Right around Thanksgiving 2012, I was visiting family in Israel when Hamas launched a wave of rocket attacks against Israel.
During Friday night services in Jerusalem, the unexpected wail of a siren broke out; a rocket was headed towards the holy city. With the mostly older congregation mid-song, I leapt out of my seat and darted behind an object I thought might shield me: a column in the middle of the shul. The other congregants collectively raised an eyebrow at me and kept praying, as usual. The rocket, we learned later, had landed outside the city; my flinching had been in vain.
Despite the chaos – or perhaps because of it – I extended my ticket right after Shabbat.
On Sunday, I accompanied JTA News correspondent Ben Sales in a car bound for Ibim, a small community next to the beleaguered town of Sderot. Ben was reporting on a few dozen fresh-off-the-plane Ethiopian immigrants, who, in their long quest for refuge, had unwittingly arrived in a war zone.
We were greeted by Moshe Bhata, a coordinator for the Jewish Agency. Moshe took us inside a staff meeting and to the temporary homes, where Ben spoke with new arrivals and I took photos. At least once, we were interrupted by “Code Red” alarm, meaning we had a few seconds to take cover in a bomb shelter. Moshe went back to the office.
At the end of our visit, we found Moshe at the office, talking gently during a conference call to plan for a new arrival of immigrants. Without warning, a loud boom caused the windows to rattle. Ben and I jumped; I think we might have cursed.
But Moshe didn’t so much as stutter, talking on as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.
“How is it that you didn’t jump when that explosion happened?” we asked later.
“I’ll tell you the truth,” he said chuckling. “I’m not afraid of this.”
Moshe’s family fled on foot from Ethiopia through Sudan in 1980; he saw people buried along the way.
“It’s OK to be scared,” he told us. “But don’t lose control.”
People with evil intentions will pass time finding ways to put us down.
Here’s to all the good people living life in earnest and helping others in need.
And here’s to drawing inspiration from the people who can carry on doing good when times get bad.
Original story: In a single day, Ethiopian immigrants make aliyah — and are thrust into a war zone (Ben Sales, JTA)