‘I guess we have time to buy milk and get home to the kids before the missiles hit’

For Israelis it was a tense wait after Iran launched its attack


An anti-missile system in operation after Iran launched missiles against Israel (Times Now)

V On Friday, 6 October, Israel lit Shabbat candles, cooked for the chag, and prepared to dance with the Torah for Simchat Torah. No one knew what was coming on October 7.

But on Friday, 12 April, while we still cooked and prepared for Shabbat, Israel was tense. Iran had promised to retaliate against Israel for its alleged attack on its generals in Syria, and while nobody knew when it was coming, our sense of invulnerability had been shattered.

But Shabbat passed quietly, so when my parents asked us to come the 20 miles to Jerusalem to help my mother who had just had surgery, we went without hesitation.

I was in the midst of figuring out my mother’s new medication regime when my husband showed me his phone: “Iran started its attack on Israel. Hundreds of drones have been launched. Arrival time, 6-9 hours.” First, I just stared. Then I said, “I guess we have enough time to finish up, buy milk and get to the kids before the missiles hit.”

My mother insisted on giving us cash, just in case, and a solar panel to use if our electricity failed. At the gas station, Israelis were stocking up on staples for their safe rooms, while one man walked around the parking lot praying in a tallit (I can’t say if this was normal for him or due to Iran). We picked up milk and granola bars and spent the bizarre drive home reading memes by Israelis joking about the arrival time of the Iranian attack. The Israeli coping mechanism, black humour, is the best part of any conflict.

Knowing that missiles and drones are careering through space to your home, while all you can do is wait for them, is a surreal experience. We have faith in God and the IDF, but missiles are missiles and defences can be overwhelmed, as we saw to devastating effect on Simchat Torah.

As we drove, IDF jets echoed loudly across the sky. The crescent moon, hanging large and low, glowed orange-yellow in the black sky as if watching over us – or at least waiting with us.

It seemed like everything was holding its collective breath.

At home, the younger children were already asleep, but the older ones were very much awake and very much aware. One daughter prepared water bottles for the safe room, while the other texted her brother and sister-in-law in Jerusalem, swapping memes and asking if they had their safe room prepped.

At around 1.30am, deep, massive booms let us know the missiles from Iran had arrived. I ran to the window where a very bright ball and tail of light streaked through the sky – seemingly right towards us. I have seen many Iron Dome interceptions over the years. This was no Iron Dome. I turned to my husband: “ROOM NOW.” Seeing my face and my seriousness (I’m not a panicker) he helped me wake the boys, aged 11 and 14, and bring them to the safe room. We calmly explained to their sleepy faces that Iran had sent drones and missiles to attack us but that Israel and its allies (thank you US, UK, Jordan, France and Saudi Arabia) were knocking them down. “And aren’t we blessed to have a safe room that is warm and cosy and where we can be together?” We spoke over the booms, answering their many questions.

I called my mother. “We hear sirens,” she said, “but I can’t get out of bed to go to the safe room.” My father refused to go without her. I told them to just close the trissim (hard blinds on the windows) to prevent the windows from breaking and that everything would be OK.

My sister’s entire building shook, they had multiple sirens and massive booms. Our married children in Jerusalem had sirens and were in their safe room as well.

We checked news feeds and watched videos of interceptions, including one that captured the interceptions above our town. It looked more like a fireworks display or meteorites falling, like a disintegration of something in the sky, with a mass of white and yellow balls of fire raining down... it reminded me of being a child watching television as the Challenger exploded.

As I sat on the floor of that room, my husband, children and shaking dog around me, I was genuinely afraid, for us and for the rest of the country. But I refused to let my fear show. These poor kids whose childhoods have been characterised by a pandemic and two wars, who knew the words for terror attack, terrorist, and stabbing decades younger than I did, who have varying degrees of trauma from sirens and running to shelters, deserve to feel safe.

I used to wonder, at the worst of times, if I’d done the wrong thing, raising them here. But the past six months have clarified so much. We have seen the true face of our enemies and the real vulnerability of our people.

And we have also seen our resilience, our strength and our courage. I’ve never been so proud to be Israeli. I’ve never been so sure of my decision to move here. I’ve never been so clear on our place in this world and the importance of standing with our people.

After a while were told that the first wave was over and we sent everyone back to bed.

I woke every hour or so to check the news for the promised second wave, but it didn’t come – at least not near us.

The next day everyone slept in a bit late and I took my boys to Jerusalem with me to help care for Mom.

Since then one child has had trouble sleeping due to anxiety over Iran. But life goes on.

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