Long time no write…Tough to concentrate on living our best chapter when it feels like the world is collapsing all around us. Here’s my article in The Wall Street Journal about life in a war zone.
Moving Targets in Israel
My my, hey, hey is Mideast war here to stay?
Shavei Zion, Israel
On the 14th day of this war between Hamas and Israel, my husband Jonny and I had business in Tel Aviv, about 80 miles from our village in northern Israel. We wanted to avoid traffic so we rode on Jonny’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
As we approached Tel Aviv, bomb sirens sounded, coming from all directions around us. The sirens meant we had about 30 seconds to seek shelter from rockets being fired from the Gaza Strip. Immediately, all along the highway, drivers pulled over to the right side of the road, turned off their cars, jumped out and crouched with their arms over their heads or lay down on their stomachs.
“Pull over!” I shouted from under my helmet. But Jonny—who served in the Israel Defense Forces in the Golani Brigade, the elite unit that lost 13 soldiers on the first day of this war Israel calls “Protective Edge”—continued riding.
“It’s safer to be a moving target!” he shouted back to me.
We rode through that siren and then another. Missiles fell, but that time, there were no casualties. We reached Tel Aviv safely. Has this kind of life become the new normal?
It doesn’t seem possible that only a few weeks ago, I was standing in a crowd of more than 50,000 people in a Tel Aviv park, listening to the Rolling Stones perform a sold-out concert. At the time, I thought that Israel had somehow made it, that we’d finally been accepted as just another stop on a rock-and-roll tour. Jonny and I even had plans to go with four of our six children to a Neil Young concert scheduled for mid-July. That concert, of course, was cancelled soon after the war began. “And it was supposed to be a summer of rock-and-roll,” my son Ari said.
Instead it’s the summer of a war that reminds me again of the fragility of peace in the Middle East. All around us, there’s more instability than the region has seen in decades. Countries such as Syria have turned into raging maelstroms. The Rolling Stones’s tour this summer was billed as 14 stops in 2014, or “14 on Fire.” On fire, indeed.
“If the sirens go off, then we’ll all go in here,” I explained to the kids in the cheeriest voice I could muster. Then the other counselors and I herded them all into the closest bomb shelter. It’s a dark, dreary room. It’s a room that was used around the clock during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. It’s a room that quickly unravels the myth that Israel is aggressive, mighty and strong.
There’s really no place in the country that feels safe anymore. Homeowners drawing up plans to build new houses must now, by law, include a bomb shelter with one-and-a-half foot thick walls made from concrete and reinforced steel, which jacks up the price of construction by at least $20,000. People grumble about it but they have no choice.
Most days, I take Israel’s version of reality in stride. It’s part of my daily life, the way people in San Francisco deal with the threat of earthquakes. But somehow, with Islamic State fighters invading Syria and beheading people, and Iran’s leaders still threatening to wipe Israel off the map, and with critics of Israel growing more and more vociferous and belligerent about our right to defend ourselves, the threats against us seem more and more real.
For the first time since I moved here in 1991, I feel genuinely shaken. I don’t know how this latest conflict will end. Or will it never end at all?
Ms. Bletter is the author of “The Mom Who Took Off on Her Motorcycle” (Kent & Cordell, 2013). Her next book, “A Remarkable Kindness,” is forthcoming from HarperCollins in 2015.