I didn’t hear the sirens. I was praying at the synagogue close to our hotel in Tel Aviv when they went off. My wife and her father were walking on their way to get coffee when they heard them warning us of an incoming missile. My mother-in-law saw the smoke and the explosion from a missile launched by the iron dome from her balcony. The only thing I felt was the constant buzzing of the red alert app on my phone going off, but I only saw the alerts for the communities to the south, close to Gaza. I didn’t know that it would get so close.
It’s a weird experience, to know that for a few moments there was the chance of a rocket haphazardly landing in the middle of our street, on a home, or a hotel, or a synagogue, or a school. I always thought of the rockets as something that plagued the towns next to Gaza and the cities south of Tel Aviv, I never expected to be in a place where the iron dome was needed.
My immediate thoughts were to pack and get the hell back north (at least Hezbollah isn’t firing at the moment). Then, I asked some of my more veteran olim friends about what to do. One friend in particular said something that stuck out at me. After he calmly texted me what was going on and what I could or couldn’t do, he simply said that maybe we should take a trip to Jerusalem and make a day there, show my wife’s family that this is not something that will deter us from living our lives.
We ended up staying in Tel Aviv, toured Jaffa, and frantically searched for a kosher restaurant that was open since non-essential businesses had been closed earlier, and only later allowed to reopen if they were near a bomb shelter.
Other than the delayed lunch, it was a relatively normal day. I had Mexican food. I almost bought something at the market I didn’t need. I walked around the city without being afraid, but knowing that at any moment things could drastically change. I knew that my brothers and sisters in the South were really hurting, and over 150 rockets have been launched from Gaza today. My Facebook feed is filled with images of children hunched down in buses, people looking at gaping holes in their roofs from a rocket falling on their home, and with people huddled close to buildings because they couldn’t get to a shelter in time.
But there was one video that I saw that summed up life here so much that I cannot help but feel hope in the midst of the anxiety and fear. An older woman in Sderot waved down a TV crew reporting what was happening to offer them homemade food. Some pastries, some stew, freshly baked bread. Life here goes on, despite the people that seek to end it.
I’ve seen a lot of things in my seven months here, and now I can say that I’ve been through a red alert. Thank G-d, we are ok, but many people in my country are injured and even more go to bed tonight not knowing whether they will have to run with their loved ones in the middle of the night to a shelter. I cannot say that I know what that is like, and I hope I never have to; but I feel like I understand now a little more of what it means to live in this country. We are always a target, but that cannot stop us from living our lives. Rockets cannot stop us from praying, mortar shells cannot stop us from opening our homes to one another, and terror will never stop us from living life to the fullest at every moment.
Safe here in Haifa again, praying for calm in the South, and hoping that if you’re reading this, you’ll know that Israelis are under attack, but that we will meet anything thrown at us with all of our strength, all while living our lives without compromising our love of life and this land. Much love from Israel, please send some back, we could all use it.