While most students are already really excited for the winter holidays that are coming up in a month, others unfortunately have to think about other things than Christmas when looking forward to their time at home. On a campus where students from over eighty nations live together, related thoughts and worries don’t remain silent, and are often shared with the community. This is also the case for the three Israeli students who study with me at LPC. These days, the news are full of the current events in the Gaza-Israel-Conflict. There have been injured and casualties on both sides and the whole world is watching in disbelief, anger and fear. After they had already discussed the issue with the LPC Model United Nations group on thursday afternoon, I talked to our three Israeli girls about their very own and personal worries, emotions and experience with the on-going conflict – without judging the events themselves.
Right from the beginning, the three agreed with each other that the current media reports are too one-sided. “If you compare the media in Israel with – for example – CNN, then both recount the events very differently,” said one of my co-years. “Israeli media tries to present the events as factual as possible, giving account on both side’s attacks and numbers of casualties. Usually, the global media barely even mentions attacks on Israel. This time they bring that side of the story up, too, but everything we read has still a very strong anti-Israel focus.” Our firstyear immediately jumped in: “It sounds as if Israel is bombing Gaza just for the fun of it; the newspapers don’t explain the whole story!” With the “whole story”, she means the part of the conflict that has been going on since long before the assassination of Hamas commander Ahmed Jaabari earlier this week.
“I don’t think that any country, if constantly bombed for twelve consecutive years, would just sit down and do nothing.” The girls outlined, how Israel has been under attack from rockets launched from the Gaza strip since twelve years. Especially in the South, rockets are by now part of the people’s all-day-life – even though that doesn’t mean, that they there are used to it. The educational system is often set off, children cannot go to school, and many people barely leave their house anymore, knowing that, in case of an attack, they would have less than a minute to seek shelter. Nobody is ever used to constant danger: “In Israel, people are hospitalized because of shock and anxiety. Sometimes, they spend whole nights in a shelter. It’s not easy to live like this. You hear the sirens, you hear the alarm, and you know that you are in danger. You are entrapped, and maybe you have less than thirty seconds to make a life-saving decision. It’s crazy.” Especially as civilians are in more danger than the Israel Defense Forces: “My sister is doing her compulsory military service,” explained my co-year, “Her base is in the south. Still, people say that she is safer than the rest of the country, because the bases will not be attacked. That’s the difference between attacks from Gaza and Israel: The rockets sent by the Hamas to Israel target civilians. But that’s absolutely not the aim of Israeli attacks.”
Still, the girls are nervous and afraid. They explained to me how the rockets are coming closer and closer to their homes, friends and relatives. Nowadays they try to have as much contact as possible with their families. Yet, that also means that they witness the dreads of war somewhat first-hand. One of my co-years recounted how she had skyped her family. Her grandmother, living in Tel Aviv, was there as well, and discussing with the family, if she should stay over night, or drive back to her home in Tel Aviv. Forty-five minutes on the road may not seem much from far away, but, as the girls said, Israel is so small, that anywhere is close to Gaza. When the girl ended her Skype and opened the news, the headlines responded to her family’s fear: ‘Rockets in Tel Aviv’.
“When rockets arrived in Tel Aviv, everybody was very terrified. This was the first alarm in Tel Aviv since 1991! Most civilians didn’t have private shelters, and the public ones were closed and locked. Nobody had expected Tel Aviv to be attacked, nobody was prepared. It must have been terrifying.” Being so far away from the events, troubles the girls even more. All three simply hope, that the violence and conflict will end soon: “I hope things will end before we go back, even though I know they probably won’t.” “I’m afraid of the situation we would find, if we go back in a month, and this was still ongoing,” my other co-year threw in. “I mean, this is already war.” Our firstyear didn’t have much to add: “If the situation worsens, I’ll be really scared.” “Yes, me too.” “Me too.”
The Li Po Chun United World College held a minute of silence at yesterday’s break. “Today we stand united against war.” With these words in mind, students and teachers stood around the courtyard together. While holding hands, embracing each other and staring into the grey sky, we mourned the victims, both Israelis and Palestinians, and quietly wished for peace.