Despite the ongoing Operation (or can we call it a war now?) in Gaza, Shabbat started as normal in Jerusalem. I took my four year old son to synagogue, while my wife stayed with our two year old and her 90 year old grandmother, a Holocaust survivor. While my son started eating parts of the candy collection he had accrued (one of the major benefits of being the only child in the synagogue!) , I started praying. We finished Mincha (afternoon service) and started the opening services of Shabbat. As we started Ba’me madlikin, a siren started.

Really? Now? Is this really happening? A missile to Jerusalem?

I looked at a friend. He looked around. No one knew what to do. The Chazzan (person leading the prayer) stopped. “Carry on,” a few people shouted out and he obliged.

What do I do? Where do I go? Are my wife and daughter ok? Can her grandmother deal with this?

There’s nothing I can do.

The siren kept on for a while. I looked at my boy, he was completely oblivious – candy will do that to you. I was struggling to focus on the prayers.

There’s nothing you can do.

An explosion. It was distant, but I’m sure I heard it. The siren stopped a minute later. The prayer stops, and the sermon begins, “It was just a drill.” “No it wasn’t,” a few people shouted out, “There was an explosion – they aimed at Jerusalem.” I tried to push it to the back of my mind, and focus. All I wanted however was the sermon to finish, get through Arvit (evening service) and get home to check on the family.

May He, in His mercy, make peace upon us and all Yisrael, and say Amen

The service finished. I took my boy and headed to my wife’s grandmother. Everyone was talking about it outside. I met up with some of my wife’s family, and they were shocked when I said it was no drill. “You sure?” “Of course, I heard the explosion – and I wasn’t the only one.” I saw a non-religious Jew talking on his phone and asked him where it hit. “The Gush,” he responded. It sunk in even more.

“Are you ok?” was the first sentence I asked my wife when I saw her. After she nodded hesitantly, “How did Safta (grandmother in Hebrew) take it?” “I looked out of the window, there was no real reaction outside, so I just sat next to her, held her hand and told her I don’t know what it was for.” I understood. It was on my mind the whole of Shabbat. Do I know what to do if the siren goes off at work? What happens if it’s at night and my children are fast asleep? Am I going to get called up? I stopped.

One rocket, which doesn’t even come near me, and look how I’m reacting. I feel the anxiety. I feel the fear. I’m not afraid – we will overcome.

***

After writing this, I realized that I really don’t understand what’s happened over the last 12 years in Sderot and Southern Israel. I really don’t understand the effect 12,000+ ‘homemade’ missiles have had on the population there. I really can’t fathom how difficult their lives have been. I really cannot comprehend how fathers and mothers have dealt with what I dealt with for a few minutes so often over the last 12 years – I just don’t understand how they’ve done it. I can only be amazed at their phenomenal ability to ‘carry on’ and build their lives despite this. I guess the spirit and toughness of our early pioneers is still alive and kicking …