Israel Under Fire: Views of a War
August 23, 2021
On May 10, six rockets were fired into Israel from Hamas in Gaza. Two were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, two fell inside the Gaza Strip, and two landed in open fields.
In the 10 days after that, thousands of rockets were fired into both Israel and Gaza, leaving 13 Israelis and more than 200 Palestinians dead.
Exactly how it started is hard to tell. News sources gave different stories.
Alumnus David Edwards ’20 saw it unfold firsthand.
David was studying at Yeshivat Orayta and had a view of Har HaBayit — the Temple Mount — and the city beyond, from his balcony.
After days of tension and unrest over a court case involving the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, on May 10 violence broke on the Temple Mount, or Har Habayit, while Israelis were celebrating Yom Yerushalayim, which celebrates the recapture of the Old City in the 1967 Six-Day War.
“I vividly remember two nights ago, just sitting there in the dark, at night,” said David, one of many Shalhevet community members in Israel at the time.
“We sat there for just a few hours on the balcony just watching everything happen,” he said, “and I saw the Yom Yerushalayim dancing, and, you know, from what it looked like for me, Palestinians fired a firework into the tree [on Har HaBayit], and fire glowing on the tree…”
The tree caught fire while Israelis were dancing in celebration on the plaza below, he said, in a scene that was viewed on video by people throughout the world.
“And it was really tragic,” said David. “Palestinians got dispersed from the Temple Mount, tons of stun grenades and loud explosions, sounds from the stun grenades, and fireworks. You could see the piles of rocks also, on top of the stuff and around…
“It’s like, you’ll see four flashes on Har Habayit, and then it’s just — they echo. It’s really just crazy seeing all around Jerusalem, you know the Old City, all that’s happening on Yom Yerushalayim. The only way I could describe it was like God was crying.”
Earlier that day, Hamas had given the Israeli government an ultimatum to either remove Israeli security forces from the Temple Mount or they would fire rockets into Israel at 6 p.m.
Shalhevet sophomore Zoe Ritz, who is spending this semester at Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim, or TRY, was one of many waiting to see what would happen.
“We saw the ultimatum that Hamas had given Israel, or Jerusalem specifically, about removing
their troops from Temple Mount,” said Zoe.
“We knew around six there could be news. We had one of the news sources open and were just waiting for the headline to refresh, and at, like, 6:01 we heard ambulances which turned into a siren.”
As more and more rockets were fired into Israel, Israeli citizens fled to bomb shelters and safety rooms multiple times per day as Iron Dome intercepted most but not all of the rockets above them. With them were alumni and others connected with Shalhevet.
The Boiling Point reached out multiple times to a number of Muslim and Arab contacts in Los Angeles and in Israel communities. Only one — an Arab teenager in Israel — replied, and then cancelled her planned interview saying she was sick.
Among Shalhevet interviewees, some hid in shelters, all lived with fear and worry, but none experienced close calls or were injured. Hamas rockets rarely targeted Jerusalem, where most live or study.
However, the first rockets launched into Israel barrelled towards the Jerusalem district, causing an initial panic.
“The situation feels a lot more personal,” said Zoe. “Whenever I’m at home and I hear these things about Israel, I do care, but it’s not the first thing on my mind every waking second.
“But being here and knowing this is happening not far from me is really scary, and I also think being in Israel I have a new perspective, and an inside perspective, which is really nice and I’ve learned a lot because I can see what’s going on.”
Fear was accompanied by confusion for students who had never experienced a bomb siren before — offering a glimpse, they said, into what life in Israel can really feel like.
“Our Israeli roommates were looking at us and kind of laughing at us,” said Neima Fax ‘20, who was studying at Midreshet Nishmat in Jerusalem. “For them, it’s so normal, but for us, we’ve come in with this fear we’ve never experienced before.”
David described the normalcy Israelis were feeling.
“We heard these sirens going off, and we were like, there’s no way this is actually the sirens, because I knew that this never really happens to Jerusalem, and I saw these Israelis were making popcorn,” David said.
