An Account of Life in Israel Right Now
How can I write an account of what it is like to live through alerts, sirens, and constant worry? To be so immersed in minute-by-minute reporting; thoughts of soldiers, political and military decision makers, children’s reactions, world opinion, and the effect on tourism, economy, quality of life, our personal and national security, and our future here? I'm proud to be a leader of the largest Progressive Jewish congregation in Israel, and I cannot represent anyone other than myself - but in my story there may be a common thread with others who are psychologically and physically swept up with the dangers literally on our front steps.
The summer began for me on June 28th at the closing event of Nagshim, our wonderful sisterhood at Beit Daniel in Tel Aviv. We met on the roof of a member’s home for an evening meal and to close our programming year in our traditional, relaxing way. However, that date also coincided with the enormous rally in Tel Aviv for the safe return of the three kidnapped young men. The street we were on was an access to the rally, so it was closed by police to traffic. As we joined together, streams of quiet, concerned Israelis moved along to form an enormous collective of prayer, concern, song, and hope and so it was part of our focus that night, too.
The next evening, with the discovery of the boys' bodies, the troubled hearts of all in Israel and around the world shuddered in horror and mourned with tearful eyes. Afterward, there was the incomprehensible and horrific killing of an Arab teenager and the hunt for the perpetrators, who are now facing charges.
This situation felt like a terrible blow to my identify as a Jew and an Israeli. Never could I imagine that forces within Israel existed that could be so charged with hate as to take a life and violate human law. Thus, it seemed to squeeze out our many humanitarian acts and make us seem as if we lacked morals because we could raise young people so filled with violence.
And then the rocket attacks began, unfortunately not new to many Israelis. But this time, it was a threat to all Israelis. It didn’t matter whether you lived in Sderot, Be’er Sheva, the Negev, or Tel Aviv, you would be shaken by each rocket entry. It became a severe awakening that you cannot take your presence here for granted as there are dangerous people committed to destroying our lives.
So how do my days look? I now reside in the northern part of the country and apparently, for now, I am under no immediate military threat from Gaza, as I may be out of range. I have been listening to the news and radio and reading updates on my phone from when I wake in the morning to when I go to sleep at night. I am flooded with opinions, advice, guidelines, experts, announcements, and alerts. There is a strong consensus here that Israel must protect itself.
I switch to the U.S. news occasionally to see if the reporting is favorable to Israel and try to imagine what my friends, family, sisterhood members, and others may be thinking. I watch the trajectory of these rockets almost in live time, and while feeling heavy and frustrated from these attacks, I also am also in awe at the success of the Iron Dome, the rocket of ours that tracks Hamas’ rockets, meets it in the sky, and pulverizes it before it touches earth, destroying it before it destroys us. I am rightfully proud that Israel, so full of tension and fear, is acting to save innocent lives in Gaza. Yet all the time the question keeps pumping away in my heart and mind: Can we really function this way?
Just this week, new olim (immigrants) from the U.S. arrived in Israel to build lives here and identify with the Jewish State, no matter what. This feeling of strengthening our ranks, of common destiny and support, is heartening.
Last week, in a radio interview, clinical psychologist and television personality Zippy Gon-Gross explained how her young granddaughter, while attending Beit Daniel’s nursery school program, practiced going into the designated shelter areas and received a “hero” sticker at the end of the routine. This is part of our reality here.
Twenty-two years ago, sitting with gas masks here in Israel during the Gulf War, I wrote this to my then-5-year-old child:
And so, my precious child
This kiss will surely show
That there are things in life
I wish you didn’t know.
This saga, this strange story
Release us from its pull
To let you live your lifetime
As a child; to its full.
May we know days of peace and comfort for the children, for the children of the world, for the State of Israel.
Janet Toar is co-chair of Nagshim at Beit Daniel in Tel Aviv.
Join Stop the Sirens, the Jewish community's joint effort to help our brothers and sisters in Israel. Learn more about the current situation in Israel from Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism.