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Roytenberg: Enjoying summer, as hellfire rains down from above

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Local children from the town of Kiryat Malachi running for shelter as an air siren sounds. (Flickr photo)

It’s a beautiful weekend in Ottawa: warm, sunny and breezy. It’s a pleasure to set work aside for a couple of days and enjoy the company of family and friends. But while I often take such things for granted, this weekend I find myself appreciating every moment, keenly aware of the peace and security that makes it possible to enjoy such a carefree weekend.

This morning, I heard from someone I met over four decades ago in Israel. She is living in the south and mentioned that it’s been a particularly “hot” weekend. She was referring not just to the temperature, but to the 200 projectiles that were fired from Gaza at the residents of southern Israel. One family of four were injured in their home when one of the rockets tore through their roof, sending three of them to hospital. I try to fathom the horror of sitting in one’s own living room while being bombarded by instruments of death. Could one ever enjoy the pleasures of a fine afternoon with the family again?

READ: ROYTENBERG: THE CONSEQUENCES OF DECADES OF ISRAELI CONCESSIONS

I’ve spent part of this lovely weekend engaging with people I know, both in person and online. The conversation keeps coming back to Gaza. Like the Israelis in Sderot, the people in Gaza came under fire from the Israeli Air Force (IAF), which attacked the headquarters of the terrorists who fired the rockets. The IAF does its best to warn civilians who are close to its intended targets and, unlike the terrorists, the Israeli war planes don’t deliberately target civilians. Still, the terrorist installations are deliberately located in densely populated areas and Hamas does not provide air-raid shelters for the ordinary people of Gaza. Innocents die, in spite of Israel’s best efforts to avoid it.

Confronted with such a desperate situation, we naturally wish to do something to alleviate the suffering of everyone involved. One friend comments repeatedly about the importance of understanding that the source of the problem, both for the Israelis under rocket fire and the innocents caught in the crossfire of Israel’s response, is the implacable hostility of the Hamas regime. Starting in the weeks leading up to the celebration of Israel’s 70th anniversary, weekly provocations on the border have led to the deaths of numerous Gazans. Other Palestinians send fire across the border that scorches both fields and nature preserves. The IDF acts to keep anyone from breaching the border, using lethal force where necessary.

To a surprising number of people, the connection between the relentless hostility coming out of Gaza and the death, destruction and misery occurring inside Gaza’s borders somehow seems unclear. They look for other causes and somehow the one they settle on is bad behaviour, misguided policy or even pure malice on the part of Israel.

One of my online friends writes that the blockade of Gaza, which was instituted in response to the violent seizure of power by Hamas in 2007 and has been relaxed somewhat over the years, does not contribute to Israel’s security and is maintained only for political reasons. A woman I knew long ago who has spent time in Gaza depicts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s motives in terms that border on the demonic.

Blaming Israel for the actions of its enemies will never make life better for the people of southern Israel, or the people of Gaza. Those living in both areas deserve to enjoy peace and security in their homes, just as we do here in Canada. For such a goal, it is worth setting aside the decades-old lie that blames Israel for a situation that it cannot fix on its own. Palestinians have much to gain if they give up their myths about Israel and put peace at the top of their list of priorities.