Let me start off by saying what I am writing about are my personal experiences, thoughts, and beliefs. I am not ‘well’ educated on the matter and have plenty to uncover about the complexities of the situation in the region but from the little I do know, and what I personally went through, this was how it made me feel and what I experienced being here on the ground. Take it with a grain of salt and most importantly, look at the situation with an open perspective. looking to create peace, not divide. This is a moment in time where we as humanity should really consider what are we setting up for future generations in the region and the world at large. If it is about having one group of people win and the other lose then we all lose. If people invested a little more time thinking deeply about the reality they wanted to create rather than point the finger of blame, we may find ourselves reading a different narrative on how we bridge the gap to create a better reality for all.
Here is my account of the 11 days that I personally experienced. I don’t know what it was like to live in Gaza, Jerusalem, or even Jaffa just 15 minutes down the road from me but this is what it felt like TO ME:
On Tuesday, May 11 at 8:30 pm I was on a work call with the US which is typical for me, sitting in my home office. Tali, my fiancé arrived home from work and was out walking the dog. Everything was relatively normal, of course, I was aware of the unrest in Jerusalem and that rockets were being fired down south. This was nothing particularly out of the ordinary. ‘escalations’ as it is typically described happens regularly but the news media rarely covers it as it’s not a story that commands attention. People rarely lose their lives and that is not sellable news. At 8:50 pm while on the call, I heard the early warning incoming missile alert system ring out. At first, I didn’t give it too much thought. I’d, unfortunately, heard this a number of times before back at the start of 2019. Then, it was a flash in the pan and life resumed as quickly as the sound had pierced the city skyline. It was inside sixty seconds of sirens ringing this time, still continuing the call even asking the person on the other end ‘can you hear the sirens, it means there are rockets coming in’ almost disregarding them if I’m honest that I realized moments later this time was different. My first instinct, while still on a zoom call was to call Tali receiving no answer realizing her phone was still at home. I was still not in a state of ‘panic’. It’s very hard to process a new experience like that so quickly. I waited eagerly for her to get home safe. Those videos that everyone watches online of rockets being shot down like star wars, it feels very different when you see rockets mid-air followed by the much more frightening loud explosions of missiles being intercepted by missiles. You are also acutely aware that falling debris is also something that you should worry about. Tali ran into my office which is a bomb shelter (we are one of the lucky ones that have one inside our apartment and don’t need to run to a basement if you have one at all) panicked and in tears. She was frightened, afraid, and unsure of what she should have done explaining what it was like outside seeing ‘so many rockets’ and hearing the explosions. She continued to explain to me that Dusty (our dog) was running scared and she wasn’t sure what she should have done. This was our first time. She proceeded to explain her considerations, should she have run into an apartment closer and gotten to shelter quickly? Should she have rushed home? It was at that point very unknown and a new experience and to be outside, hearing the explosions, and seeing everyone running panicked to shelter is something I hope no one has to experience anywhere. Again, this is not to draw parallels to Gaza, what the Palestinian people experienced during the proceeding days but simply to share what it felt like for ME. We are lucky at the tremendous value Israel places on protecting human life and for that, I am thankful for mine. I proceeded to close the bomb shelter window as quickly as I could, they are heavy iron windows set outside with a very thick window inside of it with space in between. We closed the bomb shelter door and we waited for about 10 minutes. I also indicated to the client, still on the line that that wasn’t a great time right now and we jumped off.
It was a pretty crazy experience that first night but like Israel and the Israeli mentality, you just get on with it. You live life and you don’t sweat the concerns of yesterday for there would be no tomorrow here if time was given to dwell on events gone by.
We went to sleep that night in our bedroom only to be woken up by sirens at 3 am. We proceeded to go back into the bomb shelter and slept on the couch for the rest of the night. The next night (or the one after) the same event happened and as a result, we diced to spent the next 8 nights sleeping on the pull-out couch in my office with the dog. The craziest part is hearing the popping of the Iron Dome shooting the missiles out of the sky. As much as I love technology, I have a new appreciation for it. This was a ‘new’ experience in the heart of modern-day Tel Aviv, to hear that and at that level of frequency at least in the past 7–8 years that I’m aware of. Not even during the last ‘war’ 7 years ago before I was here did we see this sort of activity.
