Joel Mowbray

Given the early evening hour, stores were doing brisk business with people just off work—and the health clinic was not nearly as full as it had been just hours earlier. A doctor who worked near the one directly hit was actually outside smoking at that very moment. With typically dark Israeli humor, that doctor has been heard by many remarking, “Who says cigarettes kill?”

Most remarkable is Israeli resilience. Israelis don’t like to be victims. In a show of perseverance, the shopping areas of the mall re-opened the very next day. The health clinic was set to re-open within just one and a half weeks.

Even the victims don’t act like victims. Dr. Sidrer plans to return to the health clinic once she is healthy, though that won’t be anytime soon. The husband of the young mother injured in the waiting room was quoted in Ynet News expressing his determination not to abandon Ashkelon: “We’ll go back to Ashkelon for now. The city needs our support. We don’t believe running away is the solution, like we're seeing in Sderot. It only encourages terrorism.”

Sderot is the development town less than a mile from Gaza that has been barraged with literally thousands of Qassam rockets since Israel pulled out of the Palestinian territory in 2005. Ashkelon is thankfully beyond the reach of Qassam rockets—but not of the longer-range Grads or the Katyushas favored by Hezbollah. Which means that if Palestinian terrorists upgrade their weapon capabilities, then this picturesque coastal city of 120,000 people could soon be subjected to rocket attacks as part of daily life.

Anger with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is palpable on the street and in cafés across the country, as ordinary Israelis feel that their leader, who is in enmeshed in a very serious corruption probe, is doing far more to save himself than to protect them.

But in the Barzilay hospital in Ashkelon, the victims and their family members are just trying to grapple with the physical and psychological trauma that won’t soon fade away. Absent is any bloodthirst or desire for revenge. Not from the victims, nor from their loved ones. Not from the broader Israeli public, either. CNN referred to the rocket attack as part of “tit-for-tat violence,” but Israel didn’t respond by hitting a Palestinian medical clinic or any other civilian target, for that matter.

In the very same Ashkelon hospital, in fact, there are many Palestinian and Israeli Arab patients, treated side-by-side with Jews. Barzilay treats Gazans unable to receive adequate care locally, meaning everyone from cancer patients to victims of Hamas violence. One thirty-something Palestinian man just down the hall from the victims noted, “There is no difference between how doctors here treat Arabs and Jews. There are no politics in the treatment.”

A little overwhelmed that none of the women or the little girl in the immediate area of the rocket strike died, hospital spokeswoman Lea Malul resorted to quoting the late, great Israeli playwright and satirist Ephraim Kishon. “Israel,” she said, “is a country where nobody expects miracles, but everybody takes them for granted”

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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