Whiling the hours away at home during my son’s high-risk pregnancy, I started a blog. My friend Ashley talked me into it, and as I recall, it didn’t take too much convincing. As a technical writer I desperately needed an outlet that would satisfy my creative desires and, if I was being honest with myself, I wanted to see how my writing would be received by others – assuming, of course, that people would actually be interested in anything I had to say.
I wrote about whatever topics happened to pop into my head, and while I had a propensity for writing about current events and politics, I rarely shared anything too controversial. I soon developed a very small following of readers and my initial foray into the blogging world was pleasant and uneventful. It was also short-lived; once my son was born, I could scarcely find time to eat let alone write, and blog posts slowly petered down to nothing. (more…)by Liza Rosenberg
One day last winter, shortly after the Israeli military began attacking Gaza, I received an email from a producer at the BBC World Service. Someone there had found my blog, liked what they read, and wondered if I’d be interested in keeping a series of audio diary entries for a radio show called “The World Today“. The answer was, of course, yes. I blogged about that initial contact in this blog entry, the audio diary clips can be found by clicking this link to the BBC World Service website, and the text of those clips can be found here.
At the end of November, I was contacted once again and asked if I’d be prepared to do a two-minute roundup of the past year – referred to in BBC-speak as an “audio postcard”, summarizing a few of the events that touched our lives, and how those events have affected me. It wasn’t easy. Trying to summarize just one day in Israel in two minutes is hard enough, but twelve months? I don’t think I’ve ever been so ruthless in editing and cutting my own words as I was with this essay, paring it down to the bare minimum while trying to retain my original voice, and I’m still not sure how well I succeeded.
In any event, my clip was broadcast on the BBC World Service this morning. It can be found by clicking this link and selecting the “01 Jan 10 AM” podcast. What follows below is the text. This essay was written especially for the BBC World Service.
My name is Liza Rosenberg. I live in a small town near Hadera, Israel.
In Israel, there are always stories making global headlines. Our February elections resulted in one of the most disturbing governments I can remember. I’m troubled by the inclusion of primarily right-wing parties, and angered that our foreign minister heads a far-right party whose election slogan was “no loyalty, no citizenship”. The UN investigation looking into the Gaza incursion generated tremendous controversy, with many Israelis – myself included – questioning the legitimacy of both the report and of mission head Richard Goldstone.
While local stories making waves globally obviously affect us, there are others that capture our attention but seemingly garner almost no outside interest. In Jerusalem, there have been ongoing clashes between members of the ultra-orthodox community and the municipality over the Sabbath openings of several businesses.
As fractious as Israeli society can be, there are also issues that draw us together. For instance, an outpouring of public protest forced the government to soften its stance regarding the status and deportation of African refugees as well as children of illegal migrant workers. We’re united in our desire to see kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit return to his family, though we’re at odds over the cost. We grieved over the loss of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon’s son in a training accident, yet we are divided over whether bereaved parents and spouses should be forced to decide if their children will be allowed to serve in combat roles.
As for me, I’m doing my best to raise my son to be respectful of the other, no matter who the other may be. I explain that it is okay to disagree with ideas, but to always show respect for the individual. When he asks if I hate certain politicians, for even at the age of five he’s begun to develop an awareness of public figures, I tell him that I do not hate the person, but rather, that I dislike his opinions. And, while I often despair of local events, I allow myself to believe that I am giving my son the tools to work towards a better future.by Liza Rosenberg
What follows below is the text for my final daily diary entry for the BBC World Service radio show “The World Today“. The audio link for this show can be found here, and includes a response from one of my counterparts in Gaza, Mr. Omar Sha’ban, an economist and father who lives in central Gaza.
This is Liza Rosenberg, keeping an audio diary for the World Today. When I tell Israelis that I’ve been keeping this daily diary for a BBC World Service radio show, I’m often met with a pleading response to “explain that Israel had to do this. Explain to everyone how we didn’t have a choice.” While I would be lying if I didn’t say that there are definitely some Israelis who are celebrating what’s been happening in Gaza, most of the people who I’ve spoken to do not feel that way, feeling instead that Israel did not have a choice.
