The calls, emails and social media messages continue to flood in asking how we are. It’s not that I don’t want to respond to all or give everyone who asks a big hug, but time is limited, demands for work are great raising funds for badly needed lifesaving equipment, and trying to keep up a normal schedule and keep things normal at home are all competing for my attention.
So for those who asked, and many who didn’t yet, here’s how we are from a personal perspective, including some items you won’t hear in the foreign media:
Before things escalate even further in the war that’s been thrust upon Israel, again, there’s been lots of time for discussing and analyzing what’s going on, what has gone well, what hasn’t, injuries suffered and miracles to be grateful for.
First, despite the sanctity of Shabbat as a day of rest, few I know rested from worries. Friday night, we left on a “silent” radio station which is uniquely set up in Israel to broadcast nothing unless there’s an emergency. Imagine that, a radio station not only with no music, news or talk shows, but no commercials. Nevertheless, the station was far from silent, and the alert “tzeva adom” (code red) echoed through our house as if it were echoing on the streets of the towns and cities to which the rockets were being fired. The only thing is we didn’t know where the warning siren was being sounded.
We also left an iPad plugged in to know where the alarms were being sounded using the Red Alert app which is worth downloading just to have a sense of how often Israelis are forced to deal with these alerts. I may have used this analogy before but at some points the dinging of the alarm accompanied with the English text of where the latest alarms were being sounded as if we had won a slot machine.
The travails of my eight year old son have captured the attention of many friends and strangers alike. Friday night he was too anxious to eat. He usually sits next to me at our Shabbat table, but moved his seat to be closer to the iPad. Each time the now all too familiar dinging took place, he ran to the iPad to read and announce where the latest sirens were. Given that his main language is Hebrew, we couldn’t help but be impressed how good his English reading has become. This led me to play a word game to break the tension, suggesting we should hope that warnings would take place in other cities so he can practice reading even more. Modiin, Caesarea, and Kfar Pines were some we noted, and then other neighboring villages and cities came to mind such as Hebron, Bethlehem, Husan, and Jaba to round off more letters of the alphabet.
At one point, perhaps tired from running back and forth, he camped out on a chair staring at the iPad as one would stare at a TV that’s not on, waiting for the warnings to be announced, and then announced them to us. He’s defiantly been traumatized, yet looked cute with the blue wool blanket that he’s had since he was a baby wrapped around him for comfort.
Strangely, when I woke early Saturday morning, I sat in eerie silence waiting and waiting for the familiar warnings we had the night before and throughout the previous week. The silence was unsettling, wondering if maybe we were off line and then would not get the warnings. I didn’t have to wait too long to be “relieved” that the warnings were working fine and the rockets started once Hamas terrorists finished their morning prayers.
During Shabbat morning services, our small synagogue was unusually crowded as we celebrated a neighbor’s bar mitzvah. However, everyone I spoke shared the same concern that had a siren sounded in our neighborhood, the mini bomb shelter might have had room for 10 people, and running for other cover might have taken longer than the 90 seconds we are supposed to have if a warning siren is heard. Fortunately, our prayers and communal celebration were uninterrupted, but the stress of it all was not missing.
Saturday evening, as day began to turn into night, the air raid siren and iPad started dinging and wailing simultaneously. Moments later, most of those who were home from my family came running in and we went into our bomb shelter. Later, we heard of people choosing to run home to be with their families albeit further away rather than to the closest home with a shelter. Also we heard of kids too curious and wouldn’t go into the shelters. Moments after assembling, we heard two loud BOOMs, like the loudest clap of thunder I had ever heard, right over our house. Things in our house and others’ homes rattled from the vibrations.
Of course the one NOT home was my little traumatized one. So as soon as I thought it was safe, literally seconds later, I took off out to find my son who was surely not feeling happy about this experience. On the way out, not more than a few hundred meters away, I saw a large plume of black smoke where the rocket hit. I found my son and he was surprisingly OK, took him outside and showed him where the rocket hot and where, for a good 30-40 minutes, smoke still filled the sky. A few hundred meters in one direction, this could have landed on our street. A few hundred meters in another direction, this could have landed in densely populated Bethlehem.
Then, evoking images of the Munchkins coming out of hiding after Dorothy’s house landed on and killed the wicked witch of the west, the street started to fill with curious neighbors, chatting about the experience, wondering if the Iron Dome knew it was going to land in an open area, wondering if the Arab neighborhoods had any warning systems, and wondering if had the rocket been headed more in the direction of Bethlehem, whether the Iron Dome would have shot it down. Lots of chatter, no answers. Shaken nerves, but no broken bones, or worse.
It’s been odd to me to see photos of people crouched down behind their cars, dividers on major highways, and lying flat on the road after hearing air raid sirens anywhere throughout the country. I know it’s safer, particularly that the shrapnel packed into the rockets that the terrorists are firing will tend to go upward. But nevertheless, without knowing where a rocket would land, it all seems pretty random as if one is protected by an object to the right, if the rocket lands on the left, the outcome would not be so great.
