This past Sunday night, my two sons and I drove up north to Kiryat Shmona to do a BBQ for our good friend’s son’s unit. We had been to many bases over the last few weeks and my sons were excited to see our friend’s son, who they love hanging out with.
We had an amazing experience grilling and talking to the soldiers, who are mostly milluim guys (reservists) and appreciated the fresh barbecue. Most of them haven’t been home since the war started and they have been living in an underground type structure and sleeping on concrete floors. Throughout the grilling portion, we heard some very loud booms. It was explained to us that there were flares going up to make sure there were no infiltrations, but nothing to be too concerned about.
As we were starting to finish up, there was suddenly a loud siren. In Modiin, when we hear a siren or receive an alert, you have 90 seconds to find a safe space. You must have time to find your kids, go inside and make sure everyone is accounted for. Here, they rushed us inside, to the underground structure, and told us to stay away from the windows and entrances. I trusted that my boys followed the instructions and I was happy to see them inside as I entered. But less than 10 seconds after the siren, there was an explosion like I had never heard before. I am used to hearing iron dome intercepts, but this was 10 times louder and stronger – the ground shook, and so did we.
After a few minutes we started meandering outward, not quite sure what to do next. They said we couldn’t go back out for a while due to intelligence reports of drones and more mortars. We were watching a soldier monitor the airspace on a handheld device. Suddenly we saw a bunch of soldiers gathering in one corner, where you could see across the street, and we saw that a rocket had landed and exploded and that the area was on fire. It was jarring to see that. It was probably 50 feet from where we had been standing. The soldiers said they had never had a mortar land this close and due to the speed and fact that it was a mortar, there is no Iron Dome that can be used to stop these.
For the next hour and a half we tried to go back outside to clean up and get going but each time we stepped outside we were rushed back in, because of drones, rockets, and what we later found out was an infiltration. We could see that the commanders were very concerned that they had citizens with them and we saw how much they just wanted us to stay protected and at the same time have us leave in case things got worse. We did get to spend time with them as they kept busy cleaning their guns, playing cards, playing their guitars, watching a soccer game and just chilling on their foam mattresses. They were so kind, checked in with us constantly and made sure we were OK. We finally were given a window to leave and were told to drive south and to do so as quickly as possible.
This story is not meant to be about our bravery for being there or self accolades or even about our soldiers who sit in harm’s way every day. This story and experience is about what is really going on in the war. We have heard the US tell Lebanon that if they want war with Israel “Don’t.” I hate to break it to you, Hezbollah already is at war with Israel, whether we want to call it that or not. Name me any other country that evacuates everyone on the border and gets shelled by rockets and tanks daily and holds back trying to minimize the risk of a full blown war while its people suffer. I’m not sure what else you want to call what is happening up North but I guess they are avoiding the word “war” as it can spiral into a global conflict.
But this brings me to my second and final point, the refugees. There is so much concern and discussion about the refugees and displaced Gazans. Why is no one talking about the 300,000+ refugees in Israel? The entire North was told to evacuate as well as all of the families in the Gaza envelope. Homes are destroyed, people are without their things and clothes and are living wherever they can. But yet, it’s only about the Gaza refugees.
On October 7, a ceasefire was broken and war was declared on Israel, displacing hundreds of thousands of people as well as killing thousands of Israelis. But the world needs to wake up and call it what it is, a multi-front war, with victims and refugees on both sides. There are a plethora of Arab nations that have the capacity to support their populace and provide refuge for the displaced; Israel cannot be blamed if these nations choose not to welcome them. Despite standing alone, Israel rises to the occasion, extending its hospitality to people from diverse backgrounds and caring for them on a daily basis. Israel did not choose this war but it will choose when and how it ends and with the compassion for all of its people that Israel has always been known for.