I am not in Israel. Three weeks ago I returned to Australia in order to pursue a Masters degree. This was always an incredibly difficult decision for me and I knew that it would be a long time until I would be reunited with my friends, who had become like family to me, and to walk the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem once again. When my family greeted me at the airport they hugged me as if they had not seen me for several lifetimes. Over the next few days we saw news reports about rocket fire from Gaza increasing and my heart immediately went out to friends who live in Beersheva and Omer. I knew instantly when the IDF finally targeted arch-terrorist Ahmed Jabari that this would be more than the occasional tit-for-tat rocket attacks between Israel and her enemies.
As the trickle of rockets increased to a torrent my various social media feeds began going crazy. My friends in the south posted every time that a Code Red siren went off and and accompanied it with pictures of them and their kids in their bomb shelter. These were children that only a few weeks prior I had been hugging and playing with. I still have photos on my phone of their wide smiles and eyes filled with joy. Now I look and I see fear in their eyes. I see terror on their faces. I see their mother comforting them as their father puts on his uniform and heads off to do his duty. I see a family, who for the last several years has lived in terror, become refugees in their own State as they travel up north to escape the shrilling Code Red and the inevitable boom of either a hit or an Iron Dome interception.
Yet the rockets followed them. Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, sites previously untouched by this war, were finally experiencing a taste of what had been inflicted on the south for over a decade. As more and more of my friends came under the fire of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terror groups I felt so incredibly guilty. Here I was safe and sound in Australia whilst they were in a war zone. Their lives were being interrupted day after day after day with more and more sirens. They hid in safe rooms and stairwells, in shelters and, when they had nowhere to run, in the streets with their hands wrapped over their heads. Thankfully none of them are physically hurt but I know that the mental anguish will haunt them for a lifetime. I know because I myself have experienced life under rocket fire and it was not something that I would wish on my worst enemy.
When the IDF began to strike intensively into Gaza at terror bases and rocket launch sites I asked myself what I could do to help those that I loved? There were rallies being held across Australia and so I attended my local Sydney rally along with thousands of others. But I wanted to do more. I have since joined up with Stop The Rockets, a grassroots organisation designed to help spread the word of these terror attacks, and I am spreading the truth through the various forms of social media. I have been commenting on, retweeting and +1ing every article that I can get my hands on but it never feels like enough. It never feels like enough because of the feeling of guilt inside of me. I feel that because I am not there, am not able to be with my friends, I am somehow less of an Israeli.
For days my parents have been letting me know that they’re so glad I’m home, that I’m finally safe. I smile and agree with them but I know that my words are hollow. I know that I wish I were there with my friends cowering in a bomb shelter or a stairway. Hugging their children and telling them that it will all be alright. Yes my body may be in Australia but now my heart is in Jerusalem, in Tel Aviv, in Beersheva and, yes, in Gaza with those poor innocent Palestinians who live under the oppressive thumb of Hamas. They did not ask for rockets to be fired from their apartment buildings or their school yards or their hospitals but they are the ones who are bearing the brunt. Our hearts should be with all of the innocents in this conflict who have lost so much. My heart is with you all. My body, however, is half a world away. As I look outside into the calm street I know that a rocket will never fall here, I know that the shrill of the siren will never grace the ears of its residents and I know that if I could be anywhere right now it would be with my friends in Israel.