The other aspect slightly less covered and of equal if not greater concern was the unreset across the country, particularly the places that are cohabitated with Arab Israelis & Jewish Israelis, who live close together. The lynchings of both Arabs and Jews, the feeling that it wasn’t safe to go too far from your home for fear of being caught outside during incoming missiles (it happened to me twice), and the fact that Yafo, just 15 minutes from me was experiencing such internal conflicts were just sad and hard to process. One truly devastating moment in two weeks of the tragedy was the destruction of Uri Buri and not because it is one of my all-time favorite restaurants. Uri Buri is a symbol of coexistence in the city of Akko. To have that destroyed just feels like this was something bottled up, bubbling under the surface waiting to rear its ugly head.
Today a week after the cease-fire agreement Tel-Aviv at least feels like we are past this experience as if nothing happened. I have gone into our coworking space several times. No one is speaking about what was so much and it’s largely business as usual. Things will hopefully continue to head in the right direction. There was a stabbing attack of two Israelis a few days ago where a knife was left in a ‘soldiers’ back. The soldier is what you call a ‘job nick’, a civilian soldier who is not in the infantry, and seeing a knife protruding from his back he couldn’t have been much more than a 19-year-old kid. The terrorist who was subsequently ‘neutralized’ as they define it here, looked to be not a whole lot older. This is the really sad reality summed up in a few videos and pictures. This hatred is built into the youth rather than a focus on bridging the gap and creating peace. The Palestine vs Israel argument is one that has me, someone who is apolitical, atheist, and historically not Zionistic changing their perspective. The storyline played out by the media for me is frightening. The fact that it isn’t a war on terrorism, a focus on removing Hamas, and empowering the freedom of the Palestinian people is a real missed opportunity to create stability in the region. Too many people dive an inch deep and a mile wide not understanding the situation and fanning the flames of hate. If protestors who aren’t extremists and don’t support a Hamas lead terrorist regime that seeks to see the eradication of the Jewish people then they would understand that ‘Palestinians’ and ‘Isarelis’ all wish to live in peace and harmony. For Abab Israeli’s who have a right to vote, sit in parliament and impact the future of the country of Israel they live good lives. Sure, could things be better? Absolutely. Could that be said for all governments? 100%. The only difference is that there is a much more serious threat in this region and the stakes are much higher given the fragility and undervaluation of life.
If there were a way to cut through and have a push for peace, understanding, and the removal of terror from the region then we might see progress. Until terrorism is removed, there is a unilateral acceptance for the existence of the country of Israel and Palestine to coexist; there is no way to curb the ever-present tensions and escalations of violence.
The most frightening thing for me is that the language used in the media feels different and feels very far from the reality (at least to me) of what it feels like to live here and to be a Jew (whether you identify as one or not) in the world today. Currently 1.9m Arab-Israeli’s living in Israel with Jewish and Christian Israeli’s in relative harmony. When the words ‘apartheid’ or ‘genocide’ gets thrown around in the media it’s very hard for me, someone who has lived growing up with grandparents who first hand experienced a time where Jews were systematically irradiated in a holocaust. This is living memory. Leaving Europe out of it for a moment, to ignore the fact that a collective of hundreds of thousands of Jews used to live in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Nigeria, Ethiopia etc. which now have populations of 0 today due to the regimes that saw their lives and livelihoods taken away for the simple fact they were Jewish is a hard pill to swallow. Given the level of information known as to how the Israeli army notifies houses via letter drops, door knocks, and phone calls for targets they plan to strike, and to be called a genocidal state is simply egregious. Why is Hamas (a globally recognized terror organization) not held to any similar standards is baffling? I could go on but this takes us further away from a place of understanding and creating a positive dialogue. I feel deeply saddened by the events and the lives lost and wish that everyone in this region can live a long, happy and healthy life. For this, we need to change the narrative.
I deleted my social media applications from my phone as a result because everything I read was just noise and hate-fueled. The fact that Muslims number in the billions with those affected having the smallest of voices. The world needs to provide equal securities to all rather than painting a one-sided picture because the war of optics will always be won when the value of life in Gaza by Hamas is not given the same degree of consideration and the use of civilian casualties is weaponized. The more than 150+ terrorists that would have been celebrated by any other nation are simply added to a total body count and that in itself is disrespectful to the civilians, women, and children that tragically did lose their lives in a war they want nothing to do with.
I’ve cut this article short because as I mentioned at the start, I am not an expert on the topic but wanted to write these notes and feeling down so that I could recall what it was like and how I felt at the time.