By Sanjay Shukla:
From their homes, offices, parks, playgrounds, universities to their hotels, shopping malls, bars, and beaches, there is one common thing that one can find everywhere in the most advanced metropolis of the Middle East – Tel Aviv. ‘Bunkers’, shelters used during conflicts and wars by soldiers have become a part of the everyday life of Israeli people.
There is a nice Chinese proverb, “As water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it, a wise man adapts himself to circumstances.” This proverb applies to the Israeli society’s approach towards conflict.
Israeli people have conditioned themselves to life in an eternal conflict zone. They have made themselves acquainted to war, like warriors in a never-ending conflict as if the slightest laxity can cost them their nation.
I was astounded to see how the bustling city of Tel Aviv, the commercial capital of the Jewish state, has been turned into a landscape of bunkers, with security sirens and CCTV cameras all around, but without disturbing its beauty and ethos.
One can never imagine the dreadful sleepless nights the people of Israel have spent over the last 70 years to save the nation-state that never sleeps.
Since its inception in 1948, the country has been in constant conflict. They’ve been fighting several direct or indirect wars against neighbouring nations including Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, and facing terrorism persistently.
Here, nobody knows when there’s going to be a rocket or missile strike in the city. No one knows which breath would be their last. Every few years, a minor or a major war breaks out. Underground bunkers are the best way to protect themselves from heavy bomb strikes from terror groups as soon as security sirens alert them.
I met a few people who told me that they lived for almost a month in underground bunkers in their homes during the war with Lebanon in 2006 to save their lives. Hezbollah launched rocket attacks on major Israeli cities like Haifa, Hadera, Nazareth, Tiberias, Nahariya, Safed, killing hundreds of people.
To save themselves, to save their one and only Jewish nation on the planet, they have transformed the whole city, even whole country, into a military cantonment. Every corner, every building has bomb proof bunkers and advanced security systems.
Locals or foreigners, everyone’s foremost duty here is to let people know how to save their lives during emergencies, where the shelters (bunkers) are, what the security alarms are meant for, and what precautions need to be taken.
Although it was my first experience of living in a conflict zone, I never felt threatened. I was never interrogated or treated as a potential suspect. Israelis care as much for foreigners as for their own citizens. During the recent terrorist attack in Tel Aviv this January, as soon as the news of the attack broke out, I received a precautionary call from my office administration, Tel Aviv University, advising me to remain inside my home and follow security regulations.
From the mountains of Golan Heights to the Desert of Negev, from the ultra-modern city of Tel Aviv to the ancient city of Jerusalem, the land of three religions is surrounded by hostile enemies like no other country in the world, equipped with missiles and set to attack at any time.
Israel has learned how to save its precious citizens from the enemy’s strike, and fight back to save their motherland.
The groups Hamas in Gaza (south-east) and Hezbollah on the northern front have left no stone unturned in their fight against these people who wandered all over the world during the last two thousand years in the search of refuge.
For the last one decade, as soon as Israel handed over the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority in 2005, Hamas has occupied it and has been involved in perpetual missile fire on Israeli territory. Moreover, the group Hezbollah has incessantly fired rockets on major Israeli cities, which forced Israel to transform its cities into cantonments.
Due to such a hostile environment, and a mere 8 million strong population in Israel, every citizen has to serve in the army no matter what career they pursue. Women are supposed to serve a minimum of two years while the same is three years for men.
Many nations that have taken their very existence for granted have lessons to learn from these brave hearts. Here, the people’s first and foremost dharma and karma is the army. Their one and only love is the nation where the contest for ‘survival’ never seems to end.