Friends have also recounted such experiences in Jerusalem in particular where they’ve exited their cars for cover in Arab neighborhoods to find the Arabs cheering the rockets. This is of course offensive and gross, but stupid as it’s a reasonable certainty that rockets threatening Jews ducking for cover wont distinguish between them and cheering Arabs.
Regarding Arabs, there was a report on Israeli TV interviewing one of the terrorists who is firing the rockets. The terrorist was asked why all their rockets were missing their civilian targets and if maybe their aim was off. Without a hesitation the terrorist responded that their aim was fine but the Jews’ God was changing the direction of the rockets. That might just sum it all up and if the only good thing to come out of this war is that a few Muslim terrorists recognize that God is indeed on our side, that’s not a bad thing.
Yesterday I was driving into Jerusalem and listening to the radio. There was an interview with A Palestinian Arab doctor in Gaza whose affiliation I missed but it was clear he had a degree of authority. Most of the interview was about the needs there which, among other things, dispels the lie that Israelis don’t care or want to have massive casualties. He was interviewed thoughtfully and given all the respect he properly deserved.
The entire interview lasted several minutes, but it was the paradox of one minute at the end of the interview that made our reality all the more stark. Toward the end of the interview, the doctor was asked if he agreed that many of the casualties and suffering among Gazans today was the fault of Hamas which invited and initiated this war, threatening their own people. He didn’t accept that premise and blamed Israel (which maybe he had to do but it was still a farce), yet in the course of one minute, his interview was interrupted four times with the announcement of rockets landing. At one point it seemed the announcer was having trouble listing all the names of the places under fire, out of breath but not wanting to pause for a breath in order to list as many as soon as possible, but aware that in the 10-15 or more seconds it took to list them all, rockets could have landed in many of them.
By my count, in that one minute, no less than 26 Israeli communities were under attack. But of course, this was not Hamas’ fault or responsibility.
There are many ironies like this. Many of these become cause for humor. One of the best jokes I saw is: “During a siren, an elderly woman starts looking for her teeth. “Leave them,” says her husband. “What do you think, Hamas is firing sandwiches at us?” An article was published listing some other ways we are finding humor in our situation: http://www.israel21c.org/israel-in-the-spotlight/jokes-and-videos-that-will-give-you-goose-bumps-2/
Also funny is that someone noticed a similarity between masked Hamas terrorists and the Ninja Turtles.
On a more serious note, Israelis are stressed and traumatized at levels I have not seen before. The other day I had just closed the door to the bathroom when I heard the dinging of the warning on my iPad announcing another air raid somewhere. I was immediately aware that the 15 or even 30 seconds given to take cover in many places would not be enough time to finish in the bathroom. Imagine the anxiety of taking a shower and having all of 60 seconds to run for cover, covering up and not slipping. Or imagine being a woman in the last trimester of her pregnancy, an elderly person who has trouble moving quickly, or just having a broken foot or leg. The other night my son babysat for four kids and wondered what to do if there were a siren. Who do you get to the shelter first, and how?
This morning we woke to news of Israel accepting terms of a cease fire that Hamas quickly rejected. Hamas’ answer may not have been by a democratic vote of an elected Cabinet of government leaders as took place in Israel. It didn’t have to be. Since then, dozens more rockets have been fired at Israel. It’s clear that Hamas wants Israel to enhance the operation, to draw ground troops into Gaza. I don’t envy our governments’ position. We don’t want a loss of any life, certainly not ours. But there is a strong sense that the job hasn’t become close to being done, not to stop firing now, but to prevent if not disable Hamas and other terrorists from having the ability much less the hubris to do this in the future.
To date, in the past week, some 1300 rockets have been fired at Israel. Before this all began, it was estimated that Hamas could have as many as 100,000 rockets. So a cease fire that would leave them with most or many of these still doesn’t make sense because we’d just be kicking the can down the road, and have to deal with this in another few months, year, or two years.
Whether there will be a cease fire or not, and if so when, who knows. But the needs are great. Of course prayers and financial support for things like trauma relief, emergency medical and blood services, etc. One telling example is that MDA, Israel’s EMS and blood service, offered through the International Red Cross to provide blood to hospitals in Gaza. This speaks incredibly about Israel’s ethics and the value we place on all life. Similarly, so does the answer from Hamas: no, we don’t want your blood.
Of course, this also triggered more humor, “that Jewish blood is so cheap you can’t even give it away.” And also, “Funny last week Hamas was saying that Israel should prepare the body bags and that the Jewish blood will flow like a river. In fact, Israel is preparing the blood bags to be sure that nobody needs the other kind.”
Thanks to all those who continue to support Heart to Heart, www.savinglivesinisrael.org, to sponsor precious units of blood in a way that makes a difference for all Israelis, and even non-Israelis.