After the upbeat tone of my last two columns, I sat down to write this one with a sense of dread. In my prior columns, I enjoyed sharing colorful vignettes about everyday life in Israel from the perspective of a new immigrant from Monmouth County.
In my personal life, I am steadfast in my efforts to share the magic of Israel with my friends and family in the States, especially those who are not familiar with Israel. Especially those who only know Israel via the distorted lens of biased news networks.
Since we moved here in July, I have relentlessly posted photos on Facebook of the beautiful places we have visited. Beaches, waterfalls, and natural springs. Holy sites, Roman aqueducts, and camel rides in the desert. Fields of citrus, fennel, and flowers. The pomegranate trees that shade our daughter’s bus stop.
Alas, life can change without even a moment’s notice in Israel. As Hamas began firing missiles at Israel, my ‘figs and flowers’ Facebook campaign went up in smoke. I watched the news with horror as southern Israel was barraged.
We are fine, I assured everyone who called and e-mailed. We live in one of the smallest (and least targeted) towns in central Israel, populated by more artichoke plants than people, I said. A town so small that not many Israelis, let alone Hamas, have heard of it.
But, as the war persisted and rockets began falling as close as 12 miles away (near Rishon Letzion), a lump grew in my throat each time I reassured callers we were OK.
Our roof and windows rattled day and night with each distant boom. I prayed for peace. I prayed that the booms were missiles being obliterated by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense system. Some were. Some weren’t.
(According to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1,500 rockets were fired at Israel since Operation Pillar of Defense started on Nov. 14, about half of which hit Israeli territory. The Iron Dome intercepted more than 85 percent of those during the operation — some 400 rockets —preventing them from striking populated areas.)
I tracked each missile attack on my iPhone, Map Questing each hit’s proximity to our backyard. I can only imagine how the blasts felt to those in southern Israel whose backyards were actually hit (see related article, page 5).
Our 11-year-old daughter weathered her first war experience with remarkable fortitude. Her after-school youth group was canceled one day when the nearby city of Modi’in was locked down as police searched for a terrorist suspected in the bombing of a Tel Aviv bus. It saddens me that not even five months have passed since we made aliya, and her Hebrew vocabulary already includes words for “terrorist,” “missile,” and “bomb shelter.”
Thanksgiving fell a day after the war ended in a ceasefire. We didn’t need a turkey and candied yams to feel immensely thankful. The silence in the sky and on the ground expressed it beautifully for us.
But for how long will that expression last?