Alissa Burstein

Welcome to the Swords of Iron War Reality: Tips to My Friends Abroad

Rosy Pepper the cat has learned to go down to the shelter by herself (Image courtesy of author)

To my non-Israeli friends and family, please find below a brief description of our reality. You too may need these skills and tips one day, so read up (BTW, the pots in the picture are not our dinner – they are filled with an emergency water supply):

(Image courtesy of author)

• We have been asked to return to work, for now a few days a week. I brought 4 liters of water, cans of food, tissues, and a sweater. Can’t know if I will be stranded and/or stuck at work. Or, a colleague may be stuck.
• We never hold in our pee; may not have access to a bathroom if there is a siren.
• Travel with water. Always. See above.
• When leaving the house, always take: phone, key to return in case you quickly have to run for shelter, water in case you are stuck outside, ID in case you are killed.
• I chose to wear a skirt this morning, and put shorts under, in case I have to lie down for cover during a missile siren warning.
• Shoes? Only those comfortable for running.
• Waterproof mascara.
• Think twice before saying “Good morning.”
• Oh, and don’t even bother asking “How are you?” – if you don’t know the answer by now, frankly, I’d rather not talk to you.
• Falling asleep, crashing in very early at night from sheer accumulated emotional exhaustion, only to wake up in the middle of the night panicking, unable to go back to sleep. Wash rinse repeat.
• Always make sure there is an extra pair of glasses and shoes/slippers in the shelter/safe room – not enough time to think of those necessities in real time.
• Keep phone and laptop fully charged at all times (duh). And don’t put off buying medications you may need.
• Every time a motorcycle zooms by our hearts drop – it sounds like the beginning of a siren.
• Ambulance sirens have been changed to those that sound less like missile warning sirens, to reduce civilian anxiety (no matter that it is reminiscent of old Nazi movie sirens…).
• How we take showers these days (a luxury compared to those not fortunate enough to have 90 seconds to get to safety): First step is to announce to those at home, “OK usual protocol. Yell to me if there is a siren, I’m going in to the shower.” Then make sure there are no obstacles in the way, getting out. Prepare clothing in the order you put it on. Hair first, quickly. Then important body parts – the face can wait and be done in the sink, later. Conditioner? Only if you dare. Succeeded? Consider yourself lucky, not everyone has this luxury.
• How do you explain to your kids that no, we will have no time to collect the pets on the way to the shelter.
• Thinking twice before washing sheets – may need DNA samples for identification… (can you believe I’m thinking like this???)
• Not knowing which Shiva to go to first – your friend whose youngest daughter was murdered, or the stranger who doesn’t have enough visitors. Gives a new meaning to the word “prioritizing.”
• Don’t even bother asking how the wedding plans for my son are going. Plans?
• Everyone copes differently, and it’s all legitimate: There are those who need to hoard food. There are those who need to talk. There are those who need to keep it all in. There are those who need to play music. There are those who need to do yoga. There are those who need to repress it all. There are those who need to cry. There are those who need to write. You know what, there are even those who need to be mean to everyone and everything that moves. And what works one day, may not work the next. It’s all legitimate. Be tolerant of others’ coping mechanisms.
• Oh, and please do not lecture to us about your concern about your friends in Gaza. We saw plenty of civilians – women and children – passing out candy upon hearing about the rape, torture, pillage, beheading, kidnapping, and murder of our innocent friends and family. As far as I am concerned, if you feel the need to find moral equivalents, “proportionality,” or pity the enemy – yes, the enemy – you are as bad as they are. דיינו
זָכוֹר אֵת אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה לְךָ עֲמָלֵק בַּדֶּרֶךְ בְּצֵאתְכֶם מִמִּצְרָיִם…. תִּמְחֶה אֶת זֵכֶר עֲמָלֵק מִתַּחַת הַשָּׁמָיִם לֹא תִּשְׁכָּח: (דברים כה/יז-יט)

About the Author
Alissa Burstein is a mother, wife and cat lover living in the center of Israel. With a PhD in education, she currently works at the Bar-Ilan University Azrieli Faculty of Medicine in an administrative capacity. Yoga and good coffee (and cats!) keep her somewhat sane.
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