The Summer of 2014
6 years ago vlamport 0
Every year since I was born I have traveled to Israel for the summer. I would stay with my family at my grandparents’ house, and we would spend a lot of time with family and friends. Israel became less of a vacation and more my home for the summer. Last summer, however, was different. Never have I had to run into a bomb shelter until that summer. Being in Israel at a time of war made me feel more connected to Israel and proud of my heritage.
It was a Wednesday afternoon in the summer of 2014, and I was out with my mother, sisters, and great aunt. We went out to the nearby outdoor mall, and we were eating ice cream outside enjoying the cool breeze. Everything was normal. The conversation of the table slowly but surely drifted into the topic of where the latest sirens were going off. My mother looked up from her smartphone and announced to the rest of us that just ten minutes ago there were sirens in Tel-Aviv. “Tel Aviv!” I thought. I was completely shocked; Tel Aviv was only a twenty minute car ride away. However, it made more sense to have sirens there, a main and densely populated city, than where we were in Givat Shmuel, a small suburb.
As I was justifying to myself the sirens in Tel Aviv, I heard and saw something I never had before. The world seemed to be moving slower. Although I had never heard these sirens before, the moment I did, my body was consumed with pure fear. First, I looked at my mother; she was scared. Never in my life had I seen that look on my mother’s face. I glanced at my older sister and she was just as confused as I was. Around us there were men, women, boys, and girls all running. They seemed to be running in the same direction, so my and I grabbed each other’s hand and ran in their direction. As we did, my mother grabbed other sister’s hand and followed with my great aunt.
As we got closer, we saw that everyone was rushing inside a tiny room in the mall that I had never before noticed. It was the mall’s bomb shelter. Still holding hands, my sister and I pushed our way through and got inside. While standing there, my mind was racing. How was this possible? How could this be happening?
After roughly twenty minutes, people started leaving, all of them on their phones trying to reach their families. All I heard was: “Where were you when it happened? Is everyone okay? We are all fine.” We drove home as soon as we got out of the bomb shelter because we didn’t know when there would be another siren. As my sisters and I walked into my grandparents house our mother explained to us where the bomb shelters are in each of our relative’s houses. She named a relative and a room; “Grandparents – pantry and laundry room, Uncle – downstairs den, Aunt – guest room…..” I always knew these rooms had strange heavy doors but never questioned why. Now I knew.
This was just the beginning. Several days later, a group of three Jewish boys were kidnapped. Close to a month later, when their bodies were found, Israel declared the start of Operation Protective Edge.
Every day I would wake up wondering where I was going to be during the next siren. I was too scared to walk to my cousins’ house because I didn’t know where there was a bomb shelter on the way there. Twice when I was in the shower there was a siren, so I had to put a towel around myself and walk downstairs to the bomb shelter. We had a minute and a half to get to the bomb shelter, but in some cities people only had fifteen seconds. Fifteen seconds for a mother to grab her children and rush them into the bomb shelter. I could not even imagine how it would be to have fifteen seconds.
Although Israel was at a time of war, as my departure date grew nearer, I began to dread going back home. Every year prior to this one, I have faced the difficulty of having to adjust to being a minority again, however I was not prepared to face a society full of people influenced by bias media about what was going on in Israel. When I was in Israel, my friend sent me a very interesting video of the Rebbe. In the video, it showed different people coming to the Rebbe throughout the years asking if it was safe to go Israel. Each time, he would tell them yes, and that Israel was always the safest place to be. Watching that video made me realize that Israel really is the safest place. When I heard a siren, I was never scared for my life because I knew that the IDF was doing everything to protect me. I knew that the iron dome would intercept the rockets so that no one would get hurt. I knew that Hashem was protecting Eretz Israel.
When I did get home, I did not realize how much I was affected by my experience. For a while, when I would hear an ambulance siren I immediately thought about going to a bomb shelter. More than ever, it was hard to assimilate back into a society filled of people with completely different cultures and opinions of Israel. To stay connected, I would daven every day for the people in Israel, my brothers and sisters.
Up until this point in my life, I could never relate to the stories of people living under the fear of terrorists. I understood it, but could not truly put myself in their shoes. Now I know what it is like to run to bomb shelters. I know what it is like to worry about rockets flying over my head, waiting to hear the explosions. Now when I hear stories about people in war, I see it in a whole different light. With everything that has been happening in Israel in the past month, I have felt even more worried about the people in Israel having not experienced this level of my fear for myself. But then I remember the video of the Rebbe that I saw last summer, and I remember that Israel has always been and will always continue to be the safest place in the world for Jews. We have to stay strong in the face of darkness, and not be afraid because Hashem is protecting us, wherever we are.