Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Our New Reality

I thought that after the summer from hell, I wouldn't ever be able to write again. I could never accurately describe the terror of hiding in the bomb shelter, of receiving constant Red Alert notifications, of the obsessive need to check the news to make sure that my friends and family were still as safe as one can possibly be while living in Israel. I will never forget hearing the news of the 13 Golani soldiers who were killed in action, hoping and praying that it wasn't true, and worse hoping and praying that it wasn't anyone I knew. I will never forget the funeral of the lone soldier Max Steinberg, his family's eulogies, and seeing his body being carried on the shoulders of his fellow Golani soldiers. 

I will never forget this past summer. It was the summer the IDF finally went into Gaza. It was the summer that I realized what it is like to actually live in Israel, to be an Israeli. It was the summer that I learnt how to get up every day and go about my normal life despite the terror around me. We got used to the sound of the air raid sirens, finding shelter at any time, and in any location. We saw the Iron Dome shoot missiles out of the sky above our head, and we thought it was exhilarating. We made a joke out of the music video that Hamas put out intended to strike terror in our hearts, instead danced to it at clubs and listened to it on the radio.
The ceasefire signed, the people outraged, the summer ended, the country on the brink of war.

Today I woke up to the sound of the helicopters, knowing before I even opened my eyes that something terrible had happened. Today I woke up to the news of a deadly attack in a synagogue in a neighborhood relatively close to mine. Two terrorists wielding axes and butcher knives walked into a synagogue during the morning prayer and proceeded to slaughter the men inside. Men in middle of saying the prayer of peace, men wrapped in their tallit (prayer shawls), men who just wanted to go to synagogue that day to pray to their God, their loving, kind, gracious God who determines the course of every action in this world. 

A scene reminiscent of the Holocaust, the bloody stain on world history that we promised for years that We Will Never Forget. 

They say this attack breaks the records of depravity and cruelty. They say this attack is a declaration of war. 

We got used to the air raid sirens. We got used to the concrete blocks by the train stations that were put there to prevent terrorists from driving into pedestrians waiting for the train. We got used to the smell of tear gas in the air, the sound of gunfire, the constant news of riots all around us. 

Is this what happens now? Is that what we're supposed to get used to? Is this the new ridiculous insane level of the reality that we're expected to tolerate in order to live in this country?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

'If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?' --Shakespeare

This wasn't how I was going to start this post. I have been thinking about it for 3 weeks now, wondering how can I put my feelings into words, how I can express the emotions I am feeling.

I didn't sleep the entire night. Not even for 30 seconds. I lay in bed for close to three hours before I realized that I had to get up to work. Despite the fact that I hadn't yet fallen asleep, I still had to get out of bed and be a functioning member of society. I couldn't sleep because I couldn't turn my brain off. I couldn't stop thinking about what is next for this country. I couldn't stop thinking about what feels like the impending doom, about the non stop riots, about the barrage of rockets.
I couldn't stop thinking about all the people in South, all the people who haven't slept peacefully in 12 years.

I just watched a 20 minute documentary on the reality of what it is like to live in Sderot. A city so close to Gaza, that a day without a rocket attack is unusual for them. I heard siren alerts, saw videos of Israeli citizens running to bomb shelters, heard the situation explained in a way that hit closer to home than it ever has before. The video showed a park where there is this bomb shelter, disguised as a caterpillar. A friendly place for the young children to run to when the siren goes off. A place to run to when these kids have 15 seconds to get to shelter before the rocket lands somewhere in their city. Fifteen seconds for children to make a decision that no one should ever have to make. These are little kids. Kids who continue to grow up underneath the umbrella of terror. Kids who have so much PTSD that the pictures they draw of their families include them hiding in these shelters. Kids whose 'Ring Around The Rosie' games incorporate running into the giant caterpillar in their playground.

Less than 5 minutes after I finished this video, I went outside to get some fresh air. I saw 7 little Israeli kids playing right outside my house. This is the first time in the two years that I have lived in this neighborhood that I have seen Israeli kids playing in the neighborhood. They were playing hide and seek. They were hiding behind a block of concrete, around a pillar, fearless, and powerful.

In that moment I imagined these same Israeli kids in Sderot. Playing hide and seek in their playground, hiding in their caterpillar, playing the game until the siren goes off and then the game turns into reality, and the kids are hiding in their caterpillar because there is a rocket headed their way. A rocket fired at them by terrorists in the Gaza Strip who have one mission, one goal, and that is to wipe out the Jewish people.

I downloaded this special new app, an app that sends me a notification every time there is a 'Color Red' alert anywhere in Israel. I get a notification every time the air raid siren goes off and I have been getting notifications what feels like non stop for the past three days. Notifications that meant that somewhere very close, citizens of Israel were running to the closest bomb shelter.

I am an Israeli citizen. I will always be an Israeli citizen. I am also an American citizen. I grew up in America and lived there for the majority of my life. It makes me sick that America calls for Israel to resume peace talks, for Israel to sign yet another ceasefire with Gaza, another ceasefire that they will break as soon as they have the opportunity. It makes me sick that America expects my country, my nation, the Jewish people, to sit passively and take this constant barrage of rockets. It makes me sick that the entire world is looking at Israel right now, waiting for us to 'God Forbid' step out line. Waiting for us to make a 'dramatic, unrestrained' move to defend ourselves.

I know that if I was in my house in America and an air raid siren went off, the entire world would be in shock and the entire world would call for Americans to rise in arms and defend themselves. Why isn't Israel afforded the same right? Why aren't Israelis allowed to defend themselves - their families, their property and their lives - without fear of the wrath of the world?

Americans wouldn't even recognize the sound of the air raid siren if they heard one. In Israel, the air raid siren is so frequent that when you hear something that sounds even remotely like the sound of the siren winding up, your heart starts beating faster, and your mind goes on overdrive looking for shelter, you get that extra rush of adrenaline that will help you get to safety. Because in Israel the possibility of having to hear the siren is very real.

One rocket in America and there would be utter chaos. Hundreds of rockets in Israel, and we are told to behave with caution, to not add gasoline to the fire.

Why isn't Israel allowed to put out the fire? Why isn't Israel allowed to take action to annihilate the terrorism that goes on all around us?

The video I refer to.