Saturday November 17, 2012

PITTSFIELD

As most of us sleep soundly in our beds in the Berkshires, millions of Israelis are now regularly passing the hours of darkness in fear.

In the last 24 hours, over 250 rockets have been fired at the State of Israel, landing in the South and in the greater Tel Aviv area. In the past year, nearly a thousand rockets have been fired at Southern Israel from Gaza. And over the course of the last 12 years, that figure soars to 12,000 rockets and missiles. To put it plainly, Israelis have been living in a state of terror for far too long.

And while Israel’s Iron Dome Defense system, developed with the assistance of the United States, can intercept many missiles, it won’t prevent all from hitting their intended targets. As the days progress, hundreds of thousands of Israelis will be listening for the blare of an alarm, signaling the need to take cover in shelters. And sometimes those warnings will only offer 15 seconds to run to safety. Fifteen seconds. In other words, the time it roughly will take you to finish reading this paragraph.

No government should, or would, tolerate a situation where nearly a fifth of its people -- over one million -- live under a constant threat of fire. As with any other country, Israel has the inalienable right -- indeed the obligation -- to defend its citizens from attack. Yet, inexplicably some still question it.

This leads us to pose the following questions:

If Hamas has the best interests of the Palestinian people at heart, why do they engage in terrorism that is only counterproductive to peace?

Why smuggle thousands of rockets and missiles into Gaza, many of them made in Iran, and deliberately place them in civilian homes, schools and hospitals, putting their own residents at risk?

And why, despite total Israeli withdrawal from Gaza seven years ago, does Hamas leadership remain focused on targeting innocent Israelis, instead of building towards a peaceful future for their own citizens?

The answer is simple. Hamas targets Israel because it refuses to accept Israel’s right to exist.

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It is for this reason that we stand with Israel, now more than ever, to support the Israel Defense Forces current operation which is targeting the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza while seeking to minimize casualties among non-combatants. We profoundly regret the loss of life and injuries suffered on both sides.

Despite the onslaught of rockets pounding millions of its citizens, Israel has not stopped providing electricity and water to Gaza as well as medical care for Palestinians who need it. Israel’s enemies are not the people of Gaza. Israel’s enemies are the terrorists behind the rocket and missile attacks.

We hope and pray that Israel’s effort to stop the terror on its citizens will be successful and the world will recognize Israel’s right of self defense. When terror is defeated, peace will become possible.

Arlene D. Schiff is executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Berk shires and Michael Ury is president of the Jewish Federation of the Berk shires. They write for the Leaders of the Federation’s affiliate organizations.