Monthly Archives: November 2012

Not taking taking the kids to school for granted

I dropped my kids off at school this morning and the thought foremost in my mind was how lucky I am to be doing this today, on a day when thousands of school kids in Israel, who should be in their classrooms and at their desks, are at home instead. The Home Front Command closed the schools in all towns within 40km Gaza as rockets continue to bombard Southern and Central Israel. This gives me pangs of what I can only compare to survivor guilt. I live just north of the center, not near any area that is attractive to the Hamas as a target, and our schools are open. I can work while my kids study at school. When they come home, they can go to their after school activities and walk around freely. Not so elsewhere.

Kids in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi running for shelter as the siren goes off. (Picture: Israel Defense Forces)

Hamas is holding half of Israel hostage. The barrage of rockets that has intensified over the past days is merely a continuation of the constant bombings that began in 2005. Since then terrorists have fired more than 8,000 rockets into Israel, mainly into the south. So many of us in Israel have tried to express this to the rest of the world. Imagine your neighboring country launching 8,000 rockets into your territory for no reason other than the fact that you live there. It’s hard to believe.

What’s even harder to believe is the indifference of the Western world. Let’s take a look at The New York Times today. On the front page there’s a picture of IDF reserves in their tanks, waiting on the border, not yet engaged. On the inside page, a large picture of an Gazan woman and her daughter taking cover during Israeli Air Force bombings of Hamas targets. Here’s the message from the NYT – Israel – big and strong with lots of tanks and soldiers; Gaza – weak and frail with terrified women and children. No pictures of Israeli children in shelters, no pictures of heavily armed Hamas fighters or their rocket launchers, no pictures of blood-stained floors of Israeli apartments where innocent civilians were killed and maimed by Hamas rockets. Israel is expected to take the rocket fire lying down, literally. The world is OK with seeing innocent civilians lying face down in the streets of Ashdod or Sderot when they don’t have enough time to reach shelter within the minuscule 15-second window between siren and impact.

I don’t wish this situation on anyone, but sometimes I do imagine what would happen if citizens of the US or the UK for example, had to live with seeing their children face down on the sidewalks as rockets fly overhead at a nearby apartment block or having them cooped up at home weeks on end because it’s not safe for schools to be open. I don’t take it for granted that my children are safe and at school. What about you?

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A siren call

“Mom, is something happening there?” It was my 16-year-old son calling me at home from inside a bomb shelter at the Tel Aviv University earlier this evening. I had no idea at the time that sirens had just sounded all over Tel Aviv, sending more than 400,000 people running for shelters.

“Why?” I answered as my stomach churned, because from the sound of his voice and the fact that at that time of the day he should have been in a math tutorial and not on the phone to me, I knew immediately what was going on. The threat of “the gates of hell” had crept north and touched our central plain and its biggest city.

“The sirens went off,” he said. All I could think of was that this was a nightmare scenario come true – my son was far away from me during a time of real fear. I had no control and neither did he. Except that I am the mom, and I should be able to protect him, but I couldn’t.
“Are you in the shelter?” I asked. “Yes,” he replied. “So just stay there. Do as you are told. Don’t leave unless someone who knows what they are talking about tells you to. Call me in five minutes.” I really didn’t know what to tell him. I just mimicked what I had been hearing on the radio all day – follow the instructions of the Home Front Command. But they weren’t there, and I could only pray that there were enough responsible adults to guide my 16-year-old to safety, knowing that university isn’t school and everyone has to take care of themselves.

“Where’s Aba? I can’t get hold of him,” he asked. I realized immediately that my husband was probably in a shelter in his office in one of Tel Aviv’s tallest buildings, one that makes a very attractive target. I couldn’t get through to him either. Later I found out that my son had heard rumors that the rocket had landed right near that building, which had only added to his stress.

Hearing me having this conversation with my eldest, my two other children were mortified and worried. “Don’t worry,” I reassured them. “It will be fine.” It was. Tel Aviv was soon given the all clear and my son went back to class. Eventually my husband called to say they were all OK as well.

This was one incident. It made me shake for hours and will remain with me for many years to come. Down in the south this is the routine. I have never taken their hardship for granted or ignored their suffering. It mortifies me to think that parents in the southern towns send their children to school (when they are open), not knowing what the day will bring and whether their children will reach safety in the mere 15 or 30 seconds they have before rockets crash down around them.

There are no words to adequately describe the feelings parents have when they are incapable of creating the safe havens that they would like to provide for their children.

My son arrived home with my husband hours later. All I want to do is lock the front door and not let them out again. I know I can’t but  I confess that I’d like to. I don’t know what I’d do if I had to live like this for not only days, but years. What I do know is that I never want to receive another phone call from any of my children who are alone in a bomb shelter, far from home and don’t know what’s going to happen next.

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