Akiva Gersh

10:59. Will they Stop and Stand?

It’s 10:59. My wife and I passed an Arab couple walking on the street with their daughter. I stopped. I wanted to be near them. To see. If they would stop too. Because if they didn’t, you know, that would make me furious. The soldiers of Israel risk their lives to protect them too, because they are citizens of this land just like us. The rockets of Hamas and Hezbollah are pointed at them just as much as they are pointed at us. Them. Us. Us. Them. Will they stop?

The siren begins to sound. The blaring noise freezes the scene on the street as people stop wherever they are; on the sidewalk, in the middle of the crosswalk, at the bus stop and in the stores. Though I’m expecting it, the siren always comes as a shock to me, instantly turning my attention inside. I begin to scan Jewish history, thinking about the centuries of oppression we faced in lands all around the world. How, after all of that, we’re back in our land again and how fortunate I am to witness and be part of it. How fortunate we all are to have a government and an army of our own to protect us and to prevent another…crusade, inquisition, expulsion, holocaust. Thinking about how at this very moment, millions of Jews are standing in silence to show honor to our holy soldiers. Millions of Jews are standing in silence RIGHT NOW. We’re all doing the very same thing. G-d, do you see? Are you crying? Tears of joy over the beauty, power and unity of your people in this moment?

And then I remember. The Arab couple.

Did they stop?? Did they walk on??

My head wasn’t faced towards them when the siren began so I couldn’t see what they did. For a few seconds, I had a debate in my mind whether or not I should break my focus to turn my head and look. To see. If they stopped. Or just kept walking along in full view of the hundred or so Jews on the street who were engrossed in their thoughts, their memories, their emotions that well up in an instant in this intense and powerful moment.

I decided to look.

They stopped.

They were standing` there in silence like everyone else.


So powerful.

So beautiful.

Thank you.

You made a powerful moment even more powerful.

After the roar of the siren waned, I wanted to thank you and give you the biggest brotherly hug. But maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe by doing so I would make you feel like an outsider, like a visitor, like someone not part of this country.

So I didn’t, because your standing for the siren clearly shows that you are.

About the Author
Akiva Gersh has been working in the field of Jewish and Israel Education for over 20 years. In 2020 he founded @Israel to share his love and passion for Israel with students, schools and communities around the world through his online classes, courses and virtual tours of Israel. Akiva is also the editor of the book "Becoming Israeli" (, a compilation of essays that gives an inside look at the unique experience of making aliyah and the journey of acclimating to life in Israel. Akiva himself made aliyah in 2004 with his wife Tamar and they live in Pardes Hanna with their four kids. You can learn more about his work at as well as about his work teaching about Judaism and veganism at