An Omaha senator got a taste of the violence in Israel and Gaza when rockets began raining down while he was traveling the country.
Sen. Jeremy Nordquist was in Israel from Nov. 11-18, when the region was hit with an eight-day conflict that marked the heaviest fighting in nearly four years. Israel launched some 1,500 airstrikes and Gaza militants fired about the same number of rockets into Israel, killing more than 160 Palestinians and six Israelis.
Nordquist said some of the rockets looked like big fireworks, although “they could take out a car.” He was in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where air-raid warnings went off in the cities which haven’t sustained missile attacks since the Gulf War of 1991.
“The Israelis were a calming influence,” he said. “People were just walking around like nothing was happening.”
One rocket landed 15 miles from Nordquist’s location. The experience made him appreciate the country’s Iron Dome missile defense system, which protects Israel against short-range rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. The defense system downed hundreds of rockets from Gaza during the fighting.
Nordquist was among a dozen elected officials brought to Israel through Project Interchange, a program funded by the American Jewish Committee in which “the world’s most influential voices” attend weeklong seminars on the “complex issues facing Israeli society.” Since 1982, about 7,000 leaders have attended the seminars.
Nordquist said the group traveled in Palestinian territory to meet with the prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority, Salam Fayyad. While going through a checkpoint, they heard what they thought were gunshots, but later learned was tear gas being shot at teenagers throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers.
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