I love living in Israel (have I ever mentioned that before?).
Even now, as terrorists send missiles over half the country, I love living here.
I live in Jerusalem. We’ve had two missiles launched in our direction this week. On two occasions I heard the air raid siren. The first, we were at home preparing for Shabbat – we took our children and went to the basement of our apartment building. My native Israeli husband knew what to do – find the most protected spot and wait ten minutes. The second, I was at work at Hebrew Union College and was near the bomb shelter, joining my son and his kindergarten class there. One teacher asked the kids to explain why we are here. Tears came to my eyes as five-year-olds said matter-of-factly, “There was a missile sent over by people who want to hurt us. But we are in a safe place.” And all the kids were calm – my son was in a corner, not noticing me, playing with his friend. My daughter slept through it during her afternoon nap at her pre-school (she was in a safe place) and my native Israeli husband was driving to the university. Did he stop the car and run into a building? No, he kept driving.
After both air raids, I was shaken up, unsettled. I tried to imagine the person who sent the rocket, its trajectory over Israel toward Jerusalem, the second it appeared on the radar screen of the Israeli army and the person who pressed the air raid siren button, all the people running for cover or not, and finally the explosion in the field near Palestinian villages outside of Bethlehem both times. This is not a war, I think. This is terrorism.
I think of my fellow dwellers here who are all equally suffering the terror – Jews and Arabs and visitors from other countries – especially those in southern Israel who hear air raid sirens on an hourly basis. There is a law that all buildings built after a certain year must have a bomb shelter. Also, these missiles that are sent over have really, thank G-d, killed and injured very few people. This is terrorism – ruining the economy for the week, putting people in a state of panic. Look what two missiles toward Jerusalem has done — people are afraid, edgy, children having nightmares and crawling into bed with their parents. I imagine what hundreds have done to people in the south.
As Nancy Lewitt, the director of student services at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem, relayed to me what her native Israeli husband said to her during the Persian Gulf War (remember, Israelis were carrying gas masks and preparing for biological warfare), “Israelis don’t leave.” I look over the course of 2000 years of history and am reminded again of the powerful meaning and miracle of having a Jewish homeland today. This is our place, and we, in the end, need to be relying upon ourselves to protect ourselves. All Jews around the world need to be mindful of the importance of having Israel and of having Jews who are dedicated to making our lives here, in good times and in times of trouble.
The solution is peace. I ask my government to make peace with the Palestinians in the West Bank to show the other Palestinians that terror is not the means to achieve nationhood. I truly hope that my government leaders want peace and don’t just make excuses because they hold a false belief that one day all the Palestinians will leave and they will rule over all of “the complete Land of Israel” (whatever that is, anyway). I pray that the Palestinians will demand from their leaders to live in peace with the Jews and that they can understand that making peace can create opportunities that will help us all flourish and thrive.
I have to admit, I think I need to do more personally to help the situation. We were happy to host friends from the South as much as we could and as much as they felt comfortable with. I hope we can take part in rebuilding efforts when this is all over. Soon there will be elections in Israel, and I plan to help those who are running for office who I believe can do the best to secure Israel’s future. I will continue to teach about tolerance and peace and continue to prove that this is a central tenet of our Jewish sources and heritage. And I need to explore other ways to take action. If you know of some, let me know, and I will share with you what I discover as well.