I live in the center of Tel Aviv, just off Rabin square. After the rocket hit the house in Moshav Mishmeret, it became clear that a major “escalation” (this is how we call those little rounds of “war”) was about to take place, and that there was an increased chance rockets would be fired at Tel Aviv.
Since Protective Edge [the 2014 conflict with Gaza], our family has grown (Yael is 2.5, Avishai is 5, and Tomer is 7.5), and we moved. Our old building had a shelter on the ground floor. This one doesn’t have a shelter, nor does the apartment have a “safe room.” (New apartments in Israel are required to have one fortified room. In Sderot such rooms were added to all apartments by Amigour, with UJA’s support.)
My wife Maya and I had to decide where we should all run if the siren goes off. We decided to go to a little walled study area in the apartment that doesn’t have access to any outer wall or window.
Then we had another decision to make: Do we tell Tomer before he goes to sleep, so that he knows where to run from his top bunk bed, so Maya and I can each grab another kid? Or do we just wake him up and rush him if the siren goes off in the middle of the night?
We decided to tell him. It naturally made him nervous to the degree that he didn’t want to go to sleep at all. We ultimately got him to sleep, and the sirens did not go off in Tel Aviv that night.
But they did go off in Israeli towns near Gaza, as they have pretty much every other night this week. Just like they have every few weeks for the last year. Just like they have every few months for the last 15 years. My 7.5 year old son was nervous about going to sleep just from the idea of a possible siren. My 2.5 year old has not experienced running to the shelter yet. Sixteen-year-old teenagers in the Gaza envelope don’t know a life without it.
On my many visits to Israel, I’ve met those 16-year-olds in border towns, and they bear deep psychological scars from living under constant threat. Yet, their story isn’t often told.
The Israel Trauma Coalition, an organization created and supported by UJA, reports that many Israelis who live in the Gaza envelope feel that security issues only garner attention when the center of the country is targeted. Understandably, this can lead to a sense of isolation and impede their ability to cope. For many nights before Monday, deafening explosions were heard near the border, yet there was little to no mention in the media. On Tuesday, schools in this area were closed so children could recover from a sleepless night.
Israel has now entered Shabbat bracing for mass demonstrations in Gaza, marking the one-year anniversary of the initial Palestinian “March of Return.” Tensions are running high, additional Israeli troops have been deployed to the border, and there is deep concern about the prospect of an all-out war.
From far away, it’s hard for us to imagine just how much every rocket and every siren affects people’s lives. I thank Uri for sharing his story, and pray for calmer days and peaceful nights for children in Israel and across the region.