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No Vacation on the Gaza Coast

When the latest Gaza flare-up hit the news, the plight of the region’s Jews had a human face — Shai’keh Shaked's 

No Vacation on the Gaza Coast


magine looking out your kitchen window, past the plants and flowers, beyond the bikes lying in a heap, and seeing a Hamas gunman.

Picture having to drive through fields to go to the supermarket because Islamic Jihad might have you in the crosshairs of an anti-tank missile.

That’s the reality that Shai’keh Shaked had to endure last week as the jihadi terror group threatened bloody vengeance for the arrest of their West Bank leader in Jenin.

The 70-year-old farmer, a resident of Netiv Ha’asarah on the Gaza border, lives in the last row of houses before the concrete barrier that separates Israel from the terror statelet. With the IDF on alert for cross-border attacks, local residents were banned from moving anywhere within sight of Hamas positions. As the IDF moved to strike Islamic Jihad leaders in Gaza to end the standoff, border area residents continued to be locked in their homes.

“When I looked out of the window and saw that the Hamas observation post was empty, I realized that the threats from Gaza were serious,” says Shaked. “Whenever they attack, that post is first to be hit by the army, so when they leave, it’s a bad sign.”

Even in terms of the Gaza-Israel conflict, the result was unprecedented: The terror group succeeded in locking down an entire region of Israel and confining thousands to their homes, without firing a shot.

I got to know Shaked six months ago on a tour of the region to talk to farmers keeping shemittah for the first time. Netiv Ha’asarah is secular, and Shai’keh’s first shemittah is a first for the village as well.

“You think that shemittah, tefillin, and mezuzah only belong to religious people?” the outwardly secular farmer told me then of his motivation to down tools for a while year. “They’re ours too.”

So, when the latest Gaza flare-up hit the news, the plight of the region’s Jews had a human face — Shai’keh’s.

“Our communities are split,” says Shaked, a former commander of Rafiah, a city in the southern Gaza Strip. “There are those who say, ‘How can we let a terror group dictate to us when we can leave our homes?’

“But I personally think it’s better to find a solution without risking a repeat of last summer’s war. The IDF has no deterrence problem, but what would a war solve, when we don’t want to rule over two million Gazans again?”

Gaza remains an agonizing dilemma, even after the IDF took out senior Islamic Jihad commanders over Tishah B’Av while preventing loss of life in Israel itself. The army could reconquer the Strip to end the rocket attacks, but what would be gained, when no Palestinian group bar Hamas is strong enough to rule Gaza, and Israel has no intention of taking charge itself?

There are no perfect solutions in galus. Whether peace will ever replace the Qassem rockets, or whether — like their Philistine predecessors — the Gazans will continue to be a thorn in the Jewish People’s side, is more than we can know.

But if you’re reading this in the peace of the Catskills, St. Moritz, Wales, Meron, or anywhere else in the world where Jews go for a well-earned summer break, the least we can do is to remember that for Shai’keh and thousands of Jews like him, vacation begins when the men with guns once again peer into their homes.

Next Year in Jerusalem

Will the British ambassador to Israel soon be house-hunting in the capital? As the race to replace Boris Johnson enters its final furlong, frontrunner and foreign secretary Liz Truss wrote to the Conservative Friends of Israel that she recognized the “importance and sensitivity of the location of the British Embassy” and vowed to “review a move to ensure we are operating on the strongest footing with Israel.”

Given Britain’s historically close ties with the Arab world, a potential embassy move would be even more of an earthquake for the UK than it was for the US, with the latter’s large evangelical electorate.

Whether or not the proposal ever becomes reality, the mere act of floating the move is another sign that a government headed by Truss — a notable hawk on everything from Brexit to China and the culture wars — will be prepared to break with the Westminster consensus.

There’s a further irony: As Boris Johnson — the man (mistakenly) labeled “Britain Trump” by the 45th president — leaves office, the far more anodyne Truss could prove to be the real radical.

Last Word

August is upon us, which means that Congress, the Knesset, and Parliament (Britain’s, not some pale colonial imitation) are in recess. That, in turn, means that it’s time once again for my homily about what happens when politicians go on holiday.

Have you ever noticed that news doesn’t often happen on weekends?

It’s an amazing fact, but (apart from natural disasters and Vladimir Putin’s wars) the biggest news frenzies often take place between Monday morning and Thursday night.

Strangely enough, when politicians go home for the weekend, suddenly there’s a lot less desperate urgency for sober-looking newscasters to declaim.

Which goes to confirm what we all know to be true: 90 percent of the high-decibel rancor that floods our airwaves and newspapers is background noise, generated by politicians for the sake of politics. Baruch Hashem for recesses.


A plunging share price at one of the world’s big e-commerce firms is yet more evidence that the shine has come off of tech companies. Shares at Shopify, a Canadian company that laid off a tenth of its workforce last week amid a post-pandemic retrenchment in the sector, are down this year from a mid-Covid high of $176.

“I got this wrong,” said Tobias Lutke, the company’s billionaire founder. “We bet that the share of dollars that travel through e-commerce rather than physical retail would permanently leap ahead by five or ten years. It’s now clear that bet didn’t pay off.”

Shopify’s woes are just the latest sign that while the online world is here to stay, brick-and-mortar stores might not have as much to fear from the digital big beasts as was once thought.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 923)

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