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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 16, 2009 How's the mood in Israel? Depends where you live Damage to a house in Sderot is shown on Jan. 6, a day missile. Leah Hassan. a nursery school teacher in Ashkelon, left her home Jan. 6 for the first time since the Israeli operation on Gaza began. "Everyone I see outside looks pale with the same fear I feel," she said. "Going out today I did not even want to drive I was so scared." "I feel traumatized," Has- san said. "Every time there is a siren I go into the safe room and shaking, I pray until I hear a boom and then I wonder where it fell and my imagination begins to race." In Tel Aviv, meanwhile, Shlomo Dora, 31, sits back on a black leather chair at a popular bistro with the sound of a crooning jazz singer on Brian Hendler after being hit by a Kassam the stereo and catches up with a friend. "Being out and about is not about a lack of solidar- ity because we all feel the pressure of what is going on here, but we need to get on with our daily so-called 'sane' routine," said Dora, who works at a company that makes medical devices In tiny Israel, he insists, far is never that far away. "Israel is a small country and we all feel that we are part of this war," Dora said. "Even ifI am meeting friends for coffee, this is what we are talking about. We all have family and friends in the south and know soldiers fighting inside Gaza." Nearby, behind the coun- By Dina Kraft ASHKELON and TELAVIV, Israel (JTA)--In Tel Aviv, the lunch crowd suns itself at bustling sidewalk cafes. But in Ashkelon the playgrounds are deserted, municipal buses run without passengers and stores are shuttered with no customers to even see the notes taped on the doors of "We'll be back soon." Iust as in the summer of 2006, when the northern part of the country huddled in bomb shelters during the Second Lebanon War and the rest of the country carried on with its business, a new war has come that affects Israelis--at least in part--ac- cording to geography. ter of a cafe known for its homemade cakes and jams, two workers disagree about how out of touch the locals are about the fear and rocket fire in cities like Ashdod only a 45-minute drive south. "Some of really do feel close to what's going on," said Shani Asulin, 24, a waitress at the cafe. Asulin is worried for her best friend, who works in army intelligence near the Gaza border, and her brother, a border policeman who has been doing security at dem- onstrations by Arab Israelis in the north. "What? We live in a bubble here," said Anat Mazor, the ca- fe's manager. "I would expect people to feel things more, but they don't seem to." Mazor, a Haifa native, said some do seem more affected and subdued by the fighting. Asulin offers that the night before, she left a dance club at 2 a.m. and the place was still packed. In Sderot, Yigal Sal, 39, who has been unemployed since a Kassam hit his cloth- ing store two years ago, says he does not leave the house much these days. His apartment, like most Sderot homes, has no protected room, so instead the family crouches together under the dining room table. Sal is very worried about his 8-year-old son, Mike, who hasknown life under rocket attack since he was born and still has trouble sleeping through the night alone. Most nights, and especially since the fighting began, Mike creeps into his parents' bed. Alone in his own bed he regularly wets his sheets---a sign in children of post-trau- matic stress disorder. "Everyone stays inside and looks towards God to make sure a Kassam does not hit him or his loved ones," Sal said. His daughter Noy, 17. fled to Eilat for the first few days of the war but has returned. Most of her friends have left the city; she spends most of the day online sending them messages. "It was hard to come back to the Kassams," Noy said in a quiet voice. When an alert goes off. she dutifully ducks under the dining room table. "We wait to hear the boom, and I feel my heart racing," she said. Talia Levanon, the director of the Israel Trauma Coali- tion, says it's been a major challenge trying to maintain the resiliency and sense of stability among children in Sderot. which until the fight- ing began a week and a half ago was the main target of Hamas rocket fire. "We find ourselves treating the same people over and over again, and we have to be creative and use all our resources," she said Jan. 4 during avisit by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to a Sderot clinic. The Israel Trauma Coali- tion, which is supported by the UJA-Federation of New York, is providing individual and community therapy to Sderot residents. Tel Aviv and other cities and towns also are becoming places of refuge for southern residents. Shraga Zaiger, a 45-year- old lawyer, has been hosting his mother since Israel's operationagainst Hamas in Gaza began Dec. 27. On Jan. 6 he had taken her out for lunch at a crowded cafe. "We are all very worried. but it's the personality of Israelis to go on with life as usual even during war. It was the same way when I was a soldier in Lebanon." he said, referring to the First Lebanon War, which began in 1982. His mother, Malka, has spent most of her life in Ash- kelon and is surprised to find herself a refugee from it. "It's strange, but this is our life," she said. For Galit Sabar, 30, a Tel Aviv University student, it's no longer possible to feel far from danger. She lives in Gadera. 20 miles from Gaza, which was hit with its first Grad missile on Jan. 6. She woke up to the sound of a siren. "It's getting closer, and there is talk they have rockets that could get to Rehovot," she said. waiting her turn at a Tel Aviv hair salon. "In Gadera especially now, people feel the situation more. but in Tel Aviv you really hardly feel it at all. 