In response to all the emails and social media inquiries asking “how we are” I have written the following to give a snapshot to answer that question.
Life is most challenging for most of us in Israel these days. I am writing this just as an Israeli, with no associations, to share how we are living with the situation. Simply put, life is not easy. This was comprised over two days and has evolved and expanded, even in the last hour as I have put the final touches. For those seeking some more personal details about life here these days, I hope this gives you a meaningful glimpse.
There’s so much going on, it’s hard to sort through it all while going about life, or trying to, and then wishing to communicate it to you and others and answer all the inquiries and prayers. I am trying to provide personal updates that you can’t see for yourself in the news, but it is worth recapping a few items that you may or may not have seen, or just for context.
Between Tuesday and Wednesday, the IDF hit 320 Gaza targets over and 750 targets hit in 56 hours, using 800 tons of explosives. I know at least dozens more were fired today.
As of Thursday morning Israel time, Israel has called up 40,000 reservists, to be prepared if the current situation escalates and a ground operation is needed. There are many factors at play as to whether this might or might not happen, and if so, to what extent.
Hundreds of rockets have been fired at Israel in the past week. The Iron Dome has had a success rate of some 90% in shooting down rockets aimed at populated areas. By my rough estimate, no time to count precisely right now, Israeli communities have had air raid sirens sounded impacting millions of people, scores of times per day, each day, most of this week. We go to sleep with it and we wake up to it.
While Israelis continue to go about their lives as much as possible, with the boldness of firing rockets that go longer ranges – to Tel Aviv and further up the coast to Zichron Yaakov (south of Haifa) in the west, and Jerusalem and even Dimona where Israel’s nuclear reactor is in the east, the lives of millions of Israelis have been impacted.
One gathering that did take place was a peace conference in Tel Aviv which came off more like a three ring circus. The Palestinian Arabs invited didn’t show up. A right wing member of Knesset was assaulted by a left wing attendee (not very peaceful). A representative of the Obama Administration berated Israel for the current situation (http://www.timesofisrael.com/lecturing-us-on-security-as-the-rockets-fly-in/). And during the conference, air raid sirens indicating incoming rockets disrupted the conference altogether (really not very peaceful).
Most large gatherings have been relocated, or canceled outright. The past two days I happened to be listening when a couple about to be married was sharing on national radio how the army would no longer allow their wedding in Kiryat Gat (well in range of rockets) as planned. Two days ago they were stressed. Yesterday they had relocated to an event hall in Jerusalem and were feeling relief and excitement. I pray that their wedding took place as planned last night and this is the beginning of a wonderful life together.
Summer camps have been impacted and events canceled or relocated unless where they are has sufficient space in bomb shelters for the number of people gathering. As my wife runs a day camp, this is hitting close to home – sorry for the pun. This week the Jerusalem municipality essentially barred visiting camps unless they were in places with big enough bomb shelters.
This of course is one of the many stark contrasts to the terrorists in Gaza. We cherish and value life, and go to no ends to protect life. Even kids’ summer camps are disrupted because of the concern that it MIGHT not be safe. Hamas however is using their civilians as human shields which is an M.O. that’s widely known and documented, but even shared here with no embarrassment (http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=eQ6S0-o3uFI).
Today I bumped into my dear friend, Pastor Steven Khoury whose ministry has reach throughout the Palestinian Authority and eastern Jerusalem. I had tears in my eyes, when he shared what he told me, according to one of the few remaining Christians in Gaza. Hamas is forcing women and children to sit on top of buildings in which Hamas leaders live and in which they keep all their high tech communication equipment because they know that Israel won’t hit them with these human shields in place. This is saddening and nauseating. How do you say war crime in Arabic?
When we are all home, I feel like we’re back in the 1940s with families gathered around the radio. We have a TV, and the news is on almost all the time these days which may not be so healthy, but it’s an obsession these days. On public buses, on the hour the radio is turned up so all passengers can hear the latest news. It’s part of the culture here, for good or for bad.
Speaking of radio, while driving today, I was entertained by the announcers of an afternoon program making fun of the situation, of Hamas, of the regular interruptions to the live broadcast announcing each time and each location where an air raid siren is activated, etc. At one point, the banter was interrupted by the familiar “Warning in….” and then nothing. The announcer didn’t miss a beat and said, “No warning, that’s a good thing.” And then continued with the banter of making fun of our situation. I guess it’s a good thing that we can laugh at our situation.
