Monday, November 26, 2012

'Rebuilding Lives in Gaza & Tel Aviv'

The pernicious Israel lobby-mandated doctrine of balance was impossible to miss on SBS World News last night. Newsreader Lee Lin-Chin set the tone early in the bulletin: "And later, Coming to terms with the conflict: rebuilding lives in Gaza and Tel Aviv."

Shattered lives! Palestinian and Israeli.

Israelis first? But of course!

Li Lin-Chin: Earlier this week there was a bomb on a bus in Tel Aviv which injured 29 people, the first such attack in more than 6 years. Today the ceasefire with Hamas is still holding and the city is pretty much back to normal. On the surface anyway, with a little tension underneath. Here's SBS correspondent Luke Waters reporting from Tel Aviv:

It's difficult to believe but less than a week ago Israel was on the brink of all-out war. It's Saturday night here in Tel Aviv. The bars and restaurants are back in full swing. But just how do locals cope with being on the brink of war one day and face normal existence the next?

[Barfly 1] 'It's not new for us. It's kind of normal and we try to continue with our life.'

[Barfly 2] 'This is the situation. This is where we live. That's what you do about it. You one day live like this and the next day like that.'

That's life indeed in Tel Aviv where bars are full and optimism and fun go hand in hand. [Pan to string quartet playing on promenade] On the surface the sentiment on Golden Beach promenade is similar. Even in less than ideal conditions the waves attract a crowd. [Pan to hang glider] Some even take to the air for entertainment. [Pan to surfboard rider] Tel Aviv resident Arik Cohen says all is not what it seems. Despite the bravado, everyone's aware of the dark reality: 'You live your life but you know something can change at any day.' Arik finds his peace in the water.

[Pan to two fatties] Sisters Aviva and Yael now live in Paris but returned to Tel Aviv last week. 'When we heard that the war started that's why we decided to come because we want to share with our friends and family the situation.'

Giving some confidence: Israel's Iron Dome anti-war missile system which intercepts rockets as they bear down on populated targets. In the 8 days of violence, the system intercepted more than 400 missiles, a success rate of 84%.

[Restaurant patron] 'In a couple of years we'll have 13 of them which will cover Israel completely and then Iran will not be a problem which they are today.'

And with more modern weapons from Libya and Sudan now making their way to Gaza, the range and accuracy of the enemy's arsenal is improved. [Pans to high rise with hole in side] But as this badly damaged building shows, the system certainly isn't fallible and 16% of rockets that did get through like the one which fell here at Rishon LeZion*, the 4th biggest city in Israel and only 15km from central Tel Aviv.

[Man] 'What is new here is that this is the first time some missiles arrived to this area.'

[Woman] 'We are not scared. We are very brave in Israel.'

So far Israel's technology will help temper an old problem, with hopes it will prolong peace. But beyond the bars and the beaches a grim, deadly reality prevails. Everyone hopes differently.

[Arik Cohen] 'It's like you're in another world when you're in the water, so yeah, it's definitely a good escape.'

Ultimately, hope for a peaceful solution remains the ideal outcome.


Lee Lin-Chin: On the other side of the border, schools in Gaza have reopened for the first time since the ceasefire was declared in the territory. But, while the children have turned up, the lessons are yet to start:

Nadim Baba, Al-Jazeera: Back with their friends, but for these children there's only one thing on their minds. Many at this school witnessed Israeli air strikes. Some lost their homes. No one can forget what they saw.

[Girl] 'A piece of shrapnel hit my sister in the arm and my uncle's house was hit by a missile.'

And this is what they're doing on their first day - no lessons, just fun.

[Fatima Abu Ahmad, School Principal] 'Psychologically, they're not ready to resume their studies because of the awful things they've seen. They have stories of death and destruction and rubble and fear, things that are not normal.'

But when it's time for drawing it's clear war has traumatised many of these young Palestinians. 'I couldn't sleep all night,' says this girl. 'I was so scared they'd bomb our house. Nobody in our house could sleep.'

The school was badly damaged when a missile hit the mosque next door, meaning several classrooms can't be used. In the middle of the morning more people have arrived. They're the second shift. Like many schools in Gaza this school has two shifts because of overcrowding, and the damage to the classrooms has only made that problem worse. Trained counsellors will also be working with these children, the beginning of a long process, especially because the older ones still display signs of trauma from the war with Israel 4 years ago.

[Counsellor] 'Most of the children which we've seen suffer from nightmares, some behavioural problems such as aggression, bed-wetting, some learning problems, concentration and attention impairment and other problems.'

The physical damage to the school should be repaired in a few weeks but the emotional trauma that these children carry with them will take much longer to heal.


[* I love the way Waters had to go to Rishon LeZion to find a damaged building for inclusion in a report on Tel Aviv.]

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