Western media paid little attention to the 100 rockets fired into Israel from Gaza over a four-day period in late August, when 500,000 people were repeatedly forced to take shelter.
However, my family and I experienced the attacks first-hand, felt the terror and came away with a searing memory and a clear sense of what has become commonplace to so many.
The siren (“color red” – Tzeva Edom in Hebrew) was undulating and lasted about a minute. It was piercingly loud, designed to wake one from the soundest sleep. It woke us at 5:45 a.m. on a Shabbat morning in late August. We were 12 altogether: my wife and I, three of our children, one son-in-law and six of our grandchildren. Shabbat at Kibbutz Ein Zurim was meant to be a festive reunion in honor of our granddaughter’s bat mitzvah.
Shortly after the siren ended in our sector, I opened the door and heard it continue sounding farther away. Then I heard the rocket explode in the distance.
A second alarm came at 8 a.m. as we were preparing to go to Shabbat services. In shul, there was only one comment about the attack: a warning to stay in the building during the next alert, but to move away from the windows, which could easily shatter. During morning prayers, Cohanim “duchan” (recite the Priestly Benediction), conveying God’s blessing to the congregation, every day in Israel. As a Cohen, I felt a new immediacy in the verse, “may God bless you and protect you.” That evening, the children and I recited the Sh’ma fervently. All was quiet and we left for Jerusalem on Sunday morning.
But the first alert, sounded as we slept, was terrifying. Since we did not think we could make it to a shelter from our guesthouse, we stood beneath the more fortified entryway and waited. Our hearts pounded for many minutes after the danger had subsided – adrenalin had flooded our systems. How would the grandchildren, so young, handle this? What should we tell them? How should we react?
We also knew that these horrible questions and horrifying circumstances – the fright, the pounding heart, the concern for life, limb and psyche – are common to hundreds of thousands of Israelis across the Negev. And we did not leave the terror behind. We have a son in Jerusalem. Our daughter and her family – with four youngsters under the age of nine – have made the courageous decision to build their home in the northern Negev, close to where this rocket had fallen. If and when the rockets fall again, we’ll know full well the terror they will feel. This is a way of life that has gone on for far too long and for far too many. And the children will remember.
The fact that thousands of Israeli haven’t been maimed or killed by the indiscriminate and cold-blooded attacks can be attributed to God’s protection, poor aim and now Iron Dome. The Gaza-based terrorist unleashing the mortar or the katyusha or the grod missile would rejoice mightily if he or she were to kill and maim. But at least they experience a secondary joy – in the terror we felt that morning.
My wife said that after our experience we all moved to the right politically.
Today, missiles are being lobbed from Gaza where there is not one Jewish settlement, no IDF bases, not one Israeli soldier. And these rockets are being lobbed into the heartland (the pre-1967 border region) of Israel. This is not about occupation. When Israel abandoned Gaza it sought no long-term blockade – only peace and even cooperation with Gazans. This could have been the forerunner – the model of a free Palestinian nation. And a thriving and peaceful Gaza could easily have ushered in a similar development in the west bank. Instead we have the ‘tzeva edom’ – the terrifying siren.
Our children and grandchildren remain in Israel to face an uncertain future. We are home now and preparing for the New Year. I’ve always thought that each year the shofar’s sound carries a unique and personal meaning – a sort of audible Rorschach test. This year I know what I’ll be thinking about when the shofar sounds.
Perry Davis heads a fundraising consultant firm in New York.