We also sit around our respective mobile phones and tablets, each outfitted with the app that lets us know when rockets are being launched and in which cities air raid sirens are being heard. We compare notes. This morning, my alert indicated sirens in Tel Aviv and my daughter’s indicated Gush Dan which is that general region. Of course we all wondered how that impacted my other daughter who is in Rishon LeZion nearby.
She reported explosions yesterday so loud that they didn’t know if it was the firing of the Iron Dome anti-missile system, the explosion of one of the counter charges destroying an incoming rocket, or the landing and explosion of an incoming rocket in her neighborhood. I suppose if this goes on long enough she will be able to discern the difference and even be aware of where the explosion took place which people in the south who are used to this can do.
My 17 year old daughter is heading to Poland next week as part of a high school trip that’s common for kids here to learn about and bear witness to the Holocaust. She’s going armed with names of dozens of my relatives who were murdered there. It’s sort of like going from the frying pan into the fire, and ironic to think that she might be safer there than here given our history there several decades ago. I think she’s going to be all mixed up and stressed from this summer “vacation,” a war at home with the “respite” of going to Poland to witness where and how 6 million of our people were murdered.
Parenting is fun, but has its challenges. One of them is waking up certain teenage kids. I know it’s a bit sick, but I can’t resist the idea to wake up my son and by yelling that there’s an air raid siren, thinking he might actually get out of bed. I clearly inherited my father’s sense of humor, and adapted that to my own coping mechanisms, but haven’t been so mean. Not yet at least.
Yesterday I visited the Israel national blood center. For safety, the processing and storage of Israel’s blood supply has been moved to a bomb shelter, leaving the main labs in the building looking and feeling a bit deserted. But the need continues and the challenge is being met. One such challenge is that while the needed has not diminished, it’s not safe to collect blood in large parts of Israel for the same reasons as weddings and other events are being moved, to avoid large gatherings in unprotected places. It’s also hard to get to a bomb shelter if you have a needle in your arm.
Because friends and neighbors know I am in “the vampire business” people call me to ask where and when they can donate blood. Today I got a call from a friend who is sick, and when I told her she’s not eligible until she’s healthy, she started crying because she wants to be able to do something. I told her to get well, and told her what I tell people here who are not eligible: to find ten people to donate in their place. I tell people overseas to sponsor a unit of blood through Heart to Heart – www.savinglivesinisrael.org.
I saw this video today that’s making the rounds. It’s a song that teachers produced to make running for shelter less scary for kids in their charge. I got choked up watching it – both because of the great love and care that went in to thinking about how to make the kids feel safe, and because of the sick fact that we need to do so. (http://www.israelvideonetwork.com/you-wont-believe-what-children-in-southern-israel-do-as-rockets-fall-from-gaza)
In my last post, many were especially touched by and interested in the saga of my 8 year old son. This morning he woke up and came downstairs, stretching like an old man, and declared that he got a great night sleep because there were no rockets. The past several weeks have not been easy for him.
Yesterday he didn’t want to go help get groceries from the car because he didn’t want to be outside alone, and he didn’t want to go to camp in Jerusalem because he was afraid of Arabs throwing rocks.
The night before he was afraid to go to bed in his own room so he went to bed in my room, and then we had to wake him to take him to the bomb shelter after which he would only sleep in bed with us. And then he lay there listening for noises that could be explosions before the exhaustion of the situation overcame him.
Yesterday, we were talking and I was trying to calm him from the night before, and shared that there were kids his age are living with real rockets and not just sirens, all day, to put his fear in perspective. OK, so maybe I slept during that class on child psychology.
The philosophical question is whether my son’s trauma is bad enough to require therapy, or there needs to be more trauma to justify that, or if it’s just something that is or becomes part of the DNA of what it means to be an Israeli.
And of course, I look at the Torah because it’s not the first time that Jews were targeted. It’s put a human face on things we read about, and know are important, but sometimes (to me at least), feel very distant.
As I finished the editing of this update, my phone rang. It was my son, in our upstairs bomb shelter, telling me our area has an air raid siren again and I should stay downstairs in my office, which is also a bomb shelter.
And while we were in the shelter, until the all clear signal was given, we received an email from the mother of our adopted lone soldier, N. I have known him since he was a baby and even changed his diaper. N was released from his active military duty two days ago. Today, he was called back up in to the army.
It looks like it’s not going to be a quiet night.
It may not always be FUN, but it’s certainly never BORING. Pray for us.
Shabbat shalom from the Judean mountains.