Ariella Cohen

I am a believer, but how can I not fear?

Natural beauty in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. (courtesy)
Natural beauty in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. (courtesy)

1:50 PM Thursday, October 12th

I was sitting on my bed reciting Psalms. I joined a group of ladies who will be reciting Psalms around the clock — literally — for the duration of this war. 48 women have joined. Every half hour a new slot begins. It is a project that I am honored to be a part of as a tiny effort in bringing peace to the world. My slot is from 1:30-2:00. 

As I was reciting chapter 58, I heard a siren. After almost a week of not hearing any sirens, it was a bit of a surprise. But was it really a surprise? Is anything a surprise these days? As my sister so eloquently said, “Everything is up in the air right now. Except for planes.” (This is only partially true, but you get the idea.) After what occurred this past Saturday, the trite phrase “anything’s possible” took on a whole new meaning. A whole new scary meaning. 

After entering the safe room along with my mom and her friend who was visiting, I continued to recite Psalms until the end of my time slot which coincided with the end of the required ten minutes in the safe room. Ten minutes. I guess that’s buffer time in case another rocket makes it through with alerting the Iron Dome? I don’t actually fully understand how the Iron Dome system works. Someone who was on a bus during this siren told me that the driver had everyone get off, and then everyone was back on a few minutes later. I guess the bus is not going to sit and wait for an extra 10 minutes while everyone lies on the ground. Israelis don’t have enough patience for that, especially if it’s only an extra precaution. 

I’ve been hearing some booms over the past few days, but shortly after entering the safe room I heard the loudest one yet. I can’t differentiate the sounds, so I’m not sure if it was the Iron Dome intercepting a rocket, or if the rocket had landed and exploded. I hope it was the former. In any case, it was loud. 

3:50 PM 

Exactly two hours after the siren went off, I looked out the window and saw a world that I had almost forgotten could exist. There was a group of young boys playing basketball in the school’s court across the street. The parking spots on the street were all full. Usually these are things I only see when school is in session. School has not been in session for over two weeks at this point. I guess people are doing their best to get out and distract themselves from what’s going on around them. Can you blame them?  

5:40 PM

Almost two hours later, I looked outside again after hearing music which seemed to be getting louder and louder. Turns out there was a little impromptu parade with a bunch of cars blasting music and people waving Israeli flags. The song they were playing was the famous “Mi Shema’amin Lo Mefached,” translated as whoever believes does not fear. I’m not sure if there can be a more accurate description of how I’ve been feeling over the past couple of days. I really do believe, intensely so, that the entire situation right now is so divinely orchestrated. 

As much as I believe, and as much as I do my best not to fear, there is still a sinking feeling in my stomach on a pretty constant basis. I still cringe when I hear a boom. When I see a photo of a child who has been taken captive. When I think about the conditions that they are likely being kept in. When I hear about a local family sitting shiva for their son who was just killed in war. 

Complete lack of fear is not where I’m at right now, but I am endlessly grateful to be able to function. To be healthy. To be in touch with reality without allowing it to crush me. To be a believer who is doing her best not to fear. 

About the Author
Ariella Cohen grew up in Far Rockaway, NY and made Aliyah from Bala Cynwyd, PA in August 2023. She is an engineer and amateur musician with lots of other hobbies on the side.
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