David said that celebrating Yom Yerushalayim as fighting broke out on the Temple Mount was like when shiva is interrupted by a chag.
“When people are in mourning in Judaism and a chag happens, you have to delay your mourning, so that’s what it felt like on Yom Yerushalayim,” David said. “I felt sad because of everything happening, but I had to sing Hallel because it’s like, my people returned to Jerusalem. It’s just a really conflicting feeling, the Yom Yerushalayim parade.”
While there, he encountered members of the Lehava party, who follow the beliefs of Meir Kahane, whose anti-Arab views caused his original political party to be labeled terrorist by the Israeli government.
“It’s a very far right wing Israeli political party,” David said, “and there were kids and people passing out stickers that said, Harav Meir Kehana hatzadik [Rabbi Meir Kahanah the righteous]. He was a pretty racist figure in Israeli history, I’d say, and he called Arabs dogs, said we should kick them all out. And they were passing out these stickers to people, and they had tons of them. Little kids were wearing them, waving Lehava flags…
“So I would say there is legitimate hate on both sides right now, and all the violence escalates it on both sides.”
There were also attacks over social media.
Neima said many in her seminary deleted Instagram because it hurt so much to read it. Zoe said social media was the hardest part of the experience.
“There have just been so many false claims being spread in these infographics that have such anti-semitic undertones and false claims in them,” said Zoe.
“And it’s really hard because it’s your friends and people you know don’t know any better, but they’re posting them to help their political agenda and make them seem ‘progressive.’ But like, people don’t know any better and you can’t educate everybody.”
There was also pride at how well Israel was protecting its citizens.
“Honestly, I’m so proud of Israel for the Iron Dome and I’m amazed that we have such good protection,” said Yoetzet Halacha Ms. Atara Segal, a Shalhevet faculty member who made aliyah last year.
But everyone agreed that being there for the 10-day conflict showed them Israel in a new light.
Alumnus Alex Rubel ‘20 was studying at Yeshivat Lev HaTorah in Ramat Bet Shemesh.
“When you’re here and you’re living through the experience itself, there’s actually, like, a hint of realism,” Alex said.
The chapters below are excerpts from interviews conducted May 11 – 13, during the first days of the conflict. Interviews were conducted by staff writers Keira Beller, Caroline Kboudi and Tali Liebenthal.
Editor’s note: Previous editions of this story, both in print and online, misstated the timeline. All of the events described here that happened in Jerusalem happened on the same day, May 10, including (in order) the Yom Yerushalayim parade, Hamas’s ultimatum about removing Israeli police from the Temple Mount; Hamas’s rockets landing in Jerusalem; the celebration at the Kotel; and the tree burning next to the Al-Aqsa mosque. The Boiling Point regrets the error.
‘It was like God was crying.’ David Edwards ’20, Yeshivat Orayta, Jerusalem
Tali Liebenthal for the Boiling Point: What program are you on and where is it located?
David Edwards: Yeshivat Orayta is right in the Old City. From our dorms we can see right into Har Habayit [the Temple Mount], directly onto it. So I’ve been seeing everything. On our balcony, just out of the dorms, you can see everything — you can see fully all the way out to Sheikh Jarrah, the neighborhood that’s been problematic.
I vividly remember two nights ago just sitting there in the dark, at night. We sat there for just a few hours on the balcony just watching everything happen, and I saw the Yom Yerushalayim dancing. From what it looked like for me, Palestinians fired a firework into the tree, and [then there was] fire glowing on the tree. I imagine the only time there was a fire like that recently was when the temple was destroyed.
And it was really tragic, you know — Palestinians got dispersed from the Temple Mount, tons of stun grenades and loud explosions, sounds from the stun grenades, and fireworks. You could see the piles of rocks also, on top of the stuff and around. It was really tragic, and then just after that just the whole… feeling of watching, on Yom Yerushalayim, hearing all these sounds. Also one thing you don’t realize is that you see the flashing lights, and then three seconds later there’s an explosion. It’s like, you’ll see four flashes on Har Habayit, and then it’s just they echo.
