Is Everything OK?

“Is everything ok,” said the text message I received from my friend Dorit, just as I was about to start my weekly David Project class at Midreshet Amit, a gap year program in the Gilo neighborhood in Jerusalem.

“Yes,” I responded. “Why do you ask?”

“Well,” she went on, “I just heard about a “Tzeva Adom” alert in Rishon Lezion.”

“Tzeva Adom,” (Color Red) is the warning signal the home front command communicates every time a rocket is fired at Israel from the Gaza strip. It is a term all Israelis, particularly those living in the South, have learned to dread over the last decade. The call “Tzeva Adom” will usually be accompanied by a rumbling siren, warning you that you have 15 to 90 seconds – depending on your geographical location – to run to a bomb shelter nearest to you.

This last text message got me worried for a moment because Rishon Lezion, located only five miles away from Tel Aviv, is the hometown of my parents, Tsippy and Motty Ben-Shachar. When I called them, it was my mother this time that picked up the phone. She spoke to me from the bomb shelter. She was fine.

I was relieved to hear her voice, but I also found myself in a state of minor shock. I never thought I would live to experience the day – of my invincible mother needing to scramble around for shelter. The last time she was in this situation was during the Yom Kippur War, October 1973. Only that time around, I was right by her side (only 5-months-old, but still bravely looking out for my dear mother).

My father was also fine, though he too found himself caught up in a “Tzeva Adom” alert – this one in Tel Aviv – a city that hasn’t faced a single rocket attack for over twenty years, since the Gulf War of 1991.

Many thoughts have crossed my mind since I received Dorit’s text message on Thursday night. In the midst of all the chaos and confusion, while Hamas and other terrorist groups are launching hundreds of rockets  and missiles at Israeli cities, and while the Israeli Defense Force is striking hundreds of terror targets and recruiting thousands of reserves for a possible ground operation in Gaza, I expect much of the same as what we experienced here in December 2008 during Operation “Cast Led”.

I expect much of the same from the usual chorus condemning Israel’s “assault on Gaza.” I expect much of the same from the cynics who claim that Operation Pillar of Defense is Prime Minister Netanyahu’s winning election card, coming up in only two months. I expect much of the same articles drawing moral equivalence between Israel, a sovereign state defending its people, and Hamas, a radical Islamic movement, classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union.  And I expect to hear much of the same irresponsible media usage of distorted terms such as “cycle of violence,” “war spiral” or “tit for tat,” implying that both Israel and Hamas are equally to blame here, and making outrageous comparisons between a country protecting its civilians (while going to great lengths to keep Gaza residents out of harm’s way) and a terrorist group targeting civilians in Israel and then hiding behind them in Gaza.

But most of all, I expect to witness much of the same heartwarming camaraderie, that is so typical to Israelis and to our supporters worldwide, at challenging times like these.

I just hope and pray that I won’t receive any more startling text or instant messages on my phone asking me again if everything is ok.





About the Author
Zeev Ben-Shachar is Jerusalem U's Director of Israel Education. He oversees curriculum development and lectures widely at synagogues, Jewish federations, Christian communities, college campuses and international conferences. Zeev has a BA in Psychology from Harvard – later receiving a certificate of distinction for teaching there – and a Masters in Middle Eastern Studies from Tel Aviv University. He is featured in Jerusalem U's mini-documentary, "The Plight of the Palestinian Refugees."