Two lessons learned about Israel during wartime

My first year in Israel I was 11 and I experienced dozens of air raid sirens right here in Jerusalem. It was the Gulf War and my parents chose to come despite the dangers and chose to stay despite our family’s pleas from Canada to come “home.”

But war is often about learning the patterns and then living a semi-normal life within them and that is what we did.

The Gulf War’s patterns were simple and relatively liveable here in Jerusalem. They consisted of:

  • Missiles only fall in Tel Aviv.
  • Sirens happen at night.

Probably within a week or two we had these facts in place and we proceeded to make decisions accordingly. For example, at first we would run without hesitation to the sealed room. After a while, we’d first take care of other things beforehand – like finishing the food on our plates or going to the bathroom.

We would also wait up for the siren instead of being shaken out of our sleep from it. After it sounded, we’d go to the sealed room, wear our gas masks until we were told to remove them and then sit in the room until there was a message that it was all clear. Only then would we go to sleep.

This was an interesting initiation into Israeli society. Once we understood that we weren’t really in danger, it actually became a positive learning experience. We got to experience very Israeli things that we think fondly of to this day.

Lesson #1: We are black-humour experts

We would often leave Israel’s one TV channel on in order to keep up with the news (for some reason our Facebook apps didn’t work in those days). As a result we did something we almost never do today – we watched Israeli TV, and specifically, Israeli comedy shows.

They made tons of fun of the war and even with our limited Hebrew, we laughed. For example, here is a skit by Haolam Haerev (The World Tonight), doing Saddam (sorry for all the Hebrew):

In the next video they are making fun of people who would sell or buy sealing tape for exorbitant prices in order to create sealed rooms. (Of course this was really a lesson in the rule of supply and demand):

There was also Zehu Ze (That’s All). Here is one of their classic skits where they poked fun at Tel Aviv’s mayor who was quoted as saying that people who left the city were considered deserters. Baba Buba used ridiculous gematria (numeric value of Hebrew letters) in order to get his point across:

I understood a small fraction when I watched this 22 years ago but I still found it funny.

Today we continue to be funny during war. Here are some of my favourites:

An instruction pamphlet for Tel Avivim dealing with a siren:

And here is Old Spice meets the UN:


And in case you’re wondering if it’s going to rain:

Finally a sign that actually would have made sense in 1991:

“Tel Aviv residents, the south supports you!”

Lesson #2: We are really good at giving

Don’t get me wrong. The feeling in Israel right now is very serious. We all know people who have been called up to the army and we are all waiting to see what happens next. We are experiencing the war. Today there was a siren in Jerusalem – a missile fell in Gush Etzion (so they say). It was extremely difficult to concentrate after that. We feel our sense of security slipping through our fingers. We keep up with the news, waiting to see if Those In Charge will choose to do what we think they should do. We feel for the people in the south and, most tragically, we mourn for those who have lost loved ones and pray for those who have been injured, as we continue to pray for the safety of our soldiers and the residents of the south.

And this is when you get to see all the giving.

There must be plenty of initiatives happening like this but I’d like to highlight one in particular.

Jerusalem & Tel Aviv: We Can Help in the South” is a Facebook “event” started by a woman who wrote a touching description about why she chose to do this:

As I’m sure you’ve all felt in your own personal ways, these past 5 days have been pretty intense. Many of us have had loved ones go off to the army, and feeling helpless is the worst! With Natan (my husband) being an officer in the IDF, the truth is that I have no idea when I’ll see him again. However, I decided that praying for the best is not all that I can do… I have contacted everyone I know and I am asking you to do the same, so that we can gather as many supplies as possible, to bring to families as well as soldiers in the south.


We really appreciate your help, and so will everyone in the south! These people need us and this is really where the heart of Israel shines…Thank you in advance!

Currently there are 800 people who RSVPed “going” (in this case, supporting the cause) and over 10,000 people invited in total.

Their plan?





…We are teaming with the Lower Galilee Regional Council to collect and distribute supplies as well as visit with residents in the South…

One of the coordinators wrote a short while ago:

LAST CHANCE TO DONATE – We are just a few donations short of collecting 18,000 NIS for supplies tomorrow. If you have friends/family who want to help, please ask them to donate TONIGHT:

Tonight means, right now. It’s currenlty after 1:00 am on Wednesday morning in Israel. In a few hours they will use the money to purchase whatever is needed for people in the south and for soldiers on the border. So, go to the event to learn more about how you can help or click here if you’re ready to donate.

As for the other lessons I’ve learned (like how Walt Disney was right), I will keep them for another time and meanwhile, I shall wish everyone a quiet and safe night.

About the Author
Deena is a new mother, a project manager and a writer living in Jaffa.