The Sabba Safta army…writes Michael Kuttner

July 15, 2014 by Michael Kuttner
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Normally in Israel at this time of the year with the long summer school vacation in full swing young children and older teens are busily occupied attending organized fun activities, summer camps and sports competitions.

This enables parents to continue working knowing that their children are being well occupied and looked after for the day. In a country where usually both parents work this arrangement is a lifesaver and means that everyone concerned benefits.

Michael Kuttner

Michael Kuttner

However this year with the outbreak of terror from Gaza coinciding with vacation time life has become that much more complicated. Most organized activities down south and even further north have been curtailed or cancelled because many of the facilities do not have adequate protection or take place outdoors. Naturally the possibility of rockets landing and exploding in the midst of large groups of children is high so the logical thing was to keep the children at home. This however presents other problems because parents either have to take time off work without pay or pay someone to babysit while they are at work. In addition the frustration on the part of the children kept cooped up at home becomes unbearable after a few days despite TV, computers and other electronic devices.

One of the most amazing spin offs of this current war of terror is the resilience and determination of Israelis to continue living as normally as possible despite the barrage of rockets in certain areas. The main aim of the terrorists is to demoralize the civilian population and make them hunker down and terrified to venture forth.
In this respect they have been a spectacular failure as Israeli society in general decided that despite everything they would not be intimidated.

As a result places of entertainment are full and the beaches are crowded, perhaps not in Ashkelon but certainly further north which despite having been targeted are not quite so vulnerable. So what about those parents who still must work yet at the same time ensure that their children are safe and occupied?

This where grandparents have been called up for active service. All over the country sabbas and saftas are answering the call and reporting for duty. In a country where the family unit is particularly strong and even strangers look after non family members a potential crisis has been averted. Children, young and older, are enjoying their summer vacation under the care of grandparents. This unique army of retired pensioners has been a morale booster for beleaguered families on the front line and has made all the difference in what could have been a stressful situation.

As we sat with our grandchildren today at the local Burger takeaway we were surrounded by hordes of families enjoying a fun day out. There was no sense of tension, fear or apprehension and one would have been hard pressed to detect that anything out of the normal was actually taking place. Only the signs pointing the way to air raid shelters and protected facilities gave any hint of possible trouble.

This determination to carry on normally and the belief that everything will be OK is not something which the international media will focus on. It is the strength of its citizens, young and old, which has in the past and currently ensures that in the end we will prevail.

Michael Kuttner is a Jewish New Zealander who for many years was actively involved with various communal organisations connected to Judaism and Israel. He now lives in Israel and is J-Wire’s correspondent in the region.

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