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She's a mother of three. And every day, she fears for their lives.

Ondine Sherman.

I’m eating watermelon, nursing a beer, dog by my side. A warm summer-night breeze tickles my neck. The World Cup final is projected onto a large screen in the Israeli beachside cafe and everyone’s cheering. Platters of watermelon, hummous, chips are flowing.

On the top right of the screen, updates flash. They’re not about the soccer, but warnings of missile attacks from Gaza and subsequent hits across the country.

I hold my husband’s hand, and look at the night sky, three quarter moon, a scatter of twinkly stars and take a sip of beer. Half my stress has dissipated but the other half I keep hold of, there’s a good chance a siren will go off and the adrenalin will help me run.

It’s been a tense day.

In the morning, my twin seven-year-old old boys went to summer camp at their special-needs school. It’s in Tel Aviv, 20 mins south from our home. Mid-morning I got a message – a siren sounded. The kids, all of them wheel-chair bound and non-verbal were rushed to the safe room.

Israel Palestine Conflict
‘There’s a barrage of angry opinions from different Israeli news sources – some more “right” wing, and some “left”.’ (Image: Front page of the Hebrew and English editions of Haaretz/Wikipedia)

The principal reassured us everyone was fine. But I felt guilty having sent them off to camp; yesterday I’d kept them home. My nine-year-old old daughter’s in London with my mum. At least I know she’s safe, for now at least. Hamas have just threatened to attack the airport and all incoming planes.

At the supermarket mid-morning I checked Facebook. My stream is full of news outlets I’ve ‘liked’ –Haaretz, Jerusalem Post, YNet, Times of Israel. I’m not a big news reader but in the last few weeks –ever since the three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and then found shot dead, and the Palestinian teenager, murdered in cold blood, sparking national riots, the tension between Israel and Palestinians is high and news an imperative.

Today’s Facebook feed, rather than pics of babies and tid-bits on popular culture, is dominated by Hamas’ missile attacks and Israel’s response.

It’s hot in the supermarket parking lot as I read a barrage of angry opinions from different Israeli news sources – some more ‘right’ wing, and some ‘left’.

The ’left’ points to the Gazans, poor, hopeless, with rising casualties, and condemns Israel’s settlements.

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The ‘right’ fires back – Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and look what happened- Hamas is causing their misery and still hellbent on annihilating Israel.

The ‘left’ respond: Israeli policies are fuelling despair and extremism and we must have a two-state solution.

The conflict in Gaza.

The ‘right’ post a YouTube video of a Hamas leader instructing Gazans to ignore Israeli warnings to evacuate their homes. The journalist writes that Hamas use their people as human shields – purposefully hiding weapons and launching missiles among civilians.

The ‘left’ retort, they have no other forms of defense.

I turn off my feed, lug bags of groceries to the car, and take a moment to play Words with Friends. Relaxing.

Back at home, I call a few friends to check on how they’re coping. One has a new baby, and she recounts how she cried, her body shaking as she took the bub to the shelter last night during an attack. The other, an Aussie, announced this was no place to bring up kids; she’s ‘over it’ and returning down under.

We’re all having a hard time, Israelis living in the south in particular – but I remind myself of the innocent people in Gaza who are suffering the most.

Midday, and my boys are back. I give them lunch before the door-bell rings. The physio, all smiles, whisks one off to the play mat for stretches and muscle strengthening. My son squeals with laughter from the other room.

I wonder what the physio is thinking, as an Arab-Israeli Muslim man, but am too nervous to ask. Politics and pediatric physiotherapy don’t seem a good mix.

I download a recommended App that warns of incoming missiles. My afternoon is interrupted by constant messages alerting me of rockets falling across the south. I delete it. Too stressful. I’ll move when a siren tells me to.

After dinner, I prop one of my boys on the couch surrounded by pillows, and sing songs on the guitar. There’s nothing in the world he loves more and he stretches his hand to try and strum – difficult as his fingers are curled and tight. My repertoire is small – Cat Stevens, Bob Marley and John Lennon. Imagine is one of his favourites. Today I pay special attention to the words.

Sunset at Herzliya.

Now it’s midnight, my beer finished, the starry sky clear of missiles, and the game nearly over. I imagine just 80km or so down the coast, sitting on a similar Mediterranean beach, a group of Hamas. I heard they love soccer too – are they taking a break to watch the game? Nothing seems to unite men more than sport.

This region is fraught with hatred, extremism, opposing historical narratives, and failed attempts at peace — and yet, there’s a huge amount of humanity too, stories that don’t make the headlines: Israelis and Palestinians joining together to try and change the game.

Perhaps one day, John Lennon’s words will ring true.

We’ll all sit together, drink and eat watermelon. It probably won’t happen by next World Cup but …

It’s worth being a dreamer.

Ondine grew up in Sydney and now, with husband, three children, two dogs and a naughty street-cat, lives in Israel. She is Co-Managing Director & Co-Founder of Voiceless, the animal protection institute, and has a BA (Comms) from UTS and MA (Env Stds) from Macquarie University. Ondine’s memoir, The Miracle of LoveAllen & Unwin 2013 is an intimate account of her experiences with twin boys who have severe disabilities.   

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