View from Beit Shemesh
It's been a roller-coaster experience as a resident of Beit Shemesh, and as a citizen of Israel.
First, our country experienced the rare unity in our passionate two weeks of prayers for the welfare of kidnapped yeshiva students Naftali, Gilad and Yair.
The kidnapping reportedly took place just 20 minutes up the road from here, as the boys tried to hitch-hike from Gush Etzion in the direction of Beit Shemesh.
The tragic triple funeral for the boys was also just a 30 minute journey in the other direction from here, in Modein cemetery.
Along with many other Beit Shemesh residents, and thousands from around the country, I went to the funeral and also to the Frenkel shiva (Nof Ayalon).
The three graves were barely filled, when news came through of a grisly kidnap and murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, an Arab boy from Shuafat in north Jerusalem, whose burned body was discovered in the Jerusalem forest.
While Arabs rioted throughout the country, in protest at the murder, the Israeli police quietly investigated the crime, "pursuing all options", which is to say, both the criminal (by Arabs) and nationalistic (by Jews).
The arrest of six Jewish boys, on suspicion of involvement in the murder, seems to settle the final direction of the police investigation - a vile revenge murder by Jews.
Two of the suspects are from Beit Shemesh; they are described as chareidi Sephardim. My neighbors, almost literally. The other suspects were apparently relatives of the boys from Jerusalem and Adam.
And then the war broke out.
Literally hundreds of rockets and missiles have been launched from Gaza by Hamas and Islamic Jihad into the whole of the "South" of Israel.
"South" has become a relative term, as the range of the rockets covers all of Israel until close to Haifa (so far).
Here in Beit Shemesh, sirens have sounded sending us rushing to protective rooms & bomb shelters. Missiles have landed close by - thankfully no direct hits on Beit Shemesh, nor indeed any injuries.
Indeed the number of missiles launched at Israel (around 200) and the amount of damage to property and persons (almost none, thank God) - is a startling and peculiarly Israeli combination of engineering genius and Heavenly Grace.
The world-first Israeli Iron Dome highly effective, low cost anti-missile missile system has shot many of the threatening incoming missiles out of the skies, while leaving others to fall harmlessly into open fields.
I can almost envisage the day that whole wars will be fought robotically in the skies, while residents beneath will calmly and safely continue their daily routines.
Last night I had the privilege of seeing such an intercept, seemingly close to Beit Shemesh (it may have been an optical illusion, and have been further away..). The flamey point of impact was dramatic and deeply impressive.
The hand of our protecting God, brandishing an Iron Dome, made in Israel.