As we entered this conflict, many Israelis were genuinely puzzled by the fact that no one else seemed to understand why we felt this way. Part of me has felt this way also, which I imagine you may have gathered from the diary entries I’ve shared with you since early last week. I’ve been having these terrible feelings of frustration as this conflict has dragged on, being tugged back and forth by events that have happened – Hamas’ cynical use of its civilian population, questioning Israel’s ethics when it fired on a school. I’ve had feelings of sadness as I dealt with a loss of innocence of sorts, as my four year-old son learned that there are bad people who shoot rockets at schools, and his belief that if I were to buy him a sword, he would be able to defeat the bad guys.
There have been times that I felt were incredibly important, times when I had an opportunity to shape my son’s thoughts and wanted so badly to ensure that he understood. When he told me that his teacher explained that there are good Arabs and bad Arabs, I responded by reminding him that there are good people and bad people, and that it doesn’t matter where they’re from or if they’re somehow different from us. I tell him that in Gaza, there are little boys just like him, little girls, mommies and daddies, that they are good people, and that they are probably very scared right now.
As this will probably be my last daily diary entry, I was asked by my editors if I would be willing to conduct a joint interview with my counterparts in Gaza. I thought about it, but felt that I couldn’t go through with it. What could I possibly say that wouldn’t sound hollow and completely ridiculous in light of the fact that my country is destroying his? To say sorry would be so hopelessly inadequate in this situation, I think. I would feel ashamed, embarrassed, helpless. And they might take their anger out on me, which, though misplaced, would be understandable. Or perhaps they would be gracious, and that would be even more unbearable, because I would feel so horribly, horribly guilty. After all, as I sit here in Israel with all of these thoughts, all of these worries about what my son is understanding, these gentlemen are worrying about whether their families will survive another night in Gaza. I’m not personally responsible for anything that’s been happening down there, and I believe Hamas has to realize that there will be consequences to its actions. I want more than anything for there to be peace and quiet for my fellow Israelis in the south. Ideally, I want the same thing for the Palestinians in Gaza as well. As I formulate my words, news networks are reporting that Hamas has agreed to a one-year, renewable ceasefire, if Israel is prepared to meet certain conditions. And I wonder how we’ll ever find our way out of this mess that we Israelis and Palestinians have managed to create.
Thank you for listening.
This essay was written specifically for the BBC World Service.by Liza Rosenberg
What follows is the text from Sunday’s audio diary entry for the BBC World Service radio show “The World Today”. This essay was written specifically for the BBC World Service.
This is Liza Rosenberg, keeping an audio diary for the World Today. On Friday morning, I had the pleasure of participating in the birthday celebration for one of my dearest friends. There were six of us, all from similar backgrounds and all of us mothers of young children. The situation down south is never far from anyone’s mind these days, and as we sat in the cozy, popular café near the city of Modiin, passing plates of food back and forth and drinking copious amounts of coffee, conversation drifted towards our children and how they’ve been connecting with what’s happening.
In schools throughout Israel, the situation is being explained at age-appropriate levels. In the pre-school that my friend’s daughter attends, the children were asked draw pictures to send to the soldiers serving in Gaza, while the primary school students were told that the army is fighting because terrorists have been firing rockets into Israel. I asked my own son whether his teacher had spoken about it. “She told us that there are good Arabs and bad Arabs,” he said. “The bad ones are shooting rockets at schools, and some families are hosting the kids from those schools so they’ll be safe. I want us to host kids too,” he added.
On Friday, the UN Security Council called for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, which both sides rejected. On Saturday, 22 rockets fell in southern Israel and the Israeli air force carried out approximately 60 attacks in Gaza, while Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal refused to accept the possibility of ceasefire until Israel stops its attacks on Gaza and opens the border crossings – something I can’t see Israel doing as long as the rocket fire into Israel continues.
Today is Sunday, and Israeli evening news reports are showing images of a school and a zoo in Gaza that were wired with explosives – all the classrooms, the grounds, the cages where animals were being kept… The top story was about a rocket that slammed into a playground adjacent to an empty preschool in the city of Ashdod, causing a great deal of damage to the preschool.
