Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Resa Gooding-Eshed

Living Among War & Conflict and Still Smiling


Photo Stephen Doobay

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Resa and Ofry with her in laws, the Demzovsky sisters.

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DURING that week of uncertainty Resa Gooding-Eshed, a Trinidadian living in Israel, sat down and penned a personal account of what it was like to live amongst such volatility in a region fraught with conflict.

Gooding-Eshed was born and bred in a quiet residential neighbourhood in St Joseph. Little did she know that life would take her halfway across the world to Israel where she and her husband, Shlomy, are now raising a family of their own. Life is much different for her. While porches, or verandahs are a staple in most West Indian houses, every house in Israel must have a bomb shelter. Resa's home in Israel is no different. Israel's 1951 civil defense law requires shelters to be built in all homes, residential and industrial buildings. The standard of living in Israel is quite high and while Resa said the education she received in Trinidad gave her an edge over her peers, she stresses that Israel places high priority on the care of its most vulnerable citizens young children and the elderly.

Israel is a very family-oriented country and is one of the best places for children, says Resa. There are many activities to encourage family life, from petting zoos, puppet shows to parks, many of which are free to the public. Men also take their leading role in their families very seriously, Resa observes. It's not unusual to see fathers out and about with their children.

But then there is that white elephant in the room that ever constant concern about security. Resa is very familiar with the precautions she must take in the event of an emergency. She is fully confident in the government's ability to protect its citizens. According to the Defense Service Law, enlistment to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) is mandatory for all Israeli citizens on turning 18. Resa's husband has been thoroughly trained by the military.

"Of course when it concerns war, you never know what will happen but when I'm with my husband I feel safe because he like so many Israelis have been trained and know what they need to do in case of emergencies. The IDF are on the ball at all times and I am confident in their ability to protect us," says Gooding-Eshed.

Resa has lived in Israel for the past five years. She is an account manager with advertising agency, Outform. The Middle East is no stranger to ceasefire agreements. Early last year, she escaped danger when a rocket landed in the town of Sderot where she had been visiting just as a fragile ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas had ended. It was during that time, in an interview with the Express, that Gooding-Eshed said a major concern she and others living in Israel shared is the real threat of suicide bombings which Hamas had vowed to resume.

The following personal account, by Gooding-Eshed herself, was written just hours after the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel was announced by the international media on November 21.

As I sat to begin writing this article the news came across that a bus in Tel Aviv has been exploded by terrorists injuring 21 people and they continue to roam the streets in search of more victims. This is mere hours after the agreement of the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel was supposed to come into effect after seven days of Operation Pillar of Defense.

As a foreigner living in Israel I have always tried to take an objective view upon this never ending war between Gaza and Israel. I've always held the viewpoint that because I'm neither Jewish nor Arab by birth, I can never fully understand the struggles each side is going through and their reasoning behind their actions. However now that I have chosen to build my life here in Israel, as I am married to a Jewish-Israeli and have a daughter who is now considered "property of the State" it is becoming increasingly impossible to ignore the realities we are faced with each day.

The last insurrection that took place between Gaza and Israel was in 2009 when they went in search of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit. Today, three years after and 8,292 rockets later, Israel was forced to take drastic steps to stop the constant terrorising of its citizens. Can you imagine the citizens of San Fernando being attacked every day by rockets? Your children being unable to go to school many days because there are siren alerts warning them to hide in bomb shelters and the days they are in school they are hiding under tables? This has been the life of Israeli citizens living in southern Israel for the past eight years and more.

But maybe it's asking too much to imagine this because honestly I can tell you from my personal experience, I never dreamt this could be so frightful. Before moving to Israel, like most of us in the world, I relied on international news for my information and of course with each report we got the side of the reporters, or more importantly, what the networks wanted to portray.

However now that I am living here as an everyday citizen trying to go about my daily routine it's becoming more and more nerve-racking to continue life as a normal human being and the craters that exist in the international news is glaringly apparent.

When Israel decided to begin Operation Pillar of Defense, it was a necessary step to bring some measure of silence to the residents of south Israel. Unfortunately today the threat of rockets falling on your house, car or person has now spread to major cities such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I now live 15 minutes from Tel Aviv and during last week there were two rockets that fell on neighbourhoods five minutes away from my home. My 2-year-old daughter cried nervously as she was in day care and had to be hurriedly ushered into a bomb shelter as sirens were sounded. Fortunately for the 'Iron Dome' the Israeli system that intercepts rockets before they fall no one was injured. This is our reality every day as Hamas unleashes their rockets in revenge for whatever injustices they feel they have suffered at the hands of Israel.

Again it is not my intention to diminish the struggles of the Gaza citizens but when the international correspondents report that Israel's attack was a disproportionate response on Gaza I ask myself whether their views would be the same if they spent one day in Sderot or Ashkelon or had to take a bus in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem wondering if there was a terrorist onboard. But maybe they too would be like my husband who has great confidence in his government and security forces to continue to protect the people of Israel. Knowing that I would be scared after hearing the news of the attack on the bus, he called me to let me know that everything will be ok and the security forces are on top of it.

For the first time since the operation began I had a smile on my face as I remembered this is what makes Israel great as the people do put insurmountable faith in their leaders to protect them and ensure their safety at whatever cost.

The Conflict

WHEN Israel launched Operation "Pillar of Defense" in Gaza on November 14 which began with the killing of the military commander of Hamas, tensions between Israel and Hamas were already at its highest. Five days earlier, more than 115 missiles were fired into southern Israel from Gaza and Israeli planes launched several strikes on Gaza. This show of force between both sides intensified and became more frequent in the lead up to Operation Pillar of Defense.

Then in response to Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel, the Israeli government embarked on airstrikes, targeting the vehicle of Ahmed Al-Jaabari, commander of the military wing of Hamas the Islamist movement which controls Gaza. Hamas strongholds including the Hamas Internal Security Headquarters in Gaza were destroyed. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel was prepared to send thousands of soldiers into Gaza as part of a ground offensive. Israel's Iron Dome Interceptor defense system knocked down hundreds of missiles in flight, headed for Israel.

A week later, an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire was reached. Although three rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza following the announcement of the ceasefire, this truce however fragile it may appear, remains in effect. According to the BBC, under the truce deal, Israel has agreed to end all hostilities and targeted killing of militants while all Palestinian factions will have to stop firing rockets into Israel and staging border attacks. Reports from the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) revealed that more than 158 people in Gaza were killed in the offensive. Of that number 103 were civilians, including 30 children and 13 women. Six Israelis were killed in the fighting.