These days in Israel we are mentioning a year to the war in Gaza, Protective Edge. We all remember the chain of events that rapidly escalated into a full blown war that lasted one moths, two weeks and four days.
The summer of 2014 was supposed to be the best summer I had in years, my final year of my BA studies, I was busy studying for the final exams, planning how me and my friend will celebrate our achievements , enjoy the final weeks before each of us will go its own way.
I remember seating in my room pretending to study when I heard in the news about the missing three boys, as shocking as hearing about them and worrying to their wellbeing, I had the most horrible feeling that this will not end with just finding the boys or in case that they were kidnaped, in exchange of prisoners. I just knew we will go to another round in Gaza. I think we all knew, you can’t live in Israel and not knowing what will leads us to war once again.
For 18 days the police and the IDF soldiers looked under each rock, turning every stone and every house, the reactions of the other side soon became an excuse to fire rockets on the cities and towns surrounding the Gaza strip. I am ashamed to admit it, but I was hoping that this time Hamas will only fire at that area; I was terrified about the possibility of again another round of rockets. It was clear everyone had the same fear; it became the only topic of conversation. In a matter of days the entire country was under rockets attack, even places that never before suffer from this terror.
During that time I was working in a kindergarten, after a horrible few days of constant rocket I wrote this on my Facebook page on July 15 “Between sirens, rockets, running constantly to the shelters and loud sound of explosions, I felt in the last few days a strong need to write what I feel in these days. Or maybe in the last few years, since we enter to the range of the missiles. This is not life, this is a nightmare, I can’t sleep at night, I can’t eat, and every sound makes me jump with a horrible sense of horror. I am scared, I am not ashamed to admit it, but I have no other choice but to act normally because that is what people expect of me.
I have to get up every morning and go to work, spending over an hour on the bus on a way completely exposed to the missiles, and all I can do is look every minute at my phone where there are sirens, and pray it is not in my way. Sunday morning on my way to work there was a siren, the driver stopped the bus and me and a few more people had to lie on the ground, this is not the first time it happened to me, but I just cannot get used to it, I started crying praying to God to save me and my body was shaking for more than half hour after. I try to be strong and not to be scared, but I can’t think of a way to do it. This is not normal, and how can it be, it’s not normal that for years we have to live with the threat of missiles literary flying above our heads. I work with kids, and today while they were sleeping we had sirens, three times we had to run to the shelter with more than 60 kids, just because the state thinks that it is ok to open. All week long it was always in my mind what do I do? Who I take first? How many can I take in each frantic run to the shelter? The first time I just grabbed the first two that were close to me running with them, the second time we had siren the same, in the third time I toke three in my hands, and we heard the sound of explosion before we were able to get them all inside. The fear I felt all this time, was nothing in comparison to what I felt in those moments when I know that we only have one minute to save their lives. We were closed with them inside, while they are all screaming, and it was so hot inside and all I could think of we are fine, they are all safe, but they were crying so much, and they were all bagging me to hold them, but I only have two hands. I know I need to be grateful that we have the Iron Dome that saves us, but I wish we didn’t have to need it.
I don’t want ceasefire, I want an end to the fire, which is different, and I don’t want to have to spend the rest of my life wondering when will be the next time. I just want peace, less for me and more for the kids in both sides that have to be born and raised in this reality”
I wrote this in July 15, but the war did not end there, this was my reality and the reality of the entire population of Israel for another month and half. It is hard to explain to an outsider how we live. In April I travelled to Europe, spending a month’s moving from one city to another, sleeping in Hostels, a bit worried about telling strangers where I am from. Some reacted well and some asked me hard questions that I deed my best to answer in a way they can understand our side better. One of the questions I asked them” what are the first things you do when you leave your house?” they obviously answered normal things, I answered this question, that the first things I do is to make sure I know where are my safe places to hide in case of another sudden rocket attack. Yes, a year after the war and this is still the first thing I do when I leave the house. The actual war might be over, physically we might not be fighting, but it’s never really over.
Walking down the streets there are still signs of the damaged caused by the rockets that haven’t been fixed yet, the landscape has changed in the form of mobile concrete shelters bearing the names of the soldiers who died during the war. For those who lost a loved one, family member, a son, father, brother, a friend, time has not reduced the pain, it is constant every day. In Israel it seems that you cannot escape grief, I knew one of the soldiers who died, he wasn’t a close friend, but I knew him almost all my life, it still hurt the thought about a young man, a man who had full life ahead of him, but lost his life to protect us. To make sure that the population in this country can try to live a normal life.
A year after, we try to go back to normality. We go to work; we go on vacations, trips across this country. On the surface it seems normal, but underneath we are still afraid. We are still worried and counting the days until the next war, until the next round of rockets and sirens and hiding in the shelters.