Sunday, February 5th | 14 Shevat 5783

August 13, 2014 2:49 pm

Of Rocks and a Hard Place

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avatar by Ruthie Blum

IDF tank patrols Israel-Gaza border area. Photo: wiki commons.

The sound of the boom was so startling that we yelped in unison. Luckily, our taxi driver swerved only slightly. Had he lost control of the wheel, we would have crashed into oncoming traffic or flipped over onto the embankment to our right.

Had he stopped to regain composure, we would have been at the mercy of our attackers. Not the ones Israelis had spent the last month guarding against, while our husbands, brothers and sons were busy eliminating as much of their technical capability as possible. Not those launching rockets and firing mortars into Israel from Gaza — those whose genocidal aggression was continuing to send us into safe rooms with each wail of an air raid siren.

No, these were not the terrorists across the southern border. This particular onslaught was coming from their brethren in Judea and Samaria, governed by the Palestinian Authority: a group of Arab teenagers positioned on a hill above the road, hurling large rocks at cars below.

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As our driver sped ahead, we could see the determined young men pitching their deadly weapons at the vehicles behind us. If not for their hate-filled upbringing, their energy and focus would have been channeled into trying out for a baseball team. But their leader, PA President Mahmoud Abbas prefers that they hone their skills as assassins.

We called the police.

“Yes,” the dispatcher said. “We already know about it.” A lot of good that seemed to do.

The crack of the rock on the side of the vehicle (which, had it landed a few inches higher, would have smashed the window and hit the driver in the head) was not the kind of boom we had been expecting when my two friends and I set out on Sunday morning.

The purpose of our day trip from Tel Aviv to Sderot and other places had been to visit the “front lines” of the current war, Operation Protective Edge. A 72-hour cease-fire that went into effect last Tuesday was slated to end at 8 a.m. on Friday, yet the residents of the south were encouraged to resume their prewar routines. All of the terror tunnels with shafts into Israel had been destroyed — they were told — and negotiations for a lasting truce were taking place in Cairo. It’s all winding down, they were assured.

But, of course, it wasn’t winding down. Except for people in the center of the country, that is, who began flooding the beaches and restaurants which they had been avoiding up until that point.

In spite of Israel’s tiny size — or perhaps because of it — there is a great geographical divide between towns and cities separated by a two-hour drive. It is thus that when we mentioned we were going “to the south,” everyone responded with the raise of an eyebrow and an admonishment to “be careful.”

If anything, this constituted incentive, not deterrence. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah aim to rid the region of its Jews. It appeared both silly and short-sighted of Tel Avivians and others to forget that this war is still raging, just because it is only the children in the communities close to Gaza who are wetting their beds in bomb shelters.

“Be careful,” we were warned, as though we were embarking on a journey to a far-away foreign land. This sounded funny to the New Yorker with us, a first-timer in the Holy Land, who has had longer commutes to New Jersey during rush-hour.

Though interesting and enlightening, our “fact-finding” mission was uneventful where rockets were concerned. As providence would have it, red alerts went off in each location only after we left.

It was not until the last leg of our tour (after visiting the ancient ruins of the Jewish town of Susya”Ž in the southeast of Mount Hebron and making our way to Jerusalem) that we were jolted back to the war. Not specifically the one in Gaza, mind you, but the more comprehensive battle against Israel that has been waged since before the state’s inception.

We were reminded, too, that Abbas’ response to U.S.-brokered peace talks between Israel and the PA — during which only Israel made concessions (chief among them the release of bloodthirsty Palestinian terrorists) — was to form a unity government with Hamas in June.

As we returned late Sunday night from Jerusalem, a rocket salvo flew over Tel Aviv, just before a new 72-hour cease-fire went into effect, to enable “progress” in Cairo. On Monday morning, an Israeli delegation arrived in Egypt to negotiate indirectly with Hamas, via PA representative Saeb Erekat and Arab League officials.

Among Hamas’ many demands is the opening of its borders for the free flow of people and goods in and out of Gaza. Translated from Arabic into English, this means enabling Hamas to rebuild its tunnels and receive fresh supplies of missiles, rockets and mortars from its benefactors in Iran.

One ostensible way to ensure that only “humanitarian” materials for rebuilding civil society in Gaza are able to enter the terrorist enclave is through a third party appointed as a monitor. Hamas has “consented” to have Abbas handle this task.

The PA president is not merely weak, however, and shaking at the knees at the prospect of having to take on any actual responsibilities; he also happens to side with Hamas in relation to Israel.

Pressure from the international community and the Israeli Left will make it difficult for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reject Abbas, a perceived moderate, as a guarantor for and upholder of Hamas commitments. But woe is us if Netanyahu does not withstand it.

On Sunday, my friends and I were spared rockets and survived a rock. But there is a much larger bullet to dodge — having the Boston Strangler keep Jack the Ripper from obtaining the tools of his craft.

It is from obscenities like this, not visits to Sderot, that we all need to “be careful.”

Ruthie Blum is the author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.'” This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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