'Tel Aviv?" she said with a shrug. "It's like being abroad." With Obama mostly silent on Gaza, Dems move to fill void By Ron Kampeas steadfastly backed Israel's paign that the Israeli-Pales- Obama he wrote with Ken- WASHINGTON (JTA) Si- lence, sometimes golden, also may be perceived as yellow. Democrats. increasingly antsy about President-elect Barack Obama's refusal to weigh in on the Gaza war, are looking for ways to keep Republicans and other Obama critics from making an issue of his silence. Israel launched its opera- tion, aimed at ending Hamas' capacity to launch rockets from the Gaza Strip at Israel's south, on Dec. 27. during the stateside Christmas-New Year's lull. As of Jan. 6. the new Con- gress was in session and both houses--led by Democrats-- are scrambling to push out a resolution that is likely to be robustly pro-Israel. U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Middle East subcofimittee, said it was appropriate for the president-elect to hold his tongue. "I would be upset and surprised if he wasn't main- taining silence," Ackerman said in a conference call with journalists after returning from a tour of Israel that included stops on the Gaza Strip border. "We don't have two commanders in chief. We don't have co-presidents." Obama for the first time on Jan. 6 ventured a little further than his insistence that there cannot be "two presidents at a time" on foreign policy and in so doing suggested his path could indeed differ from President Bush, who has right to withhold a cease-fire .until it has guarantees Hamas will no longer launch rockets. Obama suggested he would aggressively pursue an end to the conflict. "Starting at the beginning of our administration, we are going to engage effectively and consistently in trying to resolve the conflicts that exist in the Middle East," he said. "So on Jan. 20, you will be hearing directly from me in my opinions on this issue. Until then, my job is to monitor the situation and put together the best possible national security team so that we hit the ground running once we are responsible for national security issues." Obama said he was paying close attention to the civilian casualties on both sides. "The loss of civilian life in Gaza and in Israel is a source of deep concern to me," he said. "And after Jan. 20. I'm going to have plenty, to say about the issue." Another sign that Obama would make the Middle East a front-burner issue were multiple reports Jan. 6 that he would make Richard Haas a special envoy to the region and Dennis Ross a special envoy on Iran. Haas is a protege of Colin Powell, Bush's former sec- retary of state who backed Obama in the election. Hass is a"realist" who believes that solving the Iscael-Palestinian crisis is critical. That's a contrastwith Ross, the Clinton administration's top Middle East envoy. Ross said during the Obama cam- tinian conflict is intractable for now. Obama also emphasized that his prevailing consider- ationwasAmerican interests. Suggestions that they are not coincidentwith Israel's in this case are sure to rattle some in the pro-Israel community. Conflict resolution is "not only right for the people in that region," he said during a brief news conference here. "Most importantly it's right for the national security of the American people and the stability that is so important to this country." Pro-Israel Democrats might not appreciate such nu- ance. Ackerman said he hoped Obama's response would hew to what the president-elect said when he visited Israel's front line with Gaza over the summer. Atthe time, Obama sid he would do whatever he could to protect his daughters if they were threatened by rocket attacks. Israel did not need pressure, Aekerman said. "Iwould be dismayed if Isra- el succumbedto international pressure before decidingwhat is in it's own interest." the veteran lawmaker said. Martin Indyk, a top Middle East peace negotiator in the Clinton administration, said Obama would have little choice except to push for a cease-fire. "Gaza is on a seam line of conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians, between Arabs and Iran, and between Islam and the West," Indyk said at the unveiling Jan. 5 of a Middle East policy memo to neth Pollack. also a Clinton administration veteran. "His first challeflge is to achieve a sustainable cease-fire." Ackerman acknowledged the no-win options inherent in a transition and a Crisis coinciding. "It would send very confus- ing messages in any serious operation we might be in" if Obama commented, he said. "The enemy or potential en- emy would read nuances, just as the press is reading nuances into his saying nothing." Not that Obama critics weren't ready to step into the breach. The Zionist Organi- zation of America on Jan. 5 "expressed concern, puzzle- ment and disappointment" at Obama's silence. That leaves congressional Democrats to comment on the situation. The trick, insiders say, is to sound robustly pro- Israel while not tying down the president-elect to a policy that could restrict his options come Jan. 20. Jewish groups blasted Dem- ocrats with phone calls on Jan. 4, the day before congressional work started informally the formal launch of Congress was Jan. 6. Conservatives began to whisper that it was "odd" that Obama continued to defer to President Bush on the issue. On Jan. 5, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.),the U.S. House of Rep- resentatives majority leader, told JTA that a nonbinding resolution was "in the works." Hoyer said he was looking at uch a resolution being drafted by staffers for Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chair- Spencer Tucker 1,7.8. Rep. Gary Ackerman, right, with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, left, and Israeli Prime Minister hud Olmert in Sderot on a solidarity trip on Jan. 4, says he would be "upset and surprised" if President-elect Barack Obama "wasn't maintaining silence" on the Gaza situation. man of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "Certainly it would not demand a cease-fire," Hoyer said. "It would speak to the conditions that would justify a cease-fire. A cease-fire is not a just cease-fir e when it's just Israel" holding fire. In a signal of the issue's sensitivity, the resolution was being drafted "in-house," without the usual consultation with outside pro-Israel groups. It also was aimed at co-opting Republicans in a bid to keep them from "out-hawking" the Democrats on the issue. Leaders in both houses-- Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the House speaker, and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Sen- " ate majority leader--both spoke at length on Jan. 3 with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "Israel has to continue un- til they stop the rockets and mortars coming into Israel maiming, injuring and killing Israelis." Reid said Jan. 4 on NBC's "Meet the Press." Americans for Peace Now, apparently having learned of the resolution, distributed talking points on the Hill on Jan. 5. Any pro-Israel statement should include "a clear rec- ognition that a cease-fire is in the vital interests of both Israel and America" and "a demand that any new cease- fire be accompanied by efforts to lay the groundwork for the kind of changes on the ground and the establishment of a political process that can avoid a return to military action in the future," the group said in its blast e-mail to lawmakers' offices. In the meantime, theAmeri- can Israel Public Affairs Com- mittee rushed an Israeli army statement to members of Con- gress within minutes of the blasting of a Gaza school that killed as many as 40 Palestin- ians displaced by the fighting. The army statement said its forces were returning fire from Hamas militants stationed in the compound. m