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Israel’s Pearl Harbor


WORLD Radio - Israel’s Pearl Harbor

Two months after Hamas’ surprise attack, 200,000 Israelis remain displaced from their homes

An armed woman walks through Jerusalem during increased tensions between Palestinians and Israelis. Getty Images/Photo by Spencer Platt

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Thursday the 7th day of December, 2023. This is WORLD Radio and we thank you for joining us. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. First up on The World and Everything in It: Life in Israel right now.

Today marks two months since Hamas brutalized villages and a music festival near the Gaza Strip. Just as Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor 82 years ago today on December 7th, the attack by Hamas has traumatized and galvanized Israelis to ensure this never happens again.

BROWN: Joining us now from Israel is WORLD correspondent Jill Nelson.

Jill, good morning to you. Or since you’re seven hours ahead, perhaps I should say good afternoon?

JILL NELSON, CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it's afternoon here. Good to be with you, Myrna.

BROWN: You last visited Israel in the 90s on a study abroad trip…what was different about this trip flying in?

NELSON: Well, it was quite different. I mean, you're immediately met with reminders that this is a country at war, and even walking into the airport, it was very quiet. El Al is the only airline currently flying in, so no tourists coming to this country right now. But as I deboarded, I was immediately greeted with sirens. So we were ushered into the nearest shelter in the airport, which was really just kind of a simple stairwell. I'd say most people were Israeli who had deboardted and were just kind of going on their way and seemed more concerned about getting home or meeting their loved ones. But then I was also greeted by poster after poster with images of the people who were still being held hostage by Hamas and Gaza with slogans saying, bring him home, bring her home. So that was a very touching display as she walked through the airport in Tel Aviv.

BROWN: Mainstream news organizations have run many stories about the Gazans displaced by Israel’s war with Hamas. But what about Israelis?

NELSON: Yeah, there's about 200,000 internally displaced people. And so these are people who were evacuated from that area right next to Gaza. Those towns have been evacuated just for security reasons, but also some of those surrounding areas, people left with their children because they just didn't feel like those areas were safe either. And then up north, there are about 42 Jewish and Arab communities that have been evacuated because of the rocket fire from Hezbollah and the threat of that front increasing in intensity as well. So a lot of people are staying in hotels in Jerusalem, some in hotels by the Dead Sea, others are in hotels down by Elat. And they're just sheltering there for now trying to figure out what's next. And many of them are doing what they can to help others in need even while they're displaced. So it's it's quite amazing to see the community and the people coming together during this war.

BROWN: In a country, Jill, the size of New Jersey, it’s hard to get away from danger…especially when the, as you mentioned earlier, Iran-backed group Hezbollah up north in Lebanon keeps threatening to join the fight. What do we know about their involvement at this point?

NELSON: Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned Myrna how small Israel is because you do get a sense of that when you're here like driving from Jerusalem, to Gaza, it really only took me an hour, and well I wasn't quite to Gaza, but almost an hour and a half, and so it's a very small country. And so when you think about these attacks from Gaza, and then you shift your eyes up to the north, where Hezbollah really is a ticking time bomb, in a sense, that whole front has heated up immensely since October 7. And there are skirmishes on that northern border between Hezbollah and IDF forces almost daily. And so a bunch of rocket attacks coming from both Syria and Lebanon. I know earlier this week, IDF fighter jets struck several of the Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon. But this is an area where you have about 15,000 missiles and rockets aimed at Israel. Most are short range, but there's potential that some could travel hundreds of miles and hit major population centers in Israel. So concerns that that could continue to heat up and of course, a number of IDF reservists and regular serving soldiers up in that area as well in a very dangerous situation.

BROWN: Do you have any other takeaways or stories from your time there so far?

NELSON: Well, it you know, it's, I was really struck by just how much trauma a lot of these people have been through. Even speaking to the pastor today from Sderot, he was saying that some of the women in his congregation are really struggling and not able to sleep at night. They're afraid that their children will be kidnapped. It's just a lurking fear in their minds after hearing the stories of the hostage taking by Hamas on October 7. So you do get that sense that this was right on their doorstep and some of these people barely escaped. This pastor and his wife, they could see the terrorists outside their window, they were shooting into their home. Thanks be to God, they did not come into their home. And they made it out safely. But there's a lot of trauma. And as I mentioned before, there's a lot of people coming together as well. That's been amazing to see. It's been amazing for me to see the church in action here, both praying, committed to prayer, praying several times a day, for safety, protection for the troops, for God to really be at work in the situation. But then they're also being the hands of feet of Jesus and going out and serving people in the community who are in need right now. And so it's been amazing to see them take advantage of that opportunity.

BROWN: Hard stories, and the church in action in the midst of it all. Jill Nelson is a correspondent for WORLD. Thanks for your time, and thank you for covering this for us!

NELSON: Absolutely. Thanks for having me, Myrna.

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