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Elizabeth Huwe/FOCUS Chuck Hofius, president of the Perham Rotary Club, invited Eran Mor-Cicurel to speak to the club about life in Israel before and after the current fighting began. Mor-Cicurel is a journalist who lives in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Perham is ‘heaven on earth’ to visiting Israeli journalist

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Perham’s Rotary Club never left the back room of Lakes Café on July 24, but their speaker brought a perspective from the other side of the world.

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Eran Mor-Cicurel, who is a foreign editor and reporter for Israel Radio of the national broadcasting network, lives in Tel Aviv and spoke to the assembled Rotarians about the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

“This is a picture my mom sent me yesterday,” said Mor-Cicurel as he showed the group a photo of several men carrying a large missile on their shoulders. “That was taken a block away from my parents’ place... This rocket has landed and did not explode, but, it’s a big thing that fell from the sky. This is what people in Israel are going through in the past few weeks.”

Broad updates of the armed conflict between the government of Israel and the Hamas-controlled Gaza region have been a constant stream through worldwide news sources. As of Tuesday, there had been several temporary ceasefires that dissolved back into shelling and air strikes.

Also on Tuesday, Reuters reported that more than 1,100 people, mostly civilians, in Gaza had been killed. In Israel, 53 soldiers and three civilians have died.

It is different to hear of the situation from a first-hand observer whose homeland is in the crosshairs.

“Since we started this very nice meeting, we’ve got three messages about rockets flying at civilian areas,” said Mor-Cicurel after checking an app on his smartphone that warns of where missiles have been aimed and fired. It had only been 30 minutes. “This is what people are living with.”

Mor-Cicurel said his child’s kindergarten teacher sends out messages after each missile warning siren, telling them, “Not to worry, everything is OK. No rocket landed in the kindergarten, you can go on and continue your work day.”

“Us Israelis, we like living,” he said, explaining that some areas near Gaza have a 15 second warning to get somewhere safe if a rocket is heading toward their home. Tel Aviv has a comparative eternity to hide: 90 seconds. “Every one of us has a shelter either in the basement or in our apartment. Whenever there are (warning) sirens, you just run and take shelter. This has been going for a few years, but in the past few weeks, this has gone kind of crazy.”

In response to the attacks, said Mor-Cicurel, Israel’s army has retaliated forcibly. The nation’s Iron Dome defense system has also aided in reducing Israeli casualties by intercepting rockets that were aimed at civilian-populated areas.

“I call (it) Obama-shield,” he said, noting that the system’s development was supported financially by the United States. “He’s done good with this Iron Dome, because it saves a lot of lives.”

A quiet “Jesus…” was murmured by an attendee as a video played, showing how the Iron Dome works.

Although the rockets look impressive, Mor-Cicurel said they’re about as effective as throwing cars at towns.

“They do blow up, but they mostly can harm a specific house… these are not big bombs. But, as long as these things keep flying on Israeli towns, Israel won’t stop its operation.”

Mor-Cicurel spoke of the attempts to reach a political solution to the problem, but expressed doubt about its likelihood to succeed. Regional power player, Egypt, has lost influence on Hamas due to conflicts, he said. Also, he said, the countries Qatar and Turkey have opted to financially support Hamas while Iran has supplied the group with weapons.

 “Perham is heaven on earth,” Mor-Cicurel said to the Focus after his presentation. “Being here is a mind changer; it’s very relaxing. You have a lot to cherish.”

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