Rockets exploding...War in your back yard...Friends being sent to fight. When you grow up in a country like America there are certain experiences you never have to go through, certain situations that you never have to feel close to or connected to; a luxury that one does not have if they live in a country like Israel. My move to the Middle East was about finding myself by throwing myself into the unfamiliar, for this is when I feel you learn the most about who you are. Despite my residency in Israel for over a year, and despite a feeling of familiarity with the country, I have once again been plunged into the unfamiliar.
This afternoon when I returned home from Ulpan I discovered that, after two days of Southern Israel being bombarded with over 100 rockets fired from neighboring Gaza, the Israeli Army succeeded in killing Hamas's military chief, Ahmed Jabari, in a coordinated air strike. Naturally, once this occurred a statement was issued by Hamas informing that "Tel Aviv will burn tonight". I live in Tel Aviv... This is not the first time an enemy group has threatened to wipe out Tel Aviv, nor is this the first time Israel has been engaged in an offensive with Gaza or a neighboring enemy, but this is the first time I have been in the country during any such operation. It amazing how in the span of a few hours my thoughts changed from the amazing time I had with my boyfriend and his family yesterday to thoughts of being caught in the middle of a war. It really puts things in perspective.
It became real for me when my roommate, who is currently in the Israeli Army, called to see if my other roommates (who are former soldiers) were called back to duty to go fight. One of my roommates was in one of the highest combat units in the army and should they be called into Gaza he will be going with them. These are my friends; people I have shared a life and a home with for over a year. The thought of any of them going to war, frankly, scares the living daylights out of me. But this is what people deal with here; family members, daughters, sons, brothers, mothers and fathers, husbands, boyfriends, might have to leave at any moment to defend this tiny country we all call home and love so much. Here in Israel we don't have snow days, but we have days where you can't go to school or work because you are stuck in a bomb shelter while rockets rain down from neighboring enemies. This is life here.
Surprisingly, however, because this has been apart of daily life in Israel since her inception, most Israelis (or people who have lived here for a long time) seem so used to these situations. It's another war, we've had many and we will continue to have many as long as there are people who want us destroyed. I'm sitting here practically hyperventilating and my boyfriend is on the phone with me as calm as can be because this is just life here; a life that is very hard to grasp when you are American. Yes we have had wars but they have never been in our back yards; this is something so different. I have a bomb bunker in my apartment because most buildings in Israel are built around a concrete "tube" that will hold up if the building falls due to bombs. This is a concept so foreign to a girl who grew up in quiet, little Palm Springs California... a bomb bunker in my home.
I don't know what the next few days will bring, if there will be a war, if rockets will reach Tel Aviv, etc. But what I do know is that through it all I feel more safe here with rockets going off 20 minutes away then I have ever felt in the United States. I don't know how dangerous the situation might become but despite it all I love this country more than almost anything in the world, and I am honored, every day, to call Israel my home. I may be too old to serve in the army but I will defend this country vigorously and in any way that I can, whether with words, or through volunteer work, or some other means. This place is my home and one of the great loves of my life; I made a commitment to this country a long time ago to be with her through the good and the bad, and it is one of the most important commitments I have ever made.
There is a reason that we are surrounded by enemies yet seem to prosper and flourish...Israel is a testament to the fact that size means nothing, and the quality of the people that make up this brilliant country mean everything. And so I end by saying a prayer for Israel- my home, my haven, and my great love. To her protection, safety, and continued prosperity in the face of bitter adversity: