Southern discomfort in Israel

November 14, 2012 - 11:20 AM by

A home in Netivot damaged by a rocket fired from Gaza this week. (IDF Spokesman)

One of the striking elements of Israel is how there can be war taking place on one end of it, and perfectly normal life breaking out a couple of hours away.

Three days into the war in the South being waged by Palestinians on Israel in which hundreds of rockets have been fired and residents of the South have been forced to stay inside, in shelters or in some other way have their lives completely disrupted, Tel Aviv last night was its bustling self.

Walking along the Tel Aviv port on the way to a sold out show featuring former members of Dire Straits (we’re talking a 2,000-seat arena, not a 150-seat club here), the area was full of diners and strollers.

But don’t let that ‘life must go on’ mentality shade the fact that people are ignoring the suffering being experienced by the residents of Sderot, Netivot and the other southern communities.

An association of more than 50 religious communities around the country have invited residents of the embattled region to stay with them this Shabbat. The Communities Foundation organization, which is behind the initiative, said that it is calling on all residents of the South, “religious and secular families, young and old, students…” to “disengage from the escalation taking place amidst their streets, to pack their bags and spend a tranquil Shabbat in the secure regions of the country.”

At the same time, help is coming from abroad. The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews announced on Monday that it would donate NIS 8 million (about $2 million) to strengthen communities around Gaza in light of the recent rocket attacks in the region.

The NIS 8m. will be divided into four areas of activity: NIS 2.5m. will go toward the renovation of 50 public shelters in Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheba and Netivot; NIS 1m. will go to the establishment of sheltered medical clinics in the Eshkol Region; NIS 3m. will fund equipment and training for dozens of emergency teams in southern towns; and the remaining NIS 2m. will be used to establish 28 emergency operation centers.

“Improving the personal safety of residents of the South is a top priority of the fellowship and its donors worldwide,” said fellowship president Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein in a statement.

While safe shelters and warm Shabbat meals do a lot to assuage the hardships being experienced by hundreds of thousands of Israelis under attack, the situation there remains untenable, and it’s still unclear how the country’s political and military leadership is going to respond to this ongoing and increasingly severe threat.

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