Shira Lankin Sheps
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Waiting for the end of the world

Messages of love and connection steadied me while Israel and its allies shot down 99% of Iran's projectiles
The Dome of the Rock atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, with the lights of missile interceptions visible in the night sky, early on April 14, 2024, after Iran fired ballistic missiles at Israel. (via Facebook)
The Dome of the Rock atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, with the lights of missile interceptions visible in the night sky, early on April 14, 2024, after Iran fired ballistic missiles at Israel. (via Facebook)

Last night, April 13, 2024, was surely one of the most surreal and terrifying nights of my life.

As sudden and shocking as October 7th was, last night was the opposite.

Israel had been on high alert because of Hezbollah for months, and extremely high alert because of Iran for the last two weeks.

Israel even had several hours notice that a fleet of drones and missiles of all kinds were coming our way.

A literal countdown clock to the destruction of Israel.

It was the middle of the night — and we were supposed to just say a prayer and “go to sleep.”

It was utterly bizarre — knowing that your country, your family, your life…each is in mortal danger, and just choosing to close your eyes and surrender, because there is literally nothing else you can do.

* * *

God and I had some talks over Shabbat and last night.

I felt every moment of peacefulness; laughter with my siblings, hugs from my parents, conversations with my children, the steady connected presence of my husband.

But I don’t think I have language yet for the messages that go back and forth between loved ones while waiting for the end of the world.

Those “I love you’s” are among the most precious I’ve ever known — statements of abiding dedication and friendship before the moment we can never come back from; like someone slipping their hand into yours and holding you tightly.

So subtle bids for connection like a text message that reads, “You up?” in this context meant, “Are you terrified, too?”

“Is your heart racing like mine?”

“Do you need to hear how much you mean to me? That when the world feels like it’s ending, you are still on my mind.”

“You aren’t alone in all this madness. This is real. Your reaction is real. I see you.”

Those messages last night left a deep imprint on my heart.

* * *

Because when I did surrender, and I drifted into a light sleep because of many assurances that the drones and missiles would never reach Jerusalem (which I did not believe), the blaring of the sirens and the explosions over our heads set my heart racing harder than I could have imagined.

Fumbling with my fuzzy robe as I threw it on, forgetting my glasses, slipping on my slippers as I blindly flew down the stairs following my terrified children, while our miklat (shelter) filled up with all our neighbors in various states of pajamas, we had no idea what was happening all over the rest of the country or even in our city.

How did they get so far? Were people dying at this very moment? What kinds of weaponry had gotten into our airspace?

But, as the room shook, the atmosphere in the bomb shelter was anything but tense.

This was my first experience with being in the shelter with neighbors. We had a newlywed couple, a cute older couple in adorable robes, a shaking puppy, and lots of teenagers. There was a round of singing “Siman tov u-mazal tov” for the newlyweds, pictures passed around, jokes and shared smiles and assurances in Hebrew and English.

We stayed in there for a long time.

No one was in a rush to leave.

* * *

When we finally climbed back upstairs into our apartment, weary and shaken, the reality of the videos and images coming in was hard to believe.

99% of the weapons that were shot at us by Iran were shot down by Israel’s multitude of defense systems.

Multiple countries were involved in shooting them down — even — Jordan?

This was the largest drone assault in the history of the world.

And it was a massive failure.

Iran immediately put out a message that they were finished… even though more waves were still on the way.

I read the news till my eyes burned and then I breathed in deeply for seven-second intervals for a few hours, till my body gave in to sleep, feeling wrecked and overwhelmed by trying to process what happened.

* * *

Only in the bleary light of day can I see the miraculous nature of last night.

I saw a lot of people sending around the words we say at our Pesach seder (next week!)

הִיא שֶׁעָמְדָה לַאֲבוֹתֵיֽנוּ וְלָנֽוּ. שֶׁלֹא אֶחָד בִּלְבָד, עָמַד עָלֵיֽנוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנֽוּ. אֶלָּא שֶׁבְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר, עוֹמְדִים עָלֵיֽנוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנֽוּ. וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַצִּילֵנוּ מִיָּדָם

And this (Hashem’s blessings and the Torah) is what kept our fathers and what keeps us surviving. “For, not only one arose and tried to destroy us, rather in every generation they try to destroy us, and Hashem saves us from their hands.”

Who can’t see that we are living in historic times?!

That there is something miraculous happening here in Israel — terrifying, awe-inspiring, surreal, sci-fi, spiritualist, fever dream — that isn’t over.

We have no idea what’s coming next.

So today, I’m going to keep going: keeping my kids nearby, checking in on my people, reading the news, prepping for Pesach, and praying that we know complete peace.

And that God continues to speak to us as loudly as He did last night.

That He continues to give strength to the IDF, IAF, and their allies to protect us from harm.

That He shelters all our loved ones and continues to keep us safe.

And that He holds the heart of every Jew in His hands.

So that we can continue to tell the stories of His wonders to future generations.

Am Yisrael Chai.

About the Author
Shira Lankin Sheps is a writer, photographer, and clinically trained therapist. She is the executive director and founder of The SHVILLI Center, which provides resources for building emotional resilience and promotes mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. She is the founder, former publisher, and editor-in-chief of The Layers Project Magazine and the author of 'Layers: Personal Narratives of Struggle, Resilience, and Growth from Jewish Women.' Shira lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children.
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