Editors note: This is a series of eyewitness reports from Executive Editor Richard Land during his week-long tour of Israeli towns under siege by Hamas rockets, sponsored by Israeli officials seeking to bolster support from American evangelicals during the latest Hamas conflict. Dr. Land is part of a National Religious Broadcasters group contacted by the Israeli Office of Tourism.
What a 24 hours! Shortly before midnight Tuesday night, as I was preparing to be a guest on Tony Perkin's "Washington Watch" radio program being broadcast live from the CBN studios in Jerusalem, the air raid sirens went off, signaling a rocket attack was imminent. So, I joined Tony, the sound engineer, and former Senator Rick Santorum (in an adjacent studio to be interviewed) in the studio's stairwell until the all-clear was sounded.
Wednesday morning our group went to Ashkelon in southern Israel, very near to the border with the Gaza Strip. After briefings there (interrupted by a trip to a secure room following an air raid warning), we went to Moshav and then Nativ Ha-asara, a Jewish settlement right on the Gaza border. The cease fire had ended the previous night, so rockets had been going off all morning. We had passed right by an Iron-Dome anti-missile battery on our way down to Ashkelon. As we were being given a tour of the settlement, we heard air raid sirens and had to go immediately into bomb shelters (twice, with about a half hour separation). One rocket was intercepted by an Iron -Dome missile. Unfortunately, the other one landed less than a mile from us, hitting the house that our local guide at Moshav Nativ Ha-asara had just vacated four weeks ago. The impact sounded loud and felt close.
As we boarded the bus to leave, the same guide thanked us for coming, said that our visit encouraged and strengthened the town's residents and that he did not hate his attackers. Then he cited Golda Meir's famous statement that there would be peace "when Arabs loved their children more than they hate us," and then, speaking of his radical enemies, again citing Meir, paraphrased, "We can forgive them for killing our children; we cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children."
After leaving the bomb shelter for the final time, we toured the settlement and then travelled back to Ashkelon for lunch and a tour of Ashkelon's hospital, where we found that premature babies and newborns are kept in a bomb shelter converted to a nursery to protect them from rocket attacks. The hospital has been under intermittent rockets attacks for 14 years now. As we made our way back to Jerusalem in the afternoon, we witnessed Israelis quietly going about their business, driving tractors in fields, shepherding goats on a hillside, and loading and unloading 18 wheelers at various businesses.
The Israelis are being asked to bear the unbearable, with some southern cities and towns near the Gaza border often experiencing up to 20 attacks a day. As we completed our tour, Wednesday morning at Nativ Ha-asara after the rocket attacks concluded, we passed a daycare center with a bomb shelter about four steps away that had been especially constructed for the daycare center's children. As I walked through that shelter, I thought to myself as a father, "I would do anything to keep my children from being exposed to such daily trauma and rocket fire."
We were told at several stops on Wednesday that the towns and cities are experiencing more psychological and developmental problems in some of their citizens, especially children, who are having difficulty coping with such constant stress. Imagine yourself in these Israelis' shoes for a few moments, as I did today, and join me in praying for the peace of Jerusalem.