Rena Magun

Israel under attack: Here’s what it feels like…

An Israeli soldier stands by the bodies of people killed by Palestinian terrorists who entered from the Gaza Strip, in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, October 7, 2023. (AP Photo/ Tsafrir Abayov)
An Israeli soldier stands by the bodies of people killed by Palestinian terrorists who entered from the Gaza Strip, in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, October 7, 2023. (AP Photo/ Tsafrir Abayov)

Dear Family and Friends,

David and I are overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support from our family, friends and clients, some of whom we have not been in touch with for years. It is reassuring to know that the world sees what is really happening here. So many of you are writing and calling, and are asking how we are feeling. Below is the answer, accurate for right now, and speaking only for ourselves. There is nothing earth-shattering here that hasn’t already been written…but you asked, and so I am answering…

First and foremost, we are shocked. Multiple times during the day I find myself wondering if this is really happening or if I am in the middle of a terrible nightmare.  For me the shock breaks down into 2 categories: The first is how could this have happened? All of us believed all of our lives that we have the best army and security system in the world.  The unbelievable and colossal failure of our intelligence (combined with the very well-planned attack) is something that goes against my basic understanding of the world.  As if you would now tell me that the Earth is actually flat.

The second shock is the heinous nature of the Palestinian terrorist war crimes. The gruesome accounts beginning to emerge are bone chilling.  They have done the unthinkable, including burning homes with people in them…I can only pray that all of these savages will stand trial in an international tribunal and that the survivors will have a chance to recount their torture in front of their faces as the world listens.

The next thing we are experiencing is deep, existential, communal grief.  As with every death in every war or terrorist attack, we feel it as if it is our own son, grandmother, neighbor etc.  Yes, we have been at each other’s throats for the last 9 months (and would still be if this hadn’t happened); yet that has nothing to do with the basic DNA that we are all in this together, and when one of us gets cut, we all bleed. Going on with life in between reading and hearing excruciating accounts of the massacres in the South is really hard. It’s all I can do to put one foot in front of the other and help care for my almost 8-month-old grandson who has moved in here with my daughter and her husband because their home in the South is not a safe place to be right now.  Fortunately, his reserve duty is more office based.

Following shock and grief is fear, for myself, my family, and my fellow Israelis. There are an unknown number of bloodthirsty Palestinians on the loose in Israel, and to me it feels that they are just around every corner. My inclination is to be brave and continue on with my life, but actually, that is just stupid. I worry that they are planning some sort of mega-terror attack, and that one of my family members will be caught up in it… My whole body and soul are waiting for the shoe to drop.

I am terrified for our son who was called up on Shabbat day at 2 p.m., in the middle of our Yom Tov lunch.  I quietly cried (Rena, you must be strong for the kids) as we watched him in his white shirt and Yom Tov clothes bravely hug our pregnant daughter-in-law and toddler grandson, get into his friend’s car and pull away from the curb. My mind was a swirl of jumbled black and white photographs of similar scenes from 50 years ago and a day. (Is this really happening?) She is at her parent’s home now, smiling for our grandson, holding her breath between messages from her husband. Finally, I am so afraid for all the innocent people (toddlers, elderly — WTF?) who are being held hostage in the hell holes of Khan Yunis and Jabalia and other rattraps in Gaza. When my mind starts to imagine what their captors are doing to them, I am paralyzed with dread and the pictures stop, thank God.

Vengeance…now there is an emotion I feel very, very intensely right now.  I honestly want Israel to kill as many terrorists as possible immediately.  There. I said it.  I want us to carpet bomb Gaza. Is vengeance the same as anger? Not really sure, as I do feel a lot of anger towards Haredim who will not suffer any losses or deaths in this war (another politically incorrect thing to say). But I do not feel vengeance towards them.

Shock, grief, fear, vengeance and now pessimism.  Even as we gird our loins for unprecedented pain and sadness over the next few days/weeks/months (1,000 funerals in the next few days), the reality is that this war will be over one day.  What then?  We will always have Palestinians as our next door neighbors.  They will always teach their children that if they kill the Zionist enemy they will be rewarded in heaven. How will this impossible situation ever improve? I think we have tried just about everything. I feel so demoralized.

Finally, I am acutely aware of living through a moment in history (JFK, 9/11) that everyone will talk about forever, and that will be a permanent demarcation point. (“Where were you when you heard the first siren?”) From here on, history will be divided up into before or after October 7, 2023.

I guess this was more than you bargained for when you inquired as to our well-being.

Thank you for your love and concern.  What we will really need from you over the next few months is your resolve that will enable us to do what we need to do to survive.


About the Author
Originally from South Jersey, Rena and her young family made aliyah almost 30 years ago. With a BA and MA from Penn, Rena spent most of her professional career as a devoted Jewish communal servant/ Zionist educator, working for places like Hillel, JTS, the JDC, Ramah and Melitz. Today she loves the independence of working with her Rabbi/tour guide husband doing B’nei Mitzvah for families celebrating in Israel. The proud mother of 2 sons, 2 daughters, a daughter in law, a son in law and grandmother to 2 delicious grandsons, her best days are when her children thank her for making aliyah.
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