Written by Chani Turk (’92) in the wake of rockets pounding on Israel.
I have never really been in a war before. Not a real one, not like this. Yes, I was here for the other two operations in Gaza, and although I did my fair share of sending packages to the chayalim and ordering pizza for the people who live in the southern communities, I have never felt it like I feel this one. When it first started, we here in Modiin all kept waiting to hear the siren. I would start to run for safety at every car alarm. While at Rami Levi, I heard a loud noise, jumped and looked around to see if anyone else was running toward the miklat, before I realized it was just an industrial vacuum cleaner. And every time this happened, I would think of the people in the south who have lived with these startling reactions for too long.
On Wednesday, I was at the gym when my friend called me to tell me that the forest where our boys’ go to camp had a siren. I called to find out that the kids turned out to be okay and Ilan, my son, was a brave little man. I thanked him and hung up the phone and started to cry. I did not think I would cry. I have been calm and stoic, and I know that the iron dome is a great system of protection. Yet, I cried because my 9-year-old had to run into a shelter without me. I cried because truth be told, no matter the facts and the statistics, it is scary to think that missiles are being shot at us. Missiles.
Sirens in every city it seems, but still no sirens in Modiin. We all wonder about the oddness of that and make jokes about it. We are all still waiting for that sound to begin. On Thursday, our daughter, Goldie, texted us from Dimona. She is volunteering at an old age home and day center there as part of her overnight camp activities. She had a siren. She is two hours away from me, and I can’t get to her. I can’t run to her to protect her. Instead, she is helping to protect others. She has helped some of the residents get into the miklat. And she is fine; She is not scared. That alone makes me feel better. Her bravery makes me a little braver. That, however, was not Goldie’s last siren of the day. Later that evening, she called us from her phone. The girls were back in Arad. The camp had taken the girls, with the okay from the home front command, on a hike near the Dead Sea, just about 10 minutes from their dorms. There was a siren—out in the open—with no shelter to run to and nowhere to take cover. The girls did as they are told and lay flat on the ground with their hands covering their heads. This position offers protection from shrapnel. Shrapnel. When I was 14, my vocabulary did not include the term shrapnel. She is fine. It was scary and a lot of girls were crying, but she was not.
At some point in all this, I am confused with days and times. I hear of a rocket that is fired from Lebanon, in the north, where another daughter is. This scares me. I feel like she is so far from home, and I do not want the war to reach her up in the Golan where the camp is located. It scares me to think of an escalation from our northern border, it scares me to think of her running to a shelter, but it also scares me to think of her having to come home and drive all that long distance in a bus on the open road. These are scary thoughts. Hopefully these thoughts will be unrealized, but they are there, and I can’t help them. I am a mother. Fortunately, we heard that rocket was not the responsibility of Hezbollah, but just some small group who had their own little agenda, and the Lebanese army actually arrested the perpetrators. Ok, good, I feel better – it does not seem Lebanon wants to get involved yet.
Friday afternoon was a flurry of phone calls-I had to talk to Ruth and Goldie to say I love you a million times, tell them to listen to any instructions, to stay safe and to keep having fun. This all in the same breath. Irony is Israel’s middle name. Then, I had to talk to everyone in America. Afterward, I lit Shabbat candles, took a deep breath and tried to welcome some sort of peace because now, there was no news, no phone calls and no texts. We didn’t leave a radio on so we heard nothing all Shabbat, sort of a strange and surreal feeling.
