Marcia and I returned home to Jerusalem after a visit to the States less than 72 hours before awakening to the sound of air raid sirens. Early on a quiet Saturday morning, Gaza’s governing terrorist organization Hamas launched another attack upon Israel, this time employing levels of ruthlessness and savagery beyond imagination, crossing every line that separates humanity from soulless fiends.
I have hesitated to write about our recent personal experiences here in Jerusalem—they don’t seem worthy of mention alongside the horrors endured in the south—but after numerous friends had reached out to us through social media, phone calls and email, I decided to share a few thoughts.
After the horrors of October 7, it now seems to have become clear to most Israelis that our government’s willingness to subject its citizens to nearly two decades of harassment and violence from Hamas must end. Meaningless cease fires must end. The cycle of returning imprisoned Jihadists to Hamas after each war must end. If Israel is to survive as a sovereign nation, Hamas’ rule must end.
Marcia and I continue to feel safe in Jerusalem although we are not blind to the fact that risk is always involved whenever an enemy exists 40 miles away with the intent to launch rockets toward us. We are thankful to have arrived back in Israel before the war began. Everyone we know here feels the same. None of us wants to be elsewhere during a crisis in Israel.
Virtually all of us have friends and/or family members, active reservists who have been called up to serve in the IDF. Some were currently living outside of Israel but they rushed here just the same to report for duty. They are, of course, in our thoughts and prayers constantly.
In Jerusalem, jets fly overhead almost continually. From time to time we hear explosions in Gaza as well as from within Hamas-targeted Israeli towns along the Mediterranean coast. Although we routinely hear explosions from missiles launched our way during air raids—there have not been many in Jerusalem since the first morning of the war—the explosions typically are caused by missiles that Israel’s Iron Dome system ignores because they were not projected to strike populated areas. The Iron Dome has worked well, but some missiles inevitably land and cause damage.
Most of the emergency vehicles here in Jerusalem have changed their sirens’ pitch and volume patterns so they don’t sound like the public air raid sirens. It’s a good move. I noticed that after the first series of air raids we experienced my ears would perk up whenever I heard sounds similar to the civil defense sirens. Sounds like trucks on the streets winding out in low gear, for example.
Street rallies in support of the war pop up nearly every day. These are joined by Middle Eastern, American, French, Russian, Ethiopian, religious, secular… All kinds of Jews. They dance to recorded music, wave flags, honk their car horns as they pass and sing hopeful songs. My Hebrew is not good enough to accurately translate the songs’ lyrics but their themes are clear; do not fear, Israel will persevere, someday there will be an end to terror. A few photos taken in our neighborhood…
Surreal is surely an overused word today but it describes day-to-day life in Jerusalem well. Most stores and restaurants are open. The buses are running. Cabs are available. Yet when a neighbor asks, “How’s it going?” it’s common to shrug before answering. How to respond?
Before we left to visit the US we had ordered a new sofa to replace the sagging original we brought here over 12 years ago. The new sofa was held for us in storage, to be delivered when we returned. But when we learned that it had been stored in a warehouse in Sderot, it seemed likely that we might never see it, given what had happened there. (Warning: I understand these links are potentially disturbing. I have only glanced at them.)
I began calling our old sofa our “war couch,” thinking we might never see the new one but, surprisingly, a few days ago workers from Sderot called then showed up at our home to deliver it. They were calm, pleasant and business like during the short time they were with us—amazing demeanor—as if they lived and worked in a peaceful village near the sea.
Am Yisrael Chai. The people of Israel live.