From a letter home:
I’m back in Tel Aviv, on a break in between classes.
I spent the weekend up north with our family friends to escape the potential threat of rockets in Tel Aviv. I thought I would find some quiet there, but Timrat is located near an air force base so you could hear the sounds of planes taking off and landing non-stop. The reality of the past several years has localized the conflict in the south and life continues elsewhere. Now, you can hear, see and feel war throughout the country. Each time the siren goes off (no matter where), major TV channels stream the warning, and radio stations interrupt broadcasts mid-song. On the road, you see army vehicles and tanks all headed to the south. Bright signs plaster the city with arrows pointing to the closest safe space. People have their phones in hand, constantly checking for updates.
While I was in the north, a new fear arose. Marko, Gal’s husband, got the call to head to reserve duty in the south. Ariel was next (the husband of Gal’s cousin, father of two), and before I knew it, the large majority of my male friends- husbands, fathers, brothers and sons- had been drafted. Israel has called more reserve soldiers in the last 5 days than they did in the previous two operations (in Gaza and Lebanon 2). My heart breaks for these families because so much is still unknown about what the next few days will bring. Apprehension and worry fill the air.
When I came back to Tel Aviv on Sunday evening for class Monday morning, there was a rocket attack within the hour, and we found ourselves back in the shelter.
I know that Roi is safe at his work, though when he travels to and from work my heart skips a beat. He has often found himself stopping the car in the middle of the road and running to the side, to a nearby building or simply lying on the ground covering his head when no shelter is close. His sister is a nurse in the pediatric oncology unit at the hospital in Beer Sheva. On her 25 minute drive to work yesterday, she had to stop 3 times. This morning, 18 rockets were aimed at Beer Sheva, 12 were intercepted by the Iron Dome, and a few hit the city’s center, with direct hits to a bus, cars and residential buildings. There were no fatalities because people took life-saving measures and ran to shelter at the sound of the siren.
Israelis are ever so grateful for American support- as American tax dollars have supported the existence of these Iron Dome Defense Systems which have intercepted over 350 of the 1000+ rockets in the last 5 days, all 350 had trajectories aimed for population centers. So thank you!
No one here wants these airstrikes to turn into a ground operation, and if you ask Jewish Israelis, they are ready for a cease-fire if it will bring lasting quiet. Many Arabs and Bedouins in the south will agree because they, too, are living in bomb shelters. Also, it is important to know that the vast majority of Jewish Israelis speak about this operation in terms of not being against the Palestinians, but rather against Hamas, a known terrorist organization. There are a few Palestinian students in my class. One came out against Hamas and the other noted that in Ramallah (where she is from) and throughout the West Bank (which typically is in favor of Fatah), support for Hamas is growing through rallies each day.
I am writing not to worry you, but to share a little bit more about what life feels like right now. In conversation with friends, our hearts break every time innocent civilians are injured or killed (Palestinian and Israeli). Sadly, however, the news continues to “forget” that Israeli strikes are aimed directly at rocket launchers and known Hamas locations and the IDF is doing everything in its power to avoid innocent casualties. It is known that Hamas specifically puts the launchers in places next to civilians. In one instance, the IDF took out an underground launch site located right next to a mosque- The mosque was left untouched. Hamas also specifically aims to hit population centers and cause mass casualties; if it were not for the Iron Dome and our safety measures- we are all very aware that there would be more casualties and injuries in Israel which is why we all take the sirens seriously. Also, please beware of BBC’s reporting. They are re-using photos from other conflicts (mainly Syria) and claiming them as “Israeli strikes against Gaza.”
This update is longer than I intended, so thanks for reading all of the way to the end. I should get back to my schoolwork now, but I hope that all of you are doing well. Thanks for your e-mails, messages and calls. Hopefully, the next update I write will be about a cease-fire.
Lauren Joseph made aliyah to Israel three years ago. She is currently a student at Tel Aviv University.