It’s really just crazy seeing all around Jerusalem, the Old City, all that’s happening on Yom Yerushalayim. The only way I could describe it was like God was crying. It was just so, so, tragic, and you just think why is all of this happening. So that was what happened last night.
BP: How has your life changed in the recent days that this has been going on?
DE: Besides for thinking that Yom Yerushalayim was going to be different, or stuff like that, I realized a few things. One, that I’m a pretty liberal person honestly, and maybe I feel a kind of American American liberalism or postmodernism. Like thinking “Oh, everyone has their own context, you can’t judge anyone, nobody is really right” — that whole thing, everyone has their own perspective. Now, this whole thing kind of crumbles when you feel like people are trying to kill you honestly.
It was really hard for me.
Initially during the morning, my whole yeshiva were davening at the Tayelet, this view that overlooks all of Jerusalem. During Shemoneh Esrei, when Palestinians were throwing rocks on the Temple Mount in the morning, we could see booms and smoke grenades, and we just saw explosions that went off every second — like smoke grenades going off. And while that was happening, I looked at the news, and I saw like, “Oh, Israelis are invading and entering Al-Aqsa,” And I was so upset. I was like I can’t believe we’re doing this on Yom Yerushalayim, and you know it just kind of throws off your perspective.
[Then in the evening,] I was walking with my friends trying to get into the Old City around 6 p.m. — right when Hamas said they would attack.
We heard these sirens going off, and we were like, there’s no way this is actually the sirens, because I knew that this never really happens to Jerusalem, and I saw these Israelis were making popcorn. And like, I just kind of looked to the side and these people were making popcorn and candy as the sirens were going off. So I was trying to ask them, and I went over to the guy and I was trying to ask him what was going on, and he was trying to sell me candy. It doesn’t impact them, you know? It’s so normal to them.
Me and my friends were all terrified, and these Israelis were pushed up against the wall right next to Jaffa gate. We just heard these four loud explosions, and it was really scary. While we were walking in, these soldiers told us to rush into the Old City. While we were walking in there was this girl, a 15-year-old girl, and her father was holding her and walking towards us, and she was crying, and she said in Hebrew, “This is why I’m scared to live here.” It was pretty surreal.
So I think that my perspective just changed, encountering violence first hand. I haven’t been struck or anything like that, but having it feel like people actually want to kill you and actually attempting it is a pretty surreal feeling. It really opens you up and enlightens you about life in a different way.
Also, I never realized how biased and skewed the media is. I always thought, “Oh, there’s good and bad on both sides,” but it kind of seems like, “Israel has the Iron Dome, they’re shooting little rockets at Israel, Israel is pummeling Gaza, killing civilians, it’s not a fair fight.”
But I watched the tree go on fire, and the Jews were dancing for Yom Yerushalayim, and then these Palestinians were shooting fireworks at Har Habayit, and there were stun grenades going off and everything, and while they were shooting the fireworks at this tree, it starts burning. And people are like, “Oh, the Jews are celebrating Al-Aqsa burning.” I was just thinking, this is crazy. It happened while they were dancing, and I saw the way it skewed, and I was just thinking this is phenomenal, I couldn’t understand it. I can’t understand the way the media is skewing things, and you know, just every single second there’s notifications about more rockets, more rockets, more rockets, and yeah.
BP: Have you missed any classes or activities because of all of this?
DE: Last night there were a lot of teachers that couldn’t make it. I don’t know if it was for security reasons, but there were not a lot of people there, and people weren’t allowed to go out. I don’t know if you know but last night at like 9 p.m., there were tons of rockets getting shot at Tel Aviv and central Israel, so they told us, everyone stay indoors, nobody go outside, and I think the biggest way we were affected was that the teachers had to stay home and watch their kids because they couldn’t go to school.
There haven’t been many direct things saying we can’t go to classes because of what’s going on right now. I feel particularly safe right now in this area because there would never be any rockets shot. Hamas would never shoot a rocket towards the Old City for fear that they would hit anything important to Muslims, to Arabs.
One thing that they’re doing is reenforcing the locks on our gates, because it was broken and they were concerned. Just like in the old city yesterday there were soldiers on every street.
