Lone Soldier News

Why Hamas Forced Me to Leave Amherst College

Michael Flaster

The Amherst Student

Nov 28, 2012

Amherst College is a small community, so I am sure that many of my fellow classmates already know that I left Amherst to join the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). I am sharing my experiences with you from this past week to illustrate two things to the Amherst community: why I took a leave of absence to serve in the Israeli Army and why Israel deserves an apology from her many critics on and off of our campus.

I have spent the last three days in Netivot, a small city of 30,000 people located less than 12 kilometers away from the Gaza Strip. I was volunteering there with a small non-profit. We were operating day care centers, teaching children in bomb-shelter-turned-classrooms and trying to restore a sense of normality to the children’s lives. For the over one million Israelis living within 40 kilometers of Gaza (the typical range of Hamas’s Qassam and Grad rockets), their children experienced the Israeli equivalent of a snow day there was no school here for over a week as the blizzard of rockets continued. It was too dangerous to travel to school and too dangerous to congregate under one roof, so the Israeli government spread out children in bomb shelters across southern Israel to minimize the likelihood of mass casualties. The young, old, sick and disabled must remain in these bomb shelters day and night because they cannot run to safety in time. The residents of Netivot have less than 12 seconds between siren and impact.

As I attempted to entertain the frightened children of Netivot, reading stories and playing games, I could hear the deep booms of rockets slamming into nearby cities and towns. Over 1,000 rockets were sent screaming toward Israel in the past week. If the rocket was within five kilometers, we could feel the vibrations of the impacts, watch books fall off of shelves, see windows shiver and sit helplessly wondering who was injured. If the predicted trajectory of the rocket was towards us in Netivot, an air-raid siren would alarm, and the 30,000 residents scrambled towards shelter. When the siren began to howl, the feeling was one of absolute panic. As I sprinted toward safety and grabbed any straggling children nearby, the idea of terror became a reality to me; it dawned on me that there are actually people, just a car-ride away, who are trying to kill me and those around me. On the night of November 20th a rocket leveled a house a block away from my bunker.

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