Got back on Thursday evening from the Gaza War. In fact, the next day after I had written my previous post (July 13) I was called in to join my military unit when the preparations to the ground operation in Gaza began, and I was away for almost three weeks. I am still active in the reserve forces - at the same unit I was during my compulsory service. Why did I go? good question with several answers. First, because I was literally protecting my house and family. I live 9 km away from the Gaza border, and we suffer hard from the rockets fired by Hamas. In fact, only on Thursday my family reunited and we all met up at home after my wife was away with the kids for almost a month. My wife is a real hero - it was really difficult for her to be away from home for so long with the three kids. Also, try to imagine how she felt when I got the call that I had to go to war - not knowing when and if we will see each other again. So my ambition to stop the rockets aimed at my house was strong enough to overcome all the worries and questions regarding myself joining the war. At night, I looked back and saw the distant lights of Netivot, Sderot and even my little village, and that gave me great strength to push on.
The second reason that I went was my strong obligation towards my country, and towards my military unit and my close friends serving with me at the same unit. It is hard to describe such feelings to western poeple who have never had to serve and protect their country, but in the reality we live in Israel, it's part of our life.
Anyway, I was operating in Gaza with my unit for almost three weeks. I cannot write much about what we did there, but basically we operated on the ground to destroy the two main threats towards Israel - rockets, and terror tunnels. These three weeks were perhaps the most intensive weeks of my life. Full speed activity 24 hours a day, extreme focusing abilities needed to get our missions carried out with the greatest success while minimizing casualties of our soldiers and of Palestinian civilians. This extreme focus and sharpness needed was combined with increasing fatigue - during the first week I think I slept for a combined two hours or so. I didn't work alone - I was with a team of extremely motivated and skilled soldiers like myself. My deepest thanks go to my team mates.
Again, it is hard to describe the intensity to those who had never participated in such activities. Looking back, after winding down a bit, the unbearable contrast between the war I was in, and the relative tranquility of my life at home, only 10 minutes drive away (still constant explosions around us), is difficult to grasp even by myself.
I am very glad to be back home, in one piece. I had a few near misses but eventually I am OK. I am not a politician or a high-ranked military officer, so I cannot talk about politics and my personal opinions have no influence on anyone. I just know that I participated in an important activity to protect my family and my country, contributed as much as I can, stayed safe and protected my team mates, and that's it. What next? I really don't know. This war is not over yet. I believe that in a week or two it will end, and the region will settle into a fragile quiet equilibrium. I was released early because I need to start packing towards my move to UK towards the end of this month. My friends are still in there. Personally, the move to UK comes in very good timing - for sure it will be quieter at Norwich than here. But I know that in four years, when we return to Israel, the situation will probably not change much, which is quite a depressing thought.
I really hope that after this terrible war, the miserable people of Gaza, and the International Community, will understand that Hamas as it operates now promises nothing but fear, terror, hunger and misery to its own people. This must change, for the sake of both Gaza and Israel.
I know that this is a complicated post - I am sure that many of my international readers look at this conflict from a different point of view. I know that I even risk losing some followers here. I am not an ambassador to anything, I am just sharing my own personal feelings and thoughts. Even though this is primarily a birding blog, I feel obliged to report here about the major events in my life, and this was a major event indeed. I hope that my personal story, linked with what many of you know about me from my birding career, will give you a different point of view about the complicated situation here.