The question that I get asked the most often from friends, family, and visitors is "Are We Afraid to Live in Israel!"
Today is Thursday and therefore massage day. It is July 25, 2012 and once again the region is "heating up." My massage therapist Jonah Taylor and I discussed our respective views about living under the constant threat of war and terrorism. This is Jonah's perspective on the emotions associated with this life in a war engulfed region:
All of you keeping up with the news are aware of what’s going on in Syria - of the instability there. When I lived in Colorado, I was a member of the Multi-Lingual International Club. I knew a woman named Strasia. She was from Syria. She seemed rather friendly until I mentioned my love for Israel. She distanced herself from me after that. She is now back in Syria. I sincerely hope that all is well. The conflicts in this region are felt all around the world.
Since the recent terrorist bombing in Bulgaria and the turmoil in Syria things seems to be falling apart in Haifa. You can feel a constant sense of fear and foreboding. Little things are happening that prompt concern. Yesterday the Israeli government tested the air raid system. The alarm went off for a minute. The siren sounded different than the Shabbat and Memorial Day sirens which are long wails Yrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr-for a whole minute-rrrrrrmmm. The air raid siren that sounded yesterday was more like a wave or echo YRrrrYRrrrYRrrrYRrrr.
Maybe they test sirens once a year one way or the other. According to my husband David, for many years in Chicago the city tested the air raid sirens every Tuesday at noon. No one paid attention. The USSR needed to be sure to attack Chicago on a Tuesday at noon. In Atlanta they test tornado sirens on a weekly basis. Since we’ve been here, the first test of the air raid siren was yesterday.
Other little things are happening. Like there were no furloughs for Israeli soldiers this weekend. Usually, they get to go home for the Shabbat. In addition, El Al the Israeli national airline has tightened their already tight security. The guard at the grocery store is now holding a holstered gun. Little differences or perhaps not so little.
Our view of the Mediterranean allows us to see northward toward Syria and Lebanon. A lot of times we hear fighter planes zooming overhead, but can rarely see the planes. We concluded that most of the planes we hear are patrolling the gas reserves under the sea belonging to Israel and Cyprus. Today, I saw a low flying plane heading north, in the direction of Syria. Probably just doing normal reconnaissance…right?
We try to listen to both the English and Hebrew news. There has been nothing in the English edition of the Jerusalem Post or other English news outlets about a potential attack. There is at least nothing different than the normal and ongoing news about this frightening region. It’s just a sense that something different and more serious is occurring today. The citizens of Israel have lived under constant threat of conflict and destruction since the rebirth of the nation in 1948.
Anyway, my husband David told me to always be aware. Israel is officially in a heightened state of alert. David managed to frighten the devil out of me. Obviously, I knew that something like this could happen even before we moved to Israel. It is one thing to understand something in the abstract and another to experience it first hand. David said whatever Syria or Lebanon or Hezbollah does to Israel, that they will suffer worse damage. It is a small comfort indeed!
I, and most Israelis, feel the same way as Jonah. The constant threat of annihilation has most people in this small and brave nation in a constant state of tension and readiness.
Am I and others afraid to live in Israel? Yes, of course the constant fear of destruction is always there and a part of life in this beleaguered nation. The joys of building this renewed Jewish homeland is of worth it to many of us and life does indeed go on.