Let me try to describe to you what it means to live with the possibility that a missile might be launched in your direction at any given moment. It certainly makes life unsettling.
My youngest daughter Miri lives in Ashkelon and another daughter lives in Ashdod. Ashkelon and Ashdod are two of the cities that are targeted the most when there is unrest. When Hamas launches their strikes, G-d forbid, Ashdod has a 45 second window of time, from the time a missile is sent, and the siren is sounded, until it hits. You have exactly 45 seconds to get into a safe place before the missile hits. 45 seconds is not that much time!
My husband and I live in Kiryat Malachi, about a15 minute drive from Ashdod, equally distant from Gaza, so we also have 45 seconds to take shelter. Exactly 45 seconds after a siren starts wailing, we hear booms and thuds and our building rattles. This can mean that hopefully the missile was intercepted, which also makes a loud noise, or G-d forbid, that it fell somewhere close by.
My daughter Miri who lives in Ashkelon, which is closer to Gaza, has only 30 seconds warning. Can you imagine?! She has five little children, the oldest 8 years old. She has to gather all the kids and bring them to the safe room within 30 seconds.
Because of this situation, with Hamas pretty quick on the trigger, buildings in Israel which were built in the last ten years include in each apartment one room which is built to be a reinforced room, a “mamad”. The strong outer walls and the steel shutters on the window are supposed to withstand missiles. This is the room which a family goes into when the siren sounds, signaling that a missile is headed in their direction. Other buildings have a ‘mamak’ which is a large room on each floor of an apartment building with reinforced walls and steel shutters. When a siren sounds, all the neighbors run out of their apartments and go into the ‘mamak’.
Older buildings, like ours, which don’t have either of these, have a shelter which is on the ground floor. People can go down to the shelter, but it wastes precious time to go down. The other option is to go into the hallway. Our hallway doesn’t have any windows or outer walls. It is the innermost part of the building, so it is the safest place to be should the building be hit, G-d forbid. We have 45 seconds to get there. This means that if a siren sounds in the middle of the night, I have 45 seconds to wake up and realize, yes, that it is a siren and not a dream, jump out of bed, wash negel vaser, put on slippers and a robe and run into the hallway. By the time I get there, together with the boom and the thud, guess what? The mothers with the babies and the kids are already there. I don’t know how they get there so quickly. Maybe they sleep by the doorway or in the hallway – I really don’t know how they manage to get the whole family up and out within 45 seconds.
So practically speaking, this situation means…
Mothers can’t let the kids play outside; they can’t send them to the grocery because at any given moment there might be a strike. Even within the house, my daughter tells me the children are afraid to go to the bathroom alone – what will happen if they are in the bathroom and a siren sounds? Taking a bath or shower becomes quite challenging. One does it as quickly as possible. No luxuriating in the shower. You do a quickie shower and dress very quickly.
Life goes on with some adjustments. Schools are closed and all the children are at home. Stores that are not essential are closed. Many government offices and post offices are closed. If I do walk out of the house, I prepare my walking route beforehand so that if a siren should go off, I will be near a building that I can run into. It’s quite disconcerting to live this way.
I must say, there are many many miracles. If we just think about it: Hamas sent 4,000 missiles. Every life in Israel is precious and if one person is killed, it’s one too many. Yet if you think what could have happened, G-d forbid, we see the ‘chasdei Hashem’ and ‘Lo yanum v’lo yishanShomer Yisrael’‘ – The Guardian of Israel neither sleeps nor slumbers!
Of the 4000 missiles launched to Israel with the purpose of doing as much damage as possible, a certain number fell within their own territory and did the damage there. Others fell into the sea and others fell in open spaces and still others fell between buildings in crowded areas and didn’t do major damage. Truly miracles daily! (Even the enemy acknowledged that the G-d of the Jews was causing their missiles to fall in their own territory.)
When our daughter Miri and her husband went out on shlichut to Ashkelon, she never imagined what was in store for them- that living under the threat of missiles would be a recurring fact of life.
About 8 years ago, after she had her first baby, she came home from the hospital to us in Kiryat Malachi. The very next morning is when ‘Tzuk Eitan’ (Operation Protective Edge) began. She was so anxious. Here she was, a new mother with a newborn baby, in a new role and new responsibility, and this madness! Missiles were flying overhead.
That very first morning, a missile struck a building in our community and killed four people. It was a terrible tragedy. The fall made such a loud explosion, that standing in the hallway, we knew immediately that it was a hit not a miss. My daughter panicked. Her husband managed to find a car because there were no taxis to be had. Many people immediately started evacuating. She put together a small bag of necessities and she and her husband and baby got a ride to Kfar Chabad where we have children living. It was a 45 minute drive to a safer area, further away from Gaza. Yet, that same evening missiles were launched to the Kfar Chabad area. Again, she panicked. My husband and I drove there to be with our daughter as she was a new mother having just given birth to her first child (first time kimpeteren). We suggested that we all go north to Meron. We have some family (mechutanim) in Meron and they graciously invited us to come to them. Since I didn’t have anything with me and she also hadn’t taken much with her, my husband and I decided to go back home, literally back into the lion’s den, to take what we would need for a few days.
We drove back to Kiryat Malachi that night. I must say, it was the most tense drive of my life. My husband drove and I sat next to him, constantly scanning the southern skies to see if a white streak was flying in our direction. B”H we got home safely and packed some bags quickly. We drove back to Kfar Chabad, picked up the young family, and continued on to Meron. There we stayed until after Shabbat, and then we continued on to Tzfat where our daughter Rivky was living at the time. Miri and I stayed in Tzfat for about a week or so until things quieted down.
That, my friends, is what life is like during a time like this. May Hashem guard all wherever they are!
Now back to this last round: Another true story unfolds:
Miri, whom I mentioned earlier lives in Ashkelon with her husband and five children, received the good news that her sister-in-law became engaged. The l’chaim was in her in law’s house. They live in Mevaseret Tziyon, in the Jerusalem area. They went to her in-laws for the engagement party. As it happened, on that same day, Operation Protective Wall began and for the first time, a missile launched to Mevaseret. This was a couple of hours before they arrived there. In Ashkelon, the missile strikes began after they left. So this time they evaded all the tension and the meshugane (crazy) situation of living under fire, in an apartment with five little kids who are traumatized from the sirens and the noises. And my daughter being the whole time on edge because at any given moment you have 30 seconds to get into the mamad – the secure room.
B”H, this time around she was by her in-laws.
She was planning to stay overnight before returning home, or until things quieted down. However, the next day the tension continued. As it turned out, things didn’t quiet down the following day either. They just escalated so she remained by her in-laws for a few days, after which she went to our daughter Rivky, who now lives in Meron up north, for a few days. This isn’t the first time that she went to Rivky for refuge (see story above).
B”H, they came back home when it was all over. Only then did they realize what a miracle occurred. As it turned out, a missile hit the store which is directly under her apartment. The store was damaged but the owner, sitting in the store, was only mildly injured B”H, (thank G-d). What a blessing that they weren’t home at the time! Hashem spared them this trauma.
Living in Israel means seeing G-d’s miracles daily. May we merit the greatest miracle of all – Moshiach NOW!
As told by Faigie Wolf. Thank you, Faigie, for sharing your family’s personal story.