I moved to this country about 30 years ago with my husband and our 5-month-old baby girl. My three subsequent children were born here. My son’s Brit Milah took place during a scary and painful week of bus bombings in 1995; in fact, I delivered him just moments after a bus got bombed and 8 days later he had his Brit while another bus got bombed. For me personally, it was a joyful yet confusing week – I had a healthy baby boy and was delighted – but the country was in mourning.
Then it was around 2003 and we found ourselves in yet another conflict with our neighbors. We were instructed to carry gas masks with us wherever we went. After we went to pick them up at the local distribution center, I wanted to find a way to normalize this for the kids so I had a plan:
We spent a lazy afternoon doing an art project. I bought stickers and colorful markers and we decorated the gas mask boxes.
Years later, the Fogel family was brutally murdered in their home. The country was in shock and it sparked a lot of difficult conversations between husbands and wives. Conversations I’m sure those of you who don’t live in Israel have ever had.
Did we have a plan if someone broke in?
Our kids were still small and my son, God bless him, could sleep through a jet plane landing on our roof. We discussed the best course of action: my husband would grab him and the baby. I would get the two girls and we’d go up to the attic. In a spare room was a small door that opened into the roof. We had a piece of furniture blocking it so it was almost impossible to see the door. The plan was to move the furniture, get into that roof space with everyone, pull the door shut and yank the furniture back into place. And be quiet.
And I had nightmares of events unfolding in my home, vivid images of me desperately trying to yank my kids upstairs all while keeping them quiet as we ran for safety.
My husband has family in the Shomron, in yishuvim surrounded by Arab towns. We have often driven there for family events, but as much as I love seeing family, I always had a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach about making the drive there. Over the years, many Israelis have been targeted, shot at and killed by drive-by terrorists. Again, I had to have a plan. So I taught my kids “goose, goose, duck”.
You’re thinking I have the game all wrong, but no, this was my version of the game. I taught them that when I said “goose”, they would keep their seatbelts on and sit tight, but when I said “duck”, they were to remove their seatbelts as quickly as possible and get down on the floor of the car on their bellies and lie down as flat as they could.
And we practiced this game.
This is motherhood – fatherhood – parenthood – in Israel. It’s different from parenthood in any other democratic country in the world. Don’t misunderstand me – we have many things in common with you: we love our kids to distraction, we will do anything to protect them, we want to nourish them in both body and spirit, and we want them to grow into good, moral, kind, and generous people. But we have an enemy at our doorstep – an enemy that has ALWAYS been there – that wants to take all our children away from us. And that is the difference between us.
So we are forced to make a plan.
This past week has been one of the most painful weeks of my life. My heart literally hurts from worry for the kidnapped, my appetite completely gone after seeing the thousands of faces of our people plastered on social media, day after day after day, announcing yet another funeral. I’m jumping out of my skin at every bump in the night and just so utterly sad all the time. And while I was in too much shock to think about a plan, my husband made one.
He casually announced at the dinner table that if we all had to go into a safe room because there were terrorists breaking into our home, he would lock us in, and sit outside it with his gun. I was incredulous, “No! Why wouldn’t you stay inside with us?” But he insisted. This was where he would be. He would be a wall of force between us and these monsters.
It was decided.
Last night we went to visit a family friend from one of the communities that was on the border of Gaza. For some miraculous reason, the communities around them were brutally attacked but theirs wasn’t. But since the settlements along the entire southern border near Gaza were evacuated, they have been put up in a hotel in Netanya. With literally the clothes on their back. There’s no plan for them to return right now; essentially they are homeless. My husband asked his friend what he did when they heard all the attacks and knew they were surrounded by Hamas terrorists. He said, “I put my family in the safe rooms and I sat outside with my gun and a bottle of whiskey.”
He too, had a plan.
No one else in the world who lives in a Democratic country has to even think of these scenarios. No one has to make these kinds of plans. I was trying to think of who would ever have to have these insane conversations with their spouses, their families?
The answer came to me immediately.
My grandparents had these conversations – with their children, with each other, with their neighbors. Living in Eastern Europe during WWII was not the place to be as a Jewish person. And so they had these conversations: Where will we hide? How will we protect ourselves and our children? Do we have a plan? Who can we trust?
We are tired of making these kinds of plans.
And if you were faced with the kind of blind Jew-hatred and terrorism that we are faced with EVERY SINGLE DAY, then you would be too.
So why, you might ask, why don’t I pick myself up and move? Move to a country where I don’t have to make these kinds of plans?
Because Israel is my home. It’s the home of the Jewish people the world over. And the people of this world – Jewish or not – need us. They need us to be strong and to thrive. But this disease called terrorism is spreading. It’s spreading everywhere, beyond our borders, and it’s come to the point where no one is safe from them anymore, whether you’re in London, Venezuela or Toronto.
So I’d rather stay here; here where my army is a Jewish one, built out of necessity by the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, and of Middle Eastern Jews from Egypt, Syria, Algeria, Tunisia, Iran, Iraq and many more who had no choice but to run for their lives. Our country is a country of survivors. And no one knows more than survivors how to fight for this place.
So this is our plan: We will stay and fight.