Rhona Fink
American/Israeli physician, San Diego grandmother to one Sabra and one American

This is Not Normal

I am no longer paused from my break from email.  I am compelled to describe the reality of life here, as a family trying to live life as normally as possible in an abnormal time.
This afternoon my husband Ray and I drove to Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem to see if there was anything that we could do to help out while our American medical credentials are being reviewed by the Israeli Medical Association and the Ministry of Health. We took our seven year old granddaughter Saadia with us. Zoom “school” was over for the day, her parents were working and we just love to be with her.
We entered the lobby of hospital. The first thing we saw was a memorial to eight murder victims who were killed by Hamas this week. Each one is a first degree relative of a hospital staff member. Saadia spotted the memorial candle burning and asked what it was. We explained. We signed the memorial books.
The woman we had hoped to meet with was not in the office today, so we told her colleague that we would be back tomorrow, went back to the car and decided to go and pick up a coffee maker that we had ordered “before the war”. We had been notified that we could pick it up today. Saadia fell asleep in the back seat of the car (she, like the rest of us, have not had regular sleep schedules). I figured that Ray could wait with her in the car while I ran in to the store in Talpiyot, a Jerusalem neighbourhood, to pick up the coffee maker.
On the road in Talpiyot we heard a siren. We first thought that it was an ambulance siren because it wasn’t very loud, but it got louder and louder. We decided to pull over to the side of the road as we had been instructed to do if there was a siren and we heard BOOM.  We knew that a missile had been fired towards Jerusalem.
We could see other cars pulling over, people running into stores. There were no buildings on our side of the street. We whisked Saadia out of the car (she later told us that the BOOM had woken her up and she thought that we had been in a car accident) and huddled over her on the side of the road. I just kept repeating “Sabi (Ray) and Dasi (Me) will keep you safe. Don’t worry. We will keep you safe”.  She knew exactly what to do, to stay down and protect her head. I remember a second BOOM but it may have been an echo in my head. I texted our family What’s App group “We are safe” from my position on the sidewalk, continuing to shield Saadia.
Once things quieted down we got up and drove home. I sat in the back seat with Saadia. As we walked up to the front steps of our apartment building she said to me,“Dasi, this ISN’T San Diego.”
None of this is normal. It is not normal to walk into a hospital lobby and sign memorial books for murder victims. It is not normal for two grandparents to be on the ground shielding their young granddaughter from missiles launched by terrorists into the capital of our Jewish state, the holiest city in the world, the City of Peace, Jerusalem. It is not normal for a child to think that homes should be built with bomb shelters. It is not normal for a seven year old to know reflexively how to protect herself from a missile. It is not normal send a Whats App message to family across the globe stating “We are safe” and for them to know what we mean.
None of this is normal.
This is our country. This is where we belong.
But this is NOT normal.
About the Author
American/Israeli physician residing in San Diego and Jerusalem, grandmother to two girls, a seven year old Sabra, and a one year old American.