Shabbat life here felt normal, with meals and visitors and yet, thinking all the time that this is strange. We knew there were so many communities and people whose Shabbat was not quiet, peaceful or relaxing. Surreal and disconcerting. Three stars appeared, and the computers go on. Who has been bombed, who has spent Shabbat in the shelter, have there been any injured? What has been going on in our world outside Modiin for the past 25 hours? It is upsetting, but not surprising, to see the list of the cities where sirens had gone off. Ashkelon seemed to have been pretty hard hit the last bit before Shabbat was over, but B”H, no injuries or major damage anywhere that we could see. I assumed all was okay with Ruth. There was no news in the north and had not heard from the camp…not hearing is a good thing, I guess. I put Amalia to bed, fought a bit with Ilan to get into bed, and then it happened: the sound we all know but have never heard in Modiin started its wail and was heard plainly through our windows. “Get the baby,” I yelled to my son Daniel, as we both ran up to get her. I yelled to my husband, as I ran up the stairs, “Close the window, Moshe!” Ilan and our guest ran into the mamad, as Moshe was sliding the steel barrier shut on the window. Daniel picked up a very confused Amalia, and down we ran. Breathless, we ran into the mamad and Moshe closed the door. We all sat on the floor on the inside walls of the mamad as we had been told to do. And we caught our breath. All was okay, we weren’t really even scared, just sort of surprised that it had finally happened to us. Now we were a part of it. Now we could imagine a tiny bit better what the people in the south feel. While we waited out the prescribed 10 minutes after the siren sounds, I thought about composing a letter to my mom:
Dear Mom, it would read,
Do you know how your two daughters and niece spent their Saturday night? We spent it in our respective bomb shelters texting each other. A shared experience. Whose kids are up, whose are still sleeping through it, who is scared, who is calm? Sharing and comforting each other from our different cities but all in the same small concrete and steel rooms.
I do not think that this is a letter a mother wants to receive or read. This is not a letter anyone should have to write. And yet, this is a letter, with some details changed as the years go by, that has been written over and over and over by the citizens of this tiny state of Israel (probably not about texting each other in 1948 though, I’m just guessing).
We finally left the mamad and re-put the kids to bed. They did not yet have time to fall asleep before we heard the wail again and again. We ran into the mamad. This time, a bit more calmly, this time, knowing better what to do. The atmosphere in the mamad is not a bad one, we are not sad, depressed or even scared. Through the miracle of the iron dome, the absolute nes that is this machine, we are able to sit there in relative comfort with the knowledge that we are pretty well protected. And yet, this does not stop me from thinking. As I take a very fast shower, I think about the fact that if I lived in any of the southern communities, I would cut my girls hair short (boy short) because shampooing, conditioning and rinsing long hair just takes too long. It just takes too darn long. And then I think what an awful thing it is to have to live in a world where I have to have those thoughts.
The night was quiet in Modiin and the 6AM wake up call by Hamas was something to see: Moshe Turk got out of bed faster then he has ever gotten out of bed in his life. I was impressed. And I am seriously thinking about recording the next siren we hear to use it to get him to shul on time. We sat that one out in relatively good spirits, taking the obligatory “mamad selfie” everyone seems to be posting on Facebook these days (for the record, we just took the picture, but did not post it).
The day began. It began relatively fright free. We went about our days aware and stayed close-ish to home, but did not hover at the mamad‘s door. And yet throughout the day, and now tonight, after our bedtime siren has come and gone, Amalia is sleeping, Daniel and Ilan are out watching the soccer World Cup final at their friends’ houses, and I am sitting here with one ear open, in order to hear the first rise of that siren we all are becoming accustomed to. Someone said they felt helpless and depressed. I don’t .
Despite the reality of living in a time of war and with all of the thoughts and anxieties that come with that, I am not feeling helpless. I feel proud. I feel so proud of my country, my army and our boys and girls who are out there fighting for us, for all of the people of Israel who have had enough of this terrorism. I feel proud and blessed. I feel proud that we are a moral, upstanding and strong army. We are Israel. We are the children of our forefathers, and we are the children of a people who have survived the darkest of nights many times over. We are the children of a people who lived through the miracle of the establishment of the state of Israel. We are here, we are strong and we can defend ourselves. I want to shout it out loud-Am Yisrael Chai! We will not be stepped on! We will not be silenced or pushed into the sea. We will fight to hold onto this land and we will fight to live safely in this land because this is our land. It is in our blood, it is our right, it is our inheritance. I love this land. And despite the difficulties, I would not want to be any place else right now. I am happier sitting in my bomb shelter than I would be sitting anywhere else in the entire world. I know that my family and I are in the exact place we are supposed to be. This knowledge gives me comfort through all the other feelings that come and go in these days of war. May Hashem continue to protect us all.