One side note about Yom Yerushalayim and the parade, it was really hard. When people are in mourning in Judaism and a chag happens, you have to delay your mourning. That’s what it felt like on Yom Yerushalayim. I felt sad because of everything happening, but I had to sing Hallel because my people returned to Jerusalem. It was just a really conflicting feeling at the Yom Yerushalayim parade.
I don’t know if you know that the political organization Lehava is, it’s a very far right wing Israeli political party, and there were kids and people passing out stickers tha said, “Harav Meir Kahane HaTzadik” [“Meir Kahane the Righteous One’]. I don’t know if you know who Meir Kahane was, but he was a pretty racist figure in Israeli history, and he called Arabs dogs, said we should kick them all out, and they were passing out these stickers to people, and they had tons of them. Little kids were wearing them, waving Lehava flags. My friend didn’t want the sticker, and the kids just stuck it onto his backpack.
So I would say there is legitimate hate on both sides right now, and all the violence escalates it on both sides. I was supposed to be happy on Yom Yerushalayim, not hateful
BP: What have you been doing when you hear sirens and explosions? Have you been going in a room or shelter, or what’s that whole situation like?
DE: We have a shelter at the bottom of the building, but the advisors just say whenever there’s a siren, go into the hallways in our dorms. And just stay away from windows. We only had the sirens once, and I was outside so I just had to be pressed up against the wall, which is the safest thing to do I guess, and last night I just heard explosions the whole night going around. There was in the Arab shuk like right next to me, there was a fire that went on next to Har Habayit, there were fireworks going and being shot. We were just watching and pretty much just everyone was just being in their dorms or on the balcony, when they heard stuff and they watched Har HaBayit, just explosion after explosion. A lot of them were stun grenades or smoke grenades or whatever.
Also one thing we saw were trucks of soldiers come to the Kotel, get out, go to Har Habayit, and just execute a mission. You can just watch this all happen and you can’t comprehend what happened. There were like thousands and thousands of people praying, so all it takes is 10 or 20 people to cause a ruckus, and everything falls apart.
BP: How do you feel being in Israel this time versus another time?
DE: It’s interesting because I didn’t really experience this aspect of Israel before, most of this year, because of COVID, and we weren’t allowed to leave the Old City anyways. But basically I kind of forgot that it was a part of being here. I went back to L.A. for Pesach, and there were stabbings right near where I was living, and violence. It honestly felt safer in the Old City, which is a weird feeling.
A few weeks ago one of my roommates came in really late, like 1 a.m., into my room, and I was all freaked out. I asked what was going on and asked if he was ok, and he said he was walking back from the mall, and “I saw a couple of Arabs take this guy with a kippah and beat him up, and I had to call the police and didn’t know what to do.” So that was the first moment when I was like, oh, this is part of living here.
So basically I don’t really know if this is a crazy year to come. I know crazy stuff was also happening a few years ago, but it was weird the whole way everything was. There was Covid, and now it’s boiling over. But I think this year was interesting to go. I think it’s a powerful year to come, and you get to see a lot of interesting stuff as far as the way society dealt with Covid and violence.
‘People are so impressionable on social media.’ Zoe Ritz, 10th grade, Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim (TRY), Jerusalem
So we’ve only gotten one siren, and it was the first siren to go off, and it went off in all of Israel because nobody really knew what was happening or who was throwing the rockets, but other than that, Jerusalem has been really really safe and there hasn’t been any more sirens. There have been a few nights where we were, like, there could be sirens, because there were sirens in Tel Aviv, which is really close to us, but it’s been really safe in Jerusalem other than that.
It’s actually really ironic. We were in our Israel core course class discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we saw the ultimatum that Hamas had given Israel, or Jerusalem specifically, about removing their troops from Temple Mount. And we were sitting in the class and it was almost six, and we were just continuing but we knew around six there could be news.
