Jerusalem: National duty has taken precedence over love of cricket as two young Indian-origin brothers, both having represented Israel, have swapped their cricket attire for army uniforms to protect their country in the ongoing deadly armed conflict with Hamas.
Ronen and Shifron Waskar, brothers in their twenties, were busy putting batting skills of opponents to test in the Israeli Cricket League and playing a major role in their team's success but just when they were peaking the war erupted on July 8. "We had two important matches coming up which would have decided our standing in the league. I was worried about the team and missing out on cricket but had no doubts about what to do when trouble started brewing near the Jerusalem area," Ronen, the elder of the two brothers, told PTI.
"I have been manning the Gush Etsion area near Hebron with colleagues from my army unit from the time that three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and the situation here started to boil," he said. Though the sector has been relatively quiet for a while with action moving to Gaza and the area only occasionally facing angry protests, Ronen, a few days ago shared pictures with his teammates on Whatsapp of rocks that were thrown at them by Palestinians protesters. Younger brother Shifron however is right inside Gaza battling Palestinian militants as Israel stepped up its offensive aimed at dismantling the tunnel network built by Hamas to infiltrate inside Israel to carry out attacks. During a brief break from action he responded to anxious messages from his teammates on their Whatsapp board that he is fine but his phone battery is running out.
His Beersheba club teammates, most of them of Indian origin who have themselves been volunteering at the shelter house keeping it open for people needing cover from rocket attacks from Gaza, are relieved at receiving the message. "They are excellent kids but now we know that they can fight for their country's pride when required," Indian-origin CEO of Israel Cricket Association (ICA), Naor Gudker said.
"The world community is not able to grasp what we Israelis in the southern part of the country are going through. The Iron Dome anti-missile technology has helped keep the casualties to the minimum but its mainly luck that keep us surviving. A rocket fell right behind my house. Life is under siege with barrage of rockets falling all around us.
We cannot move away from shelter houses," Gudker emphasised. ICA had to cancel its matches because of the ongoing war. Two Indian-origin soldiers, Eliyahu Paz and Barak Deghorkar, have sacrificed their lives in the escalating conflict with Gaza militants while majority of the 80,000 Indian Jews in Israel, an overwhelming majority of whom live in the south, brave dozens of rocket attacks every day. 61 Israeli soldiers have died in the fighting so far while 1,450 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza in Israel's military offensive.