“Dad! There’s rain! I’m scared!”
The phone call from my 18-year-old daughter woke me up at 6:30AM Saturday morning. Just a month or so into combat basic training at a large base right on the border with Gaza, she was crying hysterically. It took me a foggy minute to realize she wasn’t referring to meteorological rain—but rather the army slang for incoming rocket or mortar fire. She was terrified but safe in a small shelter, in a very forward area, far from the base, alone.
Over the course of the next several hours, as together with everyone in Israel we tracked the sheer terror of what was unfolding, we also tracked her personal terror through sporadic messages and phone calls.
Now a massive barrage of missiles struck the random civilian targets in the densely populated central region of Israel. Now one of the staff came to pull her back from the forward position under fire. Now truckloads of heavily armed terrorists drove unimpeded from Gaza into Israel. Now she was in a different shelter and there was gunfire right outside her door. Now civilians were literally dragged screaming into Gaza. Now her commanding officer was dead. Now there were terrorists roaming the streets of multiple border communities, slaughtering anyone they encountered—men, women, children, the elderly, Muslims, Jews.
Now she told me she loved me, for the first of three times, by way of goodbye. Now festival goers were being mowed down in cold blood or forced onto Gaza-bound motorcycles. Now she was moving to another shelter, and there was a body outside the door. Now she was holed up with the other cadets in the kitchen, and all her commanders were either dead or wounded. Now Hamas fighters took selfies against a backdrop of female hostages being dragged into buildings to face God only knows what fate. Now her phone battery died, and for the next 12 hours we heard only the booms of the missiles and fear slashing at our hearts.
It was the blackest day of my life, and arguably one of the blackest days in the history of this country. 1200 dead in the largest terror attack since 9/11. No less.
This I know: there will be reckoning with a prime minister so pathetically self-absorbed that he built a government of racists, homophobes and misogynists so ill-suited to leadership that they ignored countless warnings from the military and possibly even foreign intelligence sources. There will be a reckoning with the massive military and intelligence failures that left this hostile border virtually unguarded, possibly owing to political rather than military considerations. There will be tremendous societal and geopolitical ramifications from this likely avoidable disaster.
I do not know what will happen to the hundreds of hostages in Gaza, among them children. I fear for them. I do not know the fate of the hundreds of thousands of reservists impressively mobilized in just 48 hours. I do not know how many more of my neighbors will see an army car pulling up to their door to deliver the worst possible news. I do not know whether the war will begin and end in Gaza, or spread to Lebanon—the quasi-state to our north, controlled by Hezbollah, an even more dangerous and more bloodthirsty terrorist group. I do not know whether I’ll need the 72 hours of food and water I just put into the bomb shelter in my home. I do not know if I’ll sleep through tonight or be woken be air raid sirens or if I’ll have a house in the morning.
All I know right now is this: unlike thousands of other Israeli parents, I still have my little girl—by either luck or providence.
For this I am beyond thankful.
NOTE: The above was first published October 10, 2023 in The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Some four months later, my daughter just finished her combat training in the IDF’s Search & Rescue Division – unlike so many of her colleagues who lost their lives that day in Zikim. And I am still so thankful to have her.