What it’s Like to Live in Israel Under Terror

With the current very volatile situation in Israel right now, with every day, it seems, another terror attack being reported (and on some days more than one terror attack), it ends up hitting close to home.

Sure, you hear the news, might hear about “what is going on” (when the very biased media doesn’t try to mislead you, like today’s headline about “Jerusalem police kill[ing] 2 Palestinians“) but the part that those of you outside of Israel may not be getting is what the reality on the ground here is like for those of us who live here.

Because of that, I decided to share a few of my latest Facebook status updates with you, written over the last few weeks, as well as a few more random thoughts of mine related to life during this “third intifada”. [Note- these are my thoughts alone- I represent no one but my own experience. Yet I suspect I am but one of many with these similar thoughts.]

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Those who don’t live in Israel- you know what life here is like? It means that every day when you’re just going about your daily business, you have to worry if maybe, somehow, an Arab will try to murder you. Will he try to murder you with a knife? A car? A tractor? A bomb? A gun? Who knows…

And then every time you pass that place where someone was killed, what runs through your mind is “This is the place where x terror attack happened. Is it actually safe for me to be here now?” and then makes you wonder what your “plan of action” would be if there is a potential terror attack- “How quick can i grab the baby and run? Can I run fast enough? Do I need to get in better shape so that i can run faster if a car is trying to run me down?”

Zhvill, the Shmuel Hanavi train station stop– this place where there recently was a terror attack- two killed and a bunch more wounded- this is where I got married. But instead of that place being associated with happy memories, instead its associated with this terror attack… and the other recent terror attack where a terrorist with a tractor flipped over a bus, injured many, and killed a man.

Yea, just a day in the life of…

And then you try to live your life as normally as possible, not let terror keep you down… but then you wonder how much you can/should stay at home with this type of tension….

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The situation in Israel is really crazy dangerous now. After a soldier was stabbed to death today in Tel Aviv, 3 more were stabbed in Gush Etzion among them a 26 year old woman who died. I headed to Jerusalem this evening and I must admit I was wondering if it really is so safe to be leaving my home now… hugged my kids extra hard before I left, telling them how much I love them. And I must admit the thought went through my mind- what if chas veshalom I don’t make it back safely to them? Too many people recently didn’t make it home safely. Makes me question if I’m stupid to leave my house and my yishuv if not absolutely necessary.

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While I’m in the city, heading to the train, I hear rumors. Rumors that there was an attempted stabbing attempt on the train. Should I scrap my plans to take the train to my destination and instead try to figure out bus routes, even though I’m running late, and the train is the fastest way?
I go to the train anyhow, and as I’m riding the train, I wonder to myself “Am I being stupid now, is this a stupid decision I will regret forever?”

But then everything is calm.

I exit the train and see a crowd of hatzala guys standing around a man on the floor. My heart starts racing. Was this a terror attack? Is there a terrorist on the loose? And then you realize that it was just a “routine” life saving event, not terror. And you chide yourself- “Who cares if it was terror or not? A person’s life is in danger!” But there still is that relief that it wasn’t terror.

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You find yourself on the train next to some Arabs, and as much as you’d like to give the benefit of the doubt to people, you realize that racial profiling can save your life. And so you change your seat when an Arab male sits down next to you.

But you can’t avoid all Arab people, so you start wondering whether there are statistics of what type of Arab is most likely to be dangerous and what type is most likely to be safe enough?

This Arab is on his cell phone, talking. Would a terrorist be on his phone right before planning his attack or would he be too nervous?

This Arab teen is together with a bunch of friends, laughing and schmoozing together. Would potential terrorists be “lone wolves” or traveling as a pack?

This Arab man is traveling with his wife. Would a terrorist put his wife in danger?

This Arab woman is traveling with her cute baby. That means she’s safe, right? Because she wouldn’t take her baby with her if she plans on being a shahid, right? I can breathe easy?

And then you realize- you never know. You realize you’re not safe. You can’t relax. You need to be vigilant.

And you decide then and there that you want to get a gun to protect yourself and your children.

And then realize that at 26, you’re a few months too young to be able to get a gun license here (since you haven’t done the army). So you count down the days, and consider buying pepper spray.

