This morning when I woke up here in Mumbai, I noticed that my WhatsApp was very active during the night, with notifications and messages beyond what I am used to receiving. The notifications were images of my sister-in-law and her two young kids running at 3am to the bomb shelter, to protect themselves from the missile attack launched from the Gaza strip. A mother and two young children who were woken up in the middle of the night to be told that someone was shooting rockets at them. Just to emphasise - this young Israeli family lives in Rehovot, a quiet town in central Israel, not in a battle ground or any zone under conflict.
Surreal, isn’t it?
What would you do if your kid whom you have just woken up like this had asked you, “Mom, why are we running to the bomb shelter?” What would you do when your one-year-old daughter would refuse going to sleep until morning comes?
I don’t know what you would do or answer, but I think I know what you would feel. You would most likely feel that you would do whatever it takes to protect them. This is exactly Israel’s cause as a sovereign state – to protect its citizens at any cost. Like India, Israel is responsible for the security and well-being of all citizens at its borders, without difference of race or religion.
Hamas, a cruel terrorist organisation which controls the Gaza strip and has aspirations to expand its control on the Palestinians’ lives, launched more than 1,000 rockets at Israel over the last 24 hours. As we speak, more than half of Israel’s population is under the range of Hamas’s rockets. Hamas does not make a distinction between citizens and soldiers or people of different faiths.
The tragic news from last night was that Ms Soumya Santosh, a caregiver from Kerala who left her nine-year-old son in India to work with a sick person in Israel, was among the first casualties of the rocket launching. This morning, in the town of Lod (a city where a large number of Maharashtrian Jews have settled), a Muslim father and daughter were killed too. Hamas sees nothing but its own political aspirations and will use whatever it takes, including vicious modes of violence, to achieve its goals.
Hamas doesn’t see humans standing in its way and the same goes for the Palestinian civilian population of the Gaza strip. To protect its arms and ammunition, its activists hide in urban areas and in close contact of civilians. Imagine your son going to a school in whose basement Hamas was hiding its rockets, or your father was getting medical services where Hamas is placing its launchers. Would you feel it was promoting your cause or that it was endangering your life? Would you feel Hamas was a rational side or a deadly one?
Like every democratic country, Israel abides by international law. Alongside, as many countries including India, Israel is fighting an asymmetrical battle against an enemy which doesn’t feel obligated to any laws. The war against terror is not specific to Israel, but is a global challenge which is threatening the future of us all. It’s threatening not just our lives, but also our ability to solve issues in peaceful terms. Israel is today at the front, but tomorrow, the front may be elsewhere. India, a partner of Israel, recognises it. While joining hands in the battle against Covid-19, Israel seeks all the support it can get now, in its battle against terrorism. India, which suffered from terror, should join hands with us.
Now, after considering all this, think again – what answers would YOU give your kids in the middle of the night in a bomb shelter?
The writer is Deputy Chief of Mission, Consulate General of Israel in Mumbai. The views expressed here are personal