Perspective from Israel from Fellowship friend Florence Broder:
I own a government-issued gas mask. It was simple really; I ordered it over the phone from the post office. As an American living in Israel for over two years, I never thought I’d say that sentence.
It took me awhile to order the mask – it wasn’t like I got off the plane in Israel and checked that task off my list. When there is peace in Israel, it lulls you into a false sense of security. Most Israelis in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are just living their lives. They go to work, they have families, the young people go clubbing, and, always, there are people sitting outside at cafes. The fact is that’s how Israelis truly want to live. They don’t want to have to arm themselves, and they certainly don’t want to send their children off to war. They are still not accustomed to the sight of young soldiers in the streets in military garb. Mothers, wives, and children wait for their sons, husband, and fathers to turn 40, the age when men are no longer required to serve military reserve duty.
Israelis’ sense of security is very fragile, and deep down we all know it can change in a moment. And yesterday it did for me, as missiles from the Gaza Strip were fired at the area near Tel Aviv where I live. As sirens sounded in the city, my heart raced. It took a few seconds for the adrenaline to kick in and make me realize: This is not a drill; it’s for real, and I need to take cover. When you move to Israel, you know this situation is possible, but you pray and hope that it will never happen. When I still lived in New York and there was a terrorist attack or a military threat on Israel, I was always on the edge of my seat, worried about my friends and family members serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). I would immediately call and email loved ones to check on whether they were okay. Yesterday, I was on the receiving end of those calls and emails, with my phone ringing off the hook and my inbox quickly filling up.
Part of me is scared right now. I even wonder if I should go back to America. But I pray for the strength to ride this out, because it’s important, and Israel is my home. Americans got a firsthand taste of terrorism on 9/11. I was in New York at the time, and no one thought about abandoning the city because of the attacks. We resolved to persevere and overcome this evil. We took action on a national level too, immediately invading Afghanistan to go after Osama bin Laden, the architect of the attacks. Americans believe we have the right to defend ourselves, and want to see justice done. The feeling in Israel is the same; we will defend ourselves, and our country.
Israel is now acting in self-defense because it had no choice. It was pushed into a corner and had to protect its citizens. No other government in Israel’s situation would do otherwise. And as scared as I am, I feel the need to do something to help. All Israelis do. Many people in other parts of the country are opening their homes to strangers from southern Israel and taking them in until this conflict ends. I am spending a lot of time on Facebook and Twitter because I am on the front lines fighting another war – the war against anti-Israel propaganda on social media. It’s one that Israel has lost in the past, and it’s one that it can’t afford lose this time. The stakes are too high.
Today I am hosting people at my house for the Sabbath dinner. Traditionally Jews on Friday welcome the Sabbath by singing Shalom Alecheim, meaning “peace unto you.” When my friends and I gather around the table to sing it tonight, it will have an entirely different meaning. And with that I ask that you pray for peace, and for Israel to overcome this evil.
Florence Broder is a New Yorker who made aliyah and now lives in Tel Aviv. She is passionate about Israel, travel, and social media. You can follow her on Twitter @flogolightly.