Asher Zeiger

Locally Disconnected

So, apparently Israel’s at war.

Don’t get me wrong – I keep up with the news. I live in central Israel and have spent some time in our apartment’s bomb shelter. More importantly, I have many friends whose sons are currently serving in Gaza, and other friends and colleagues who were recently called up for reserve duty.

But truth be told, in Modi’in I haven’t really felt the effects of the war (nee “operation”) for the last three weeks. We’ve had a total of four sirens – all within a 24-hour period – and all about a week and a half ago. Day camps in the city have not been cancelled, and the day before Modi’in’s first siren – on a Friday afternoon, I took my daughters to the very crowded municipal swimming pool, where one would never guess that this is a country at war.

So it really has been business as usual in my little town. Mostly.

My wife has had almost daily air raid sirens in and around her office in Herzliya. We’ve even had a couple of sirens in the industrial zone where I work, although to be fair, one of those was apparently a false alarm. My 9-year-old daughter’s day camp, which is just outside of Modi’in, had about 5 sirens in the three weeks that they were operating, but according to my daughter, nobody panicked and the staff kept everyone safe.

My girls have stayed calm throughout. They know what’s going on, and my 12-year-old follows news feeds and WhatsApp posts in order to receive non-stop information. But they seem to be taking it all in stride – going to friends’ houses, swimming lessons and extra-curricular sports. They even thought it was pretty cool (I admit, so did I) when during one of the sirens, we heard the Iron Dome launch (it sounded like a jet taking off), followed by a huge BOOM and the shaking of the walls, telling us that the defense system had once again done its job and done it well.

Other than the city cancelling its weekly outdoor “happenings” at the main city park (which I don’t really attend anyway), the biggest effect that the war has had on my family was when the day camp decided to cancel the overnight program and daily activities went on as usual, with the kids coming home every night.

And I feel almost guilty for all this.

I mean, here I am, in what is the center of the world’s attention and scrutiny, with friends of mine spending almost as much time in their bomb shelters as out of them, and yet I feel somewhat disassociated from it all. As though it’s happening only to others, and my only real connection is vicariously through friends and by constantly following headlines on local news sites.

Mind you, I certainly prefer my relatively “normal” reality to that which tens of thousands of my fellow Israelis are experiencing, but I also cannot help but wonder why is it that I seem to be getting off so easily?

Part of me also wonders if what I am going through (more specifically, not going through) is similar to what people in the Diaspora who support Israel are experiencing from afar. It’s certainly easy to keep up with events as they develop here no matter where in the world one may be. Israel has captured prominent newspaper headlines everywhere, lead stories on television news broadcasts in every language, and even two (!!) episodes of John Stewart’s “The Daily Show.”

Editorialists and pundits from across the spectrum continuously provide people with whatever support they need to fit their pre-determined opinions on the situation here, and anybody who wishes to keep up with developments, no matter where in the world they happen to be, are able to do so.

I, too, have my news sources (yes, the Times of Israel is predominant), and I have my local “experts” and bloggers upon whom I usually depend to provide me with the information that will confirm that my take on the war and on Hamas has been absolutely correct all along.

But part of me feels like I’m not really “living” it. The four times that I have entered the safe room at home and two additional times at work haven’t felt like I was really in danger. Like most Israelis, I do keep a sharp eye out for the identities of fallen soldiers, hoping and praying to not see any names that I know. But it’s still not the same reality experienced by Israelis in the south, and even in central areas that have been targeted several times as well.

Perhaps the difference is knowing that no matter how disconnected I feel, I also know that at any moment this could change. This afternoon a rocket hit and damaged a home in Yehud, which is not so far from Modi’in. Other missiles have the range of Modi’in and further, and no matter how good Iron Dome is (so far it has been fantastic!), it’s still not 100%, and in the blink of an eye, I could conceivably become more associated with this war than I would ever hope to be.

Almost as if to underline that idea, when I was mostly finished writing this blog – at about 9:00 this evening – Modi’in had it its fifth siren overall and first in nine days. We spent our requisite 10 minutes in the safe room, but it served as a stark reminder that rather than feeling disconnected from what my people and my land are experiencing, I should count my blessings, and continue to pray for those who on the front lines – that they all return home soon – alive and well.

About the Author
Asher Zeiger grew up (well, sort of) in North Carolina and moved to Israel in 1988. He lives in Modi'in with his wife and two daughters, and works as freelance writer, editor and translator. In his spare time, he tries hard at not taking himself or life too seriously (successfully) and at unwrapping himself from around his daughters' little fingers (not so successfully).