‘boom’ as the missile explodes in the distance.

Saturday night. After lighting Channuka candles we turn on the tv. We hear the news. The air force is bombing Gaza. The army is preparing to enter. We know we face difficult days ahead. Hamas must go and go completely. Our expulsion from Gaza has proven a failure.

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Now more than ever we need your help. Please do not forget the people of Gush Katif, living once more under fire.

Please make your checks payable to Central Fund for Israel and earmarked for OPERATION DIGNITY. Send them to

Central Fund for Israel, 980 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10018, USA

or

Central Fund for Israel, 13 Hagoel Street, Efrat 90435m Israel

Shekel checks can be sent directly to

Operation Dignity, POB 445, Nitzan 79287, Israel

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