I write this to you as I sit in my apartment’s safe room for the second night in a row, afraid that any moment might bring the siren’s call and the ninety seconds we all have to try and get packed into this sealed-off tiny room to avoid the incoming missiles, and pray that the iron dome or fate saves us from losing our homes, our bodies, or our lives. For the second night in a row I sit with frayed nerves, every sound a possible alert, every clinking plate is a siren, every plane overhead could be a drone, every foot stepped outside is another second less I have of safety if that ninety second window starts closing. I look around me and notice, for the first time, how small this room is, after having tried to jam three adults, three children, and two dogs in it as we wait for the other shoe to drop. I see the blast shields (who would have ever thought I would have said such a real thing in real life) covering the windows, blocking the light out and turning this into a place truly disconnected from the outside world save the device I am typing on now.
If by now you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll make it abundantly clear and tell you exactly what happened to me last night.
The day before yesterday, my landlord’s wife had shown her children how to get inside my apartment from their home and to the safe room in case they weren’t there. If there’s one piece of advice that has stuck with me, it’s this: when the sabras, the natives, start getting worried, that’s when you should get worried.
At about 9:00 p.m. IST yesterday, I experienced my first real rocket attack; siren, running, fear-filled night and all. I was about to take a shower, and was already starting to get undressed. I immediately heard the siren and started throwing on my clothes, knowing that within seconds my landlord’s family was going to be rushing down the stairs to the door that joins our apartment to their home to get into the safe room that I am typing from. I ran into it and saw my terror-stricken wife running towards me as I saw the family from upstairs come through the door. We all ran into the room, my wife yelling that she couldn’t get our dog to go with her. I took a second to calculate whether I had enough time to risk my life to possibly save my dog and I ran out, picked her up, and ran back. We shut the door behind us as the siren was still going off.
Not long afterwards my landlord’s son heard the boom of an explosion far away. It could have been the iron dome itself, the iron dome intercepting the missile, or the missile exploding nearby in an empty area.
We waited and sat trying to stay calm.
It’s crazy to see how children react to situations like this, the mix of excitement, fear, and curiosity.
It’s crazy that children have to grow up like this.
We heard another siren and waited longer. My landlord spoke with his wife who was in the shelter with us, he was away at work in Ramat Gan and also in a shelter.
After about thirty minutes, we all thought it was safe to get out. My apartment was still there, but whatever naivete or innocence I had about rocket attacks was gone.
As so many of my friends have pointed out, this is the first time in over six years since a siren has gone off in Netanya. Many of them joked that this is what makes them Israeli now, part of the collective identity of living life where any place and any time can become a mini war-zone. I thought getting through the hassle at the post office was good enough, but I guess maybe I am a little more Israeli after all of this.
In the moment, all I felt was a feeling of being completely on edge. I was going over everything in my head of what I had in the safe room in case we were trapped here. Did I have enough water? Enough snacks/food for everyone? Did I have food for the dogs? Were my medications here?
About an hour after the attack, all of the adrenaline left my body, and the panic set in. I could feel my heart racing and my chest tightening. Everything in my mind wanted to reject everything, that this couldn’t have just happened, that this wasn’t real. This happens near Gaza. This happens in the south. This happens maybe to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. This doesn’t happen to me. This can’t happen here. I’m safe.
But it did, and I wasn’t.
I had to take a couple of SOS pills.
Seven people are dead from the rockets, including a five-year-old boy, a father and daughter, a soldier, a grandmother, and an Indian national who was a caregiver and whose senior charge was seriously injured.
Lod and many mixed Arab-Jewish cities are seeing riots as I type this, with Arabs burning schools, synagogues, and Jewish residents hunkered down in their homes for fear of a pogrom. There was a stabbing of a Jew in Beersheva, and the suspect is a fellow (Arab) Israeli.
I don’t have the time and patience to tell you how we got to this point, but this article from the Times of Israel does a pretty good job of showing how blocking people from sitting at one of the gates to the Old City of Jerusalem and a real estate case in East Jerusalem led up to this.
The first comment, the very first comment, I got when I posted to social media to tell people that my wife and I were safe after a missile attack was from a family member telling me to get out of there as soon as I could. I told her the same message I would tell the people that sent the rocket careening towards my home:
I am not going anywhere. No one is going to scare me away from my home. No one is going to stop me from being a Jew, living a Jewish life, in a Jewish state, in the Jewish homeland.
I will brave anything to be in this place. I will face every fear I have. I will let my nerves burn with panic and dread, but I will not allow them to make my legs walk anywhere but within the lines that carve out this little place in the desert that we have built up and can call our own.
To those that support Israel, to those that support the idea that terrorism is wrong, to those that believe that democracy and dialogue are always better than war, I ask you to join me in praying for an end to this fighting so that we can face the hard questions of how we make this a better place for everyone. The other side wants to shut down the talks with violence, they want to silence opposition with many masks, talking radical Islam from one side of the mouth while speaking to the left’s identity politics from another (with the latter all too willing to disregard what life would be like under the law of Gaza for them personally).
To those on the fence, I ask you simply to read reliable news and form your own opinion. I am not here to make you a Zionist, I am merely telling you what happened to me, your friend, and what my life is like because of the people a rocket’s reach away from me that want to see me marched into the ocean.
And to those who believe now in BDS, who call Israel an apartheid state, who say the IDF is a war criminal organization, who say that we are killers and murders: unfollow me. You obviously have hardened beliefs that fly in the face of what real life is like, or how history has unfolded. If you cannot see that those statements do not fit in the same world as calling someone who is a proud Israeli, someone who chose to move to this “apartheid” state, a friend, than you need to figure out what is more important. My life was on the line, and the people cheering with you in America might seem nice, but the ones here have their fingers on missile control buttons, and mortar rounds, and incendiary balloons, and anti-tank missiles that are used to kill people just like me.
It could have easily been me.
Maybe I am more Israeli after all of this, but not because I know this new fear. I am more Israeli because I know more where I stand. I stand with my friends. I stand with my brothers and sisters. I stand with my fellow citizens, regardless of religion or background. I stand for peace with security.
I stand (or type) here and say that I am a proud Israeli. No caveats, no apologies, and without reservations. This place is my home, and it will be for the rest of my days. I hope they are long here, and that my death comes surrounded by family and in old age and not by the finger of some terrorist in Gaza; but either way so be it. There is no place I would rather call my home.
Israel will always be where my heart is.
Sending beleaguered love from the Holy Land, hope you send some our way; everybody here could use a little extra these days.