Hawaii and Sderot

I could not believe the news coming out of Hawaii. A ballistic missile was directed toward Hawaii and they made it a point to state that this was not a drill. For 38 minutes, Hawaiians were confronted with an existential threat that quickly was diverted into manageable thoughts: Where can I take shelter? Where is mommy? Where is the dog? What can I take with me? What should I take with me? Are my friends going to be OK? Can I get to a safe place fast enough? How do I keep the kids calm? Where will the missile fall? How long do I have to find safety? How many missiles are incoming?

Not only were those in Hawaii grappling with a new reality, but the news of a ballistic missile zeroing in on a portion of the United States undoubtedly impacted others. Like a terrorist attack, the reality of an impending missile undermined the sense of safety and security we took for granted.

Thankfully there was no missile heading toward Hawaii; the alert was the result of human error. False alarm aside, the sudden feeling of fear and helplessness was real especially since no one fully knows what Kim Jong Un is capable of doing.

That sudden feeling of fear and helplessness, thankfully not a normal reality in Hawaii, is quite familiar to Israelis, especially those living close to the border with Hamas-controlled Gaza or Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon. And while Hawaiians’ sense of security was shattered during and in the aftermath of a single false alarm, Israelis face a different reality.

There has been a quiet escalation of violence coming from Gaza. This past year saw the most serious peak of violence between Israel and terrorist organizations in Gaza, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), since the end of Operation Protective Edge in 2014. In December 2017 alone, 19 rocket and mortar shells – about half of the total for the year – were fired from the Gaza Strip at Israeli towns, such as Sderot. The past year has seen almost double the amount of missiles fired into Israel as the previous two years combined.

And in the first few weeks of this new year, Israel destroyed three terror tunnels coming from Gaza.

As the Jerusalem Post opined, “… supported by Iran, Hamas is once again prioritizing terrorism over the welfare of Gaza’s residents. Instead of focusing on turning the Gaza Strip into a viable, autonomous Palestinian state at peace with Egypt and Israel, Hamas, not unlike Kim’s regime in North Korea, devotes most of its resources toward preparation for war. Inevitably, this will lead to conflict with Israel, which cannot allow its deterrence to be undermined by Hamas.”

As a footnote, acknowledgement and appreciation should be expressed for the Patriot, Iron Dome and Arrow missile defense systems made possible by the strategic U.S.-Israel partnership and critical funding approved over the years by Congress. Israeli technology is able, in a split second, to calculate the trajectory of missile threats and limit the use of missile defense systems to only those threats to populated areas.

I don’t know what missile defense systems are deployed to protect Hawaii or other parts of the United States. But I do know that for 38 minutes in early January, residents of Hawaii had the unfortunate experience of fear and hopelessness that we wish for no one, but was parallel to similar experiences by residents of Sderot and nearby Israeli cities nearly 40 times in 2017.

What for Hawaii was a harrowing 38 minutes, for Israelis has come to be just life.