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Growing Up with Terror

[caption id="attachment_8837" align="aligncenter" width="600"](Photo: ASHERNET) (Photo: ASHERNET)[/caption] A staff member in The Fellowship's Jerusalem office shared with us this moving essay about what it’s been like living in the shadow of terror in Israel. My family made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) in May 1990 from Kazakhstan, which was essentially a Muslim country and was ruled by the Soviet Union. Kazakhstan had taken in and embraced thousands of Jewish families that escaped from Eastern Europe during the Holocaust. Others, like my family, arrived in the country at the end of the war. In Kazakhstan, my parents had Christian and Muslim friends, many of which were closer to them then their Jewish friends. My family was a Zionist family and some of our relatives made aliyah to Israel in the 1970s. The minute that the gates of the Soviet Union opened for aliyah, my parents decided that there was no reason to wait any longer. At the end of August that year, the Gulf War broke out. We celebrated my first birthday in Israel, when I turned 5, in a tiny bedroom with sealed windows, the wail of the sirens sounding outside, in the grip of fear. The war ended in the winter of 1991, and relative quiet prevailed in Israel. Towards the end of 1990s, as I was finishing elementary school, weekly terror attacks began in Jerusalem and throughout the country. There were no cellular phones in those days, and I remember the moments of fear when I came home from school and waited for my mother to return home safely. Those 2-3 hours seemed endless. Every place I went, in every house, the television was turned to the news, with endless pictures of the wounded, the killed, the weeping families. When I began to study in junior high and high school in the center of Jerusalem, I got used to traveling by bus, being part of the complex life of the city, and being stuck in huge traffic jams in the center of the city while officials checked out "suspicious objects." When I was in high school, we would sit after school in the "Moment" Café, which was right next to our school. In March 2002, during the Second Intifada, a terrorist walked into the café and murdered 11 people, with over 50 more wounded. The distressing and disturbing emotions you feel during such moments are extremely difficult to describe; it was as if the terror attack took place in your own house. You feel that you have no control, you are helpless, and terror is greeting you at every possible corner. I graduated high school and was inducted into the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) the same month. I was placed in the District Coordination and Liaison division at the Erez Checkpoint, where mortar shells, stone-throwing, and terrorist infiltrations were the routine day and night. Fear was a part of our everyday experience, but sometimes we even laughed about being in a situation where we could hear digging under the roads of the base. On January 14, 2004, I woke up after a night shift to a deafening explosion. A female suicide bomber killed one of my best friends on the base along with another three soldiers. One of them was a new immigrant and had just been inducted into the IDF. I think this was one of the worst experiences in my whole life, coping with mourning at that age. Tzur, my friend who was killed, was compassionate and filled with light, a boy who smiled from ear to ear and loved everyone. The realization that after the seven days of mourning the base had to return to normal functioning hit us like a powerful weight. We had to function; the base was responsible for communication with Gaza and the Palestinian population. You must understand, we were children between 18 and 20 years of age who had lost close friends, and more than that, the friends who were lost could have been any one of us, in the same incident and similar incidents during our service there. Every few years there is a wave of terror. More families join the family of mourners, more children are orphaned, and the pain is never-ending. Today I am 30 years old. We have smart phones now and I am still worried about my mother's safety when she travels on public transportation, including the light rail train in Jerusalem which goes through the Arab neighborhood of Shuafat. My heart skips beats every morning and every afternoon when she doesn't answer my call to tell me that she arrived safely to her office or returned safely home. In Jerusalem, there are entire neighborhoods in which the residents are afraid to go for walks or strolls with their dogs because they are afraid of terrorists with knives. I am one of them. I love Israel with a pure love, even with all the difficulties and complexities of the country. Nonetheless, I am praying from the depths of my heart and soul that there will be a change. I am praying that the world will stand by our side in the war for sanity, for freedom of religion. We are not at all talking about a territorial war. I pray that our soldiers and all of the security forces can return to the routine of protecting the security of the state, and emerge from the state of emergency in which they are operating day and night. I pray that the cafés will once again be filled with life, that children will go to school without fear, and that people will be able to put their fears aside and continue to live their lives. Then the terror will not have the last word and the terrorists will not win.

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