We had one of the news sources open and were just waiting for the headline to refresh, and at like 6:01 we heard ambulances which turned into a siren. And my teacher brought us all out of the room and into the hallway. We were all pretty scared, and the hallway was like the safe space that we were supposed to go to. We had a bunch of safe spaces and bomb shelters on our campus, and we basically sat in the hallway for a solid 10 minutes. It basically felt like forever, and I was really scared.
The social media representation of the situation [has] been really frustrating and super isolating for all of us because we’re here and we’re seeing what’s happening, and it’s not being properly represented on the media.”
A lot of people were not as scared, but it was really scary not knowing what was going on and not knowing if there was going to be a rocket thrown near the city because at that time, the threat had been directed towards Jerusalem, so we didn’t really know what was gonna happen. Thank God nothing did happen where I was, but it was really really scary.
The situation feels a lot more personal. Whenever I’m at home and I hear these things about Israel, I do care, but it’s not the first thing on my mind every waking second. But being here and knowing this is happening not far from me is really scary and like, I also think being in Israel I have a new perspective, and an inside perspective, which is really nice and I’ve learned a lot because I can see what’s going on. But at the same time it’s very frustrating with all of the misinformation that’s being spread around.
I would like to touch a little bit on the whole social media situation. It really is a big issue for a lot of me and my friends, we’ve been really frustrated about it. There have just been so many false claims being spread in these infographics that have such anti-Semitic undertones and false claims in them, and it’s really hard because it’s your friends and people you know don’t know any better but they’re posting them to help their political agenda and make them seem “progressive,” but like, people don’t know any better and you can’t educate everybody.
It’s just super frustrating with the spike in antisemitism. The most annoying thing are the celebrities that are posting things and they don’t know what they’re talking about and have such big platforms. People are taking their word for it because they don’t know any better, and it’s just, people are so impressionable on social media.
Just please please please keep educating yourself on the situation and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because I’ve learned a lot these past few weeks and I think it’s really important to know as much as you can in order to be able to make sure the right information is spread around. Also just have conversations with people and spark dialogue. I think that is really important in times like this, and yeah.
Interviewed by Caroline Kboudi for the Boiling Point
‘My room was the bomb shelter.’ Neima Fax ‘20, Midreshet Nishmat, Jerusalem
It kind of started when people were deciding whether or not to go to the [Yom Yerushalayim] march in the city area of Jerusalem, and it was a question of whether it was safe or not, and me and a few other people decided that we didn’t want to risk it, so we stayed back and hung out.
Other people went, and after a while my friend and I decided we did want to go check it out because it’s this huge experience that everyone talks about, so I was like we’ll go check it out for five minutes, see what its about and we’ll leave. And right as we were leaving we heard really loud booming sounds outside. I was yelling, “What is that, what is that?” and I was like: we’re not going, we’re staying here.
Then all of the sudden all of these texts roll in on all of these group chats saying, “If you’re at the march, find the madricha [group leader],” and everyone at the march was on the floor putting their hands on their heads, until they were able to move again.
Then they said again: If you’re at the march, find a madricha; if you’re on a bus go to Nishmat; and if you’re at Nishmat go to a bomb shelter. And my room was the bomb shelter, which was pretty lucky. So a few of my friends came in here and we locked ourselves in and closed the window, and since then it’s been pretty tense. There haven’t been any rockets directly near us, but it’s just really tense right now.
We’re not supposed to go far to get food or go shopping, and because we live near an Arab village, we generally have good relations with them; [so] we walked to the makolet [market]. And you could just feel in the air where you didn’t know if the people walking next to you were your friends or not.
It was scary because usually I make an effort to smile and be friendly, because they’re my neighbors and I want to be friends with them, but I was just scared. It’s also scary knowing all of my friends in Tel Aviv had rockets raining there. And you just go about your day, it’s just everyone is stressed out and we’re trying not to think about it. Because we live near an Arab village, we generally have good relations with them, and we walked to the makolet [market] and you could just feel in the air where you didn’t know if the people walking next to you were your friends or not. ”
Because we live near an Arab village, we generally have good relations with them, and we walked to the makolet [market] and you could just feel in the air where you didn’t know if the people walking next to you were your friends or not. ”
We had the head of the midrasha come and speak to everyone about the safety protocols, and he spoke to us so we wouldn’t feel like we were in danger, and he showed us what to do if the siren goes off — where we should run, how much time we have. We’re lucky: we have a minute-and-a-half, but other places have a few seconds because it’s closer to where they’re being fired from.
