Rockets hit Tel Aviv, and the conflict changes

Shortly after Israel's 1982 incursion into Lebanon, I sat in a kindergarten classroom in the border town of Kiryat Shmona.  There was a gaping hole in the ceiling where a Katyusha rocket had struck.  By some miracle, it was a dud, and it hit before the start of the school day.  The roof had been hastily repaired, although the large hole in the ceiling was still there.

It was the rainy season, and rain was coming down in sheets, not droplets.  There was an eeriness about the scene — the makeshift repair, the gaping hole in the ceiling, the unnerving thought that a Katyusha could have wiped out a kindergarten class, and the thunderous noise of the torrent of rain echoing off the rooftop.

The Katyusha originated in the Soviet Union.  First used against German troops in World War II, it had a sound so terrifying that battle-hardened German soldiers who had fought on the Eastern Front panicked upon hearing it.

The rocket had made its way from the Soviet Union to Hezb'allah through Iran, Hezb'allah's patron.

I asked the elderly woman who was my guide if Israel should have gone into Lebanon.  They should have gone in two years earlier, she replied.  For two years, Kiryat Shmona sat under the bombardment from Lebanon.

It was discrimination, she said.  The Jews who settled at Kiryat Shmona and along the border were Mizrachi Jews, Jews who had been driven out of the Middle East by a resurgence of Islamic militancy.  Kiryat Shmona was so close to Lebanon that when they watered the plants, the water also irrigated a neighboring field in Lebanon.

While we live under the bombardment of rockets, she continued, the Ashkenazi Jews in Tel Aviv frolic in nightclubs.  They talk of peace while we experience war.  They lack compassion.

They will understand its meaning, she predicted, only when rockets hit Tel Aviv.  Then they will know and experience what we know and experience.  It will take that to rouse them from their slumber.

Now rockets from Gaza have reached Tel Aviv, Israel's largest and most commercially important city.  The rockets came from Hamas, another Iranian proxy.

The attack was an inevitable outcome of President Barack Obama's decision to make Iran the hegemonic power in the Middle East.  The Obama administration's release of hundreds of billions of dollars enabled Iran to upgrade the warfare capabilities of its proxies on the Israeli border.

Tel Aviv now, like Kiryat Shmona decades ago, is in the path of death from the skies.  Maybe Israel could ignore the attacks on its border communities, but it cannot ignore the attacks on its "Hill of Spring" — one of the most vibrant cities in the world.

Israel will have to awaken from its slumber and embrace the reality of being a society under siege, like Kiryat Shmona, Sderot, and other border towns.  Israel will have to ignore the U.N., the New York Times, and the deluge of anti-Semitic opinion that condemns it whenever it rises to defend itself.  It should embrace the Talmudic imperative: when they come to kill you, rise up and slay them first.

Abraham H Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the Hyam Salomon Center, a news and public policy organization.