Melinda Mishkin Kieffer
Proud to be an American, yet Israel is home.

Hurricanes and Sirens – All Too Familiar

Emails continually arrive, my phone alerts with each new text and calls from family and friends in the States have been constant over the last month, even a Miami, Florida reporter called me several times – I welcome all of it. The questions are usually a variety of: Are you scared? Have you been in a bomb shelter? How did you know here to go? How do you know what to do?

No one has (dared) to ask – do you want to come home (to America) and return to Israel when things quiet down? My family and friends know better than to ask this – they know that this has been a 40 year dream in the making and nothing – not sirens, rockets, terrorists, will ever make me leave this land of milk and honey and hummus and falafel and…

I will admit being a bit in shock with the first siren 4 weeks ago, that I was suddenly now a target with millions of my countrymen, women and children. I was no longer watching this from the other side of the Atlantic, but inside a Ben Yehuda Street store without a bomb shelter. Thank God this first time I was with the storeowner who is more like family than friend. He literally pushed me and my visiting friend towards the back of his small store and I knew that if necessary he was about to throw himself on top of us. Thank God it wasn’t necessary, in fact we went outside to see the aftermath of the Iron Dome intercepting the 4 rockets – yes four rockets headed towards Jerusalem. . .

Since then I have run to safe rooms and shelters a few more times in Jerusalem as well as when I spent a day recently in Tel Aviv, although I didn’t hear one of the sirens, being consumed by shopping with the same friend in one of the largest malls – no one in that cavernous mall heard that siren either that afternoon.

Although Jerusalem skies have been quiet, I still jump a bit when an ambulance or fire truck goes by, and then remember that the siren of “Code Red” (zevah adom) is different. It’s happened more than once that during the night, I’ve woken up, believing I heard a siren, only to realize my subconscious is testing me. None of this is even close to the anxiety, tension, fear that is always present in Sderot, Beer Sheva, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Tel Aviv, other towns and moshavim and kibbutzim that have existed near Gaza since before 1967. Those residents, adults and children, are role models for patience, courage, faith, loyalty and commitment. I hope never to be tested as they constantly are.

I tell family and friends that I’m not scared, but cautious, constantly listening to the news (I’ve always been a news junkie) and more than this – I believe in our beloved Israel Defense Force Soldiers to protect us.

Over this past Shabbat, I had a sense of familiarity, that somehow I’ve experienced this before, but when, where? The answer came quickly – hurricanes for 20 years in South Florida. As I conjure up those terrible events – the butterflies return to my stomach and my palms turn sweaty. Hurricane Andrew was our moving day to Florida in August 1992, while our 3 children were stranded for 3 days at Camp Ramah in New England with a few other Florida Ramah campers and staff. We trusted Ramah to care for them (which they did!) since we had no phone service for 2 days. When we reunited with them, their adventures only solidified their love – and ours – for Camp Ramah. It took more than a decade for South Florida to recover and rebuild from Andrew and some never rid themselves of fear and pain. True fear came in the form of Hurricane Wilma in October 2005, when the track of the eye of the storm changed and suddenly our community of Weston, Florida was now its target. With no time to leave, we held onto our front door as Wilma tried to blow it open – holding on for 20 minutes. As we looked out to our enclosed pool area, we saw the screened in patio blow into the pool, heard roof tiles blowing away, and felt 2 trees on either side of the house, hit the walls and roof. When we walked outside, about 40 minutes later – our yard, our street, our neighborhood looked like a war zone. That day I truly felt fear – a feeling I can easily bring to the surface.

These days the feelings are not the same. In 2005 what caused our fear, was as our insurance agent called it, “an act of God.” The horrible events these days are “an act of man” or more appropriately and “an act of Hamas.” Rockets and sirens can be silenced and stopped – forever. Not so hurricanes. Our heroes in 2005 were the brave weathermen and news reporters who risked life and limb and not being with their families in order to advise us. The heroes now are clear – our IDF Soldiers, our fellow Israeli citizens who resume their normal routine once the Iron Dome intercepts the rockets, the wonderful tourists (Jewish and many non-Jewish) who continue to be here – and the millions of friends (Jewish and non-Jewish) throughout the world who continually support Israel in ways small and large. I applaud all of you and thank you.

I believe with perfect faith that Israel will soon silence the sirens…and maybe there’s already an Israeli start-up company creating a shield to deter or destroy hurricanes! Both will be a blessing – for acts of God and man.

About the Author
Melinda/Malka is a Certified Relationship Life Coach and a Jewish Educator, with a focus on Israel and Holocaust Education. As a Life coach she has worked with college students, young couples and adults who all want to make change towards better living. She's taught in Day Schools, Jewish overnight summer camps and led trips to Israel and Poland. She & her husband made Aliyah in 2013, returned to the US for a few years, but now enjoy their home in Jerusalem. She is the proud Bubbie of 13 wonderful grandchiildren.
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