It’s only been once for us and it was around 20 minutes from the siren to getting messages it was safe to come out. Different people were texting saying, “Oh my window isn’t closing, can I run to someone else’s bomb shelter?” So we had a few people in here, and we were all a little tense.
I was mostly wondering if my friends were ok, my friends at the march. We have an Israeli Midrasha and we take classes with [Israelis], and our Israeli roommates were looking at us and kind of laughing at us because for them it’s so normal, but for us, we’ve come in with this fear we’ve never experienced before. It’s not just you see the Stand With Us posts on Instagram, but this could affect you personally. I felt that we were safe, but I was mostly just scared for my friends closer to where the riots were happening.
I feel like this year has been so crazy this year in general because of Corona, but the stress is completely different. It’s towards the end of the year now and you want to focus on yourself, and push through the last few weeks and … use the time well, but then there’s just this stress that you know you need to take care of yourself and rest instead of pushing yourself to go out, because it’s not safe to go out.
But, I think, there’s something like this every year. I don’t know if it’s to this extent, but I have to say the hardest part of all of this is going on social media. I think a lot of my friends agree with me. We just see false posts with misinformation about Israel, and it’s the most distressing thing. Because we spend so much time learning about the conflict, and we live here and go on tours and talk to people who are living in it — and then you see one post from somebody who doesn’t know what they’re talking about saying that Israel is the oppressor and they’re committing genocide.
And it’s so frustrating, because I’m sitting in a bomb shelter, and someone tells me I’m the oppressor, and that frustration is just like — you feel like one voice against so many, and a lot of us have deleted Instagram, because it’s just too much to handle to see your favorite celebrities and some of your friends villainizing you in a way where they don’t even know what they’re talking about. And you wish you sould say something but they’re just gonna say, “Oh, you’re just playing devil’s advocate, oh there’s not two sides,” and it’s so frustrating.
Being in Israel for that wave of social media “activism” is interesting, because I feel like it’s a bit of a safe haven to be among the Israelis, and I feel more at home — I feel like I can be in the Beit Midrash, and this is real, and these are the people who care. The people on social media just do one post and forget about it. Whereas here it’s like these are people who are gonna commit their lives to advocating for Jews and Israel and who live it every single day instead of thinking they’re being a good person.
I think that’s one of the biggest things. It’s just a question of like, people who are making aliyah, how does this make them feel about it? And I was talking to my friend and we were saying how on the one hand I would feel safer in America because there are no rockets, but on the other hand I feel more at home in Israel with people who are going through what I’m going through.
One thing that I’ve noticed is that when you’re in a state of stress like this, your opinions about issues that you felt really confident about change drastically, because you feel the fear in a completely different way.
Interviewed for the Boiling Point by Caroline Kboudi.
‘One more crazy thing.’ Yoetzet Halacha Atara Segal, Israel Advisor, Modi’in
Yoetzet Halacha Ms. Atara Segal, who taught Judaic Studies and AP Statistics at Shalhevet for nine years, moved with most of her family (including Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal) to Israel in 2020.
Keira Beller for the Boiling Point: How have you been feeling during all of the unrest in Israel?
Yoetzet Halacha Atara Segal: For me, by far the worst part is it’s so disappointing that people who lived together for years — like acquaintances, which is kind of like a low bar, or friends, like people who really felt like their Arab neighbors were their friends — for them to be these neighbors and take part in pogroms [mob attacks], that is the worst part. We know Hamas is praising violence. We know Hamas is not interested in peace. We know we don’t have a partner in peace and we have to deal with them however we have to deal with them. But, we always kind of pinned our hope on our neighbors, our friends, the people that we see every day, who we interact with on a professional basis.