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Home at last. Home sweet home. Time to relax from the constant vigilance needed from a trip to Jerusalem.

And then you hear that there is a terrorist infiltration in your yishuv. First the neighborhood farthest from you is on lock down, and then you get a message to lock your doors, close your windows, and shut the lights. Make yourselves as minimal a target as possible.

My kids are going to bed. I’m not sure whether to tell them anything or not. I don’t, and they assume that the reason I shut every last light in the house is because of their bed time, and not because of the lock down.

For hours the lock down continues. We’re hearing sirens every few minutes, and our local Facebook group is flooded with discussions about what people are hearing, what is going on. I get worried messages from friends all over the world that heard that Kochav Yaakov was on the news, asking if I’m safe.

I’m safe.

No one was hurt.

The terrorist infiltrators left through another hole they cut in our security fence.

But what was hurt was my sense of security. Why worry about going to Jerusalem if as soon as I get home from my trip to the city I end up feeling in danger in my own home?

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Life goes on. Stays the same. Sort of. Even though last night terrorists just broke into the yishuv and we were on lock down for hours. Except now, instead of being able to go running on the quiet, beautiful path around the perimeter of the yishuv, I can’t do that anymore. It would just be plain stupid, being as I’d be a prime target, should terrorists try to sneak into the yishuv again.

So I just run laps around the playground instead.

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My kids, 7, 5, and 3 still have no idea about the terrorist infiltration into our community a week ago. I haven’t the heart to tell them. This summer when we were in missile range of rockets from Gaza, I had to tell them what was going on, so that they’d know how serious the situation was, to not play games when they hear a siren, but to run as fast as they could to the nearest safe room. But I comforted them, telling them that the bad guys were shooting missiles from far away in Gaza, and that Hashem was protecting us, and the Iron Dome defense system’s rockets were shooting down the missiles and helping protect us. And that Israeli soldiers were fighting back in Gaza, hurting the bad guys.

What comforted them was knowing that the bad guys were “far away”.

How can I shatter their innocence and tell them that the bad guys weren’t “far away”, but might have been right outside our front door? What will that accomplish other than to make them fearful in their own home? Will that knowledge keep them safer? Probably not…

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It is said that God hears the prayers of tinokot shel beit rabban– little children- best. After hearing about the terror attack in Har Nof, and all those injured, in grave danger, lives hanging in the balance, I decided to pray with my children. I told them that the bad guys were making trouble this morning, and some people were very hurt, and we need to daven for them.

After praying, my oldest decided to draw a picture of the “good guys stopping the bad guys”.

And drew a picture of his interpretation of the Iron dome shooting down missiles.

Oh honey, I wish it were “just” missiles that we could hide in our bomb shelters from, with a minute and a half warning. No, it’s terrorists using anything they can get their hands on to kill Jews- rocks, guns, screw drivers, axes, cars, tractors- and everywhere- in shul, at the train stop where Mommy waits every time she goes into Jerusalem, etc…

“What a beautiful picture” I tell him, mixed feelings about misleading him about this.

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Bittersweet morning this morning, going to my friend’s son’s bris only minutes after we hear on the news that there was a devastating terror attack with 5 killed and many more gravely wounded. When, during the bris, the congregation was singing “tihei hashaa hazos sha’as rachamim vi’eis ratzon milfanecha” (let this time be a time of mercy/compassion and prayers being answered before you), I know what was going through my mind, and that of everyone else there, I’m sure- that now is a time when we certainly need that rachamim

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With all that said, you might be assuming that my life right now is one of constant fear, inability to sleep or remain calm.

Not so.

My life is more or less the same. I just leave my yishuv a little less.

My primary emotion is not fear at all. Its vigilance. I am constantly on the alert, not wanting to let my guard down for fear that it might cost my life or the lives of my children.

And I want a gun. I don’t want to be a sitting duck.

About the Author
Adara Peskin is a non conformist chareidi feminist single mother of 4 living in Kochav Yaakov, activist for mental health awareness, blogger at about living a life with mindful spending, and foraging instructor, attempting to make a kiddush Hashem every day via her interactions with others.