When I was in school, we had fire drills. Today, Israeli children are taught what to do in the event of a rocket attack. My friends with older children are worried about them nearing army age. I’m teaching my son about stranger danger while his teacher explains that bad people are firing rockets at schools. As my friends and I finished our coffee, we talked about shielding our children from harm. The irony wasn’t lost on me as I thought of the Hamas fighters who do the opposite, fighters who use children to shield themselves from harm.
***Update***by Liza Rosenberg
The essay below is the transcript from my January 8th audio diary entry (filed on Wednesday evening, January 7th), written specifically for the BBC World Service radio show “The World Today“. Currently, two of my three diary entries can be found online here.
This is Liza Rosenberg, keeping an audio diary for the World Today. I find it ironic that on the day we began attacking Gaza, my family and I were in the city of Jaffa, wandering through a crowded street fair whose theme was the celebration of three holidays – Chanukah, Christmas, and Eid el-Adha. I grew up in a multicultural society, and it’s very important to me that my son receives as much exposure to other cultures and religions as possible. Now I have a son who believes in Santa Claus, but that celebration of coexistence seems farther away than ever today, on the 12th day of fighting in Gaza.
Nothing in particular stands out for me today, and I still haven’t decided whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing – good, because maybe we didn’t make any crucial, tragic mistakes on the scale of yesterday’s school bombing. Bad, because maybe I’ve just gotten used to the daily dose of death and destruction that has permeated every facet of life during the past twelve days, whether it be the conversations of colleagues and friends or automatically pausing near one of the large plasma televisions mounted in the train stations, showing non-stop footage from the south.
If you were to ask me what I think of the current situation, I believe I’d say that I no longer know. On the one hand, Hamas forced us to take action, pushing and goading until we fell into the predictable trap of responding. I truly believe that this is exactly what they wanted, for us to turn on them, to cause innocent Gazans to die. On the other hand, when we act, how far should we be prepared to go? Hamas has always crossed the red lines, smashed them to pieces, in fact. Does that mean we should do the same? What does it say about us, when we fire on a building we know to be a school, even though we were fired upon from that same building first. We know that Hamas was using the school on purpose, hoping we would respond and create scenes of tragic devastation. Just because an opportunity to return fire presents itself, do we always have to seize that opportunity? Our political and military leaders have to know that there’s no amount of explanation they can provide, that they can justify yesterday’s actions until they’re blue in the face, providing proof in the guise of eyewitness reports and aerial photos… None of it will ever be able to compete against the images of death and devastation being broadcast around the world.
And where does all of this leave me? Alone with my thoughts, fears and frustrations, hoping that a solution to this horrific nightmare will be found soon, hoping that next year, I will be able to take my little Jewish Israeli son to Jaffa to see Santa Claus once again.by Liza Rosenberg
I’ll be the first one to admit that I probably don’t have as much self-confidence as I should, so when I discovered a particular email in my inbox two days ago, the first thing I did (after turning to my husband and telling him in a shaky voice about the email’s contents), I forwarded it to Lisa to ask if it was real.
“Yup, it’s for real,” she said. “Go for it!”
So I did.
For the next week or so, I’ll be filing a series of audio diary entries for a BBC World Service radio show called “The World Today“. I’ve been asked to record two to three-minute entries about life against the backdrop of the situation down south, to talk about what Israelis are thinking and feeling, etc. My first diary entry was broadcast last night/early this morning, and my second one is currently sitting in an inbox in London, waiting to be aired on one of tomorrow’s shows.
BBC World Service has launched a webpage with a number of links to different Israel-Gaza-related stories, and if you scroll down under Wednesday January 7th, you should see my name, with a link to my entry as well as a link to this blog. My entry is followed by a response provided by Gazan business consultant Sami Abdel Shafi, who I hope is managing to keep safe through all of this madness.
I don’t see any place on the World Service webpage (which I imagine will be published everyday) where people can leave comments, so feel free to leave them here (just make sure you understand the rules…) . I’ll post more links as I get them.
Watch this space…
Update: If you leave a comment, please be gentle! This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this before, so I’m not going to sound like a seasoned news reporter.by Liza Rosenberg