My dentist is Arab, my carpenter is Arab. I don’t have friends… I don’t live in a neighborhood [with Arabs]. But I definitely have acquaintances, and I have people that I interact with on a regular basis who are Arab. And the hope was — not ‘was,’ the hope is — that these are people that we could really see humanity and our kids could hang out together and we could interact with them. And again, for sure not everyone — the fact that there’s not a significant number of people who turned their back on their relationships.
Now, we’ll say Arabs but of course, there are some Jews participating in pogroms and anti-Arab hate also, which I condemn — all of it. That is the worst part. Because there’s so much effort on the part of so many people put into creating friendships that were… friendships, and there’s gonna have to be a lot of work rebuilding that trust. And that to me is the worst by far. It’s really, really sad. It makes me really sad. We know Hamas is not interested in peace… But we always kind of pinned our hope on our [Arab] neighbors, our friends, the people that we see every day, who we interact with on a professional basis.”
We know Hamas is not interested in peace… But we always kind of pinned our hope on our [Arab] neighbors, our friends, the people that we see every day, who we interact with on a professional basis.”
BP: So, how often have you been hearing sirens?
Yoetzet Segal: We hear sirens about every day but they’re not the sirens that are for us. I think we ourselves have only gotten two or three sirens. We hear the sirens from probably Ashkelon, or Ashdod. Last night, there were a lot of rockets sent to Tel Aviv, and we could see the Iron Dome intercepting rockets over Tel Aviv.
BP: That’s crazy.
Yoetzet Segal: Yeah it’s pretty crazy. We’re blessed that we have an Iron Dome installation like a 10-minute drive from our house.
BP: What is it like to hear the sirens and run to the bomb shelter? What goes through your mind when you first hear the alarm and as you wait it out?
Yoetzet Segal: Honestly, because we’re not in a super high-risk area, I feel less panicked than I probably would if I lived in like Ashdod or Ashkelon. And honestly, I’m so proud of Israel for the Iron Dome and I’m amazed that we have such good protection. The technological innovations between the Coronavirus vaccine and the Iron Dome — it’s miraculous what we’ve been able to accomplish just from the technology this year. It’s really amazing.
BP: What do you do in the bomb shelter? What have you been doing?
Yoetzet Segal: We don’t stay there that long. We only have to be there for 10 minutes. The assumption is that it takes 10 minutes for the rocket to get wherever it’s going and the Iron Dome to intercept it, so you only have to stay for 10 minutes. I think there was one night, maybe, that the kids slept in the mamad [the safe room in their house] so we wouldn’t have to keep going back and forth.
That being said, my friends with little kids, their kids are sleeping in the bomb shelters because they don’t want to have to wake them up.
BP: How do you know when it’s all clear?
Yoetzet Segal: There are apps. So, you just look at the app, and the app tells you when the warning starts, and you stay in 10 minutes past the warning.
BP: What’s the app called?
Yoetzet Segal: There are a few different ones. There’s the official government one that’s called Home Front Command. I mean you can go to the App Store and look up like, “Red Alert.” So I use one that’s called Cumta. And on Shabbat, there’s this radio station that’s quiet. There are these radio stations that have nothing going on — like they’re not broadcasting except when there’s an alert and they start to broadcast. So some people just leave that on all Shabbat. I personally didn’t because it’s just too many alerts. I figured I’ll just hear the alarm.
There are some people who have a website you can leave on. It’s so techy, it’s hilarious. You choose the region that you want and it only alerts you for that region. So you just set your city, and they just send you an alert. In the beginning, we never heard sirens, so we heard quieter sirens, and then we were like, “Oh, that must be the sirens.” And then we heard the actual sirens, which were much louder because they were the sirens for our area, and we’re like, “Oh, that’s our siren.”
BP: How does all of this make you feel about having moved to Israel?
Yoetzet Segal: Super proud. Like, the honest truth is, I keep on saying it’s so hard and it’s terrible and devastating, but at the end of the day, the Israeli army is committed to protecting us. There’s not even a question. We’ve been in a lot of precarious situations this year, like thank God nothing serious, but between Covid, and the riots, and Meron, and this — of all of them, I feel like the most cared for by the Israeli army and the security apparatus. And just the Jewish people in general. I’ve been reaching out to all my friends from all over and it’s really nice to have people reaching out. “How are you doing?” “What can we do to help you?” It’s really gratifying.
