JULY 30, 2002 - EXCLUSIVE FROM ISRAEL
Dear Rabbi Ben-Chaim:
Today was a most enlightening day spent with the Israeli Defense
Forces (IDF) on the border between Gaza and Egypt.
We started with a drive to Gaza. That drive showed us a wonder.
The deserts of Israel have been turned into gardens by the ingenuity
and brilliance of the irrigation systems that the Israeli people
have built in this arid land. It is astonishing to see the crops
growing in abundance along the roadsides in the middle of the
desert! We saw corn, melons, cotton and sunflowers in profusion.
Then came the stark contrast of the Arab-controlled lands.
Theirs is a desert wasteland, with garbage and debris piled up
everywhere. And the stench of human waste is overwhelming. The
beaches along the sea in the Arab-controlled area reeked of human
waste, rotting fish, and garbage piled on the beaches. It was
We picked up an Israeli soldier, Isaac, who was stationed
waiting for us at the roadside, and who served as our guide to
meeting up with more IDF forces, including the IDF Commander
for all of the forces in the area. We met with them at a checkpoint
in Gaza. At the checkpoint, we transferred to military vehicles.
The commander, Moshe, drove us to every stop on our tour, giving
Ambassador Keyes a full briefing of terrorist and IDF activities
in the area.
Our first stop on the tour was a checkpoint thorough which
Arab trucks were transporting Palestinian humanitarian foodstuffs.
The trucks were piled high with sacks of vegetables and potatoes.
Each truck would back up to another truck located on the other
side of the fencing. The sacks were unloaded, one by one, so
they could be checked for contraband. Anything that appeared
suspicious was run through an on-site x-ray machine. This x-ray
machine was also used to screen the parcels and packages of Palestinians
coming from Egypt into Gaza to prevent smuggling of weapons and
ordnance. This is, sadly, a necessary step to prevent terrorists
from using this way-station for their own evil purposes, regardless
of how much the humanitarian aid is needed by the Palestinian
This checkpoint has come under fire by radical Islamist extremists,
as evidenced by the recent shelling of the fire station located
there. We took a quick tour of the damaged station and fire trucks
More IDF soldiers joined us there as we began the dangerous
journey to the IDF outpost on the border of Gaza at Egypt. We
took an extensive tour of the outpost. You could see the expended
rounds in abundance on the ground from the IDF returning fire
with their weapons from the bunkers. The IDF Commander told us
that these outposts guarding the border take fire on a daily
The electronic fencing stretched along the full border. This
fencing not only gives an electric shock to anyone trying to
breach the fencing, but it also alerts the IDF of the breach
and of the location of the incursion so they can send forces
to stop terrorist infiltrators.
The IDF has also been undertaking the dangerous task of locating
underground tunnels from Egypt into Gaza where arms and ordnance
have been smuggled.
Americans and the rest of the world are led to believe that
suicide bombings are a spontaneous reaction "by the masses"
to the so-called occupation. That lie has been exposed by the
training tapes and bomb factories that havebeen documented by
the IDF. And these tunnels offer further proof of the sophistication
and coordination of the efforts by the Islamist extremists.The
tunnels are the work of extensive planning - some even having
electricity and telephone service. These are well-funded and
The IDF had, within recent days, blown up several tunnels
of this nature and they showed us the locations from the bunkers
overlooking the area.
Then our group climbed the 25-meter-high observation tower
for a look at the entire area from above. Ambassador Keyes got
a full briefing from this overhead vantage point of actions in
the area and their precise locations. He was given the opportunity
to look through their high-powered binoculars into the camps
that fire upon this outpost from the Egyptian side of the border.
It was quite illuminating.
After a long, hot day in the 110+ degree heat, we retreated
to an IDF base in the area to have lunch with some of the troops.
Ambassador Keyes had a long talk with these soldiers about their
service, their dedication and their families.
It was a most informative and moving day for all of us.
On behalf of Ambassador Keyes, I'd like to express our appreciation
to you and to Mesora for your hard work in covering these events
in Israel. The Ambassador will soon have a special message for
your readers on the IDF and our tour of Gaza. As always, he wants
to digest everything he has seen, then give you his thoughts.
A note from Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim to Connie Hair:
"Connie, no thanks needed. We appreciate your
support and message to the world delivered so vividly through
your notes and images. Your personal diary is being relayed to
tens of thousands of concerned Americans, who truly appreciate
this unique, up-close glimpse into Israel's situation.