‘We need to do what we can to make this stop.’ Anna Weiss ’20, Chevruta, Jerusalem
We started the year with Corona, and we finally just passed that, and it’s really scary. From a very shallow point of view, it sucks that during our last few weeks here we can’t go out and we can’t be with our friends. And yeah, it sucks, but someone has to live through it, there’s always something happening here. It’s not something that seems totally out of the realm of possibility.
Wherever they’re from, whatever they’re ethnicity — a lot of families have been living in bomb shelters for the past few days, and that’s horrible. Nobody should have to go through that.”
What’s sadder is that I have friends who are Israeli and this is just their life. So, it’s sad that it’s not such a bizarre, shocking, terrible thing that’s happening. On an hourly basis I know the things that are happening and the things that have been building up over the last month or two, and this is not shocking to me. It’s unfortunate, but it’s not so totally out of the realm of possibilities.
I don’t want to make a massive political thing, and people keep focusing a lot on the politics of it, and focusing on, “Oh, Israel did this, but Gaza did that thing, but Israel is defending its people,” I think it’s taking away from the fact that people are suffering, and people are dying, and people are getting hurt.
Instead of focusing on arguing and posting, we need to do what we can to make this stop, so people are not suffering, and people wherever they live, wherever they’re from, whatever they’re ethnicity — a lot of families have been living in bomb shelters for the past few days, and that’s horrible. Nobody should have to go through that.
So instead of focusing on it from a political standpoint and focusing on fighting for a group of people, we should focus on fighting for all the people.
Interviewed by Caroline Kboudi for the Boiling Point.
‘We just heard a boom.’ Jacqueline Englanoff ’20, Midreshet HaRova
There haven’t been any rockets to Yerushalayim since [the first] afternoon. But living in Yerushalayim, you can ask anyone here, the reality is that you’re in your bed at night and you hear explosions, and you’re not sure if it’s fireworks or gunshots or a kid moving a trash can, you don’t know. So the mentality is that it’s nothing until it’s something, and so you know what to do if God-forbid something happened, but you also live your life as normal.
The reality is stuff happens, every year there’s something — not as extreme as this but there always is stuff happening — and so it’s just kind of part of the experience. But being locked in HaRova is not something that we’re phased by. For six months out of the year that’s what happened with Covid. Now it’s just another time that we’re being locked in HaRova — for a different reason and we have to understand that it’s for a different reason, but the reality is that everyone is used to it here.
Interviewed by Caroline Kboudi for the Boiling Point
‘A hint of realism.’ Alex Rubel ’20 – Ramat Bet Shemesh
We only had one siren and I was not in the shelter at that time. I was coming back from Jerusalem on the bus, and I was walking back from the bus stop. I had to cover on the street with a few people that had just gotten off the bus, and we took cover next to a building by a street. It wasn’t a very pleasant experience and it was definitely frightening, I didn’t really know what to do. The siren ended in a short amount of time. I know that you’re supposed to stay in a certain position, but, to be honest, it wasn’t that long of an event.
It’s different to live through it than it is to see it on social media.”
It’s different to live through it than it is to see it on social media, in a very, like, counter-intuitive way. When you see it on social media, you see it through the perspective of organizations that are trying to grab your attention and suck you in emotionally. When you’re here and you’re living through the experience itself, there’s actually like a hint of realism.
[To those wondering whether to come to Israel,] I would say this: We celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim — they are holidays that mark Jewish conquest of Israel, how we’ve become sovereign in our own land. But these conflicts around today remind you that the battle for Jewish sovereignty is really eternal. It doesn’t really stop or start
anywhere, and as Zionist Jews, we should feel a connection to our state, to our people.
This really has enabled me to feel a part of Israel. And you just realize that you’re part of a larger group. And you represent ideas that are greater than any individual self.