October 8, 2014
I breathed a sigh of relief as I read the newspaper headline that the code red sirens that sounded across southern Israel this week were just false alarms.
But then the reality of situation quickly sank in: The people running to bomb shelters as sirens blare are replaying the past summer’s trauma, their fears are resurfacing, and the terrifying doubts about the security and safety of their children are reemerging.
A false siren, for people whose lives have recently been torn apart by war and terror, is petrifying nonetheless.
Two weeks ago, I visited Sha’ar Hanegev, an Israeli town near the Gaza border, on the same day that code red sirens were blaring. I can assure you that for many, it makes little difference if the sirens prove to be “real” or not. These Israeli heroes in southern Israel know that there are terrorists on our border, just miles away from their homes, who are set on our destruction. They know all too well about the weapon stockpiles of Hamas terrorists that are growing rapidly, and the terror tunnels that could be located right under their community synagogue or their children’s bedroom.
That is why, for most trauma-stricken residents, hearing the familiar code red siren tears open painful scars of war that have yet to heal.
For the children who jump from the breakfast table with tears in their eyes to frantically run to the closest shelter, it is little comfort to know that this time no rockets were fired.
For the holy teachers who pray to God that they will get all of their students in the safe room within the 20 second warning period they have, hearing that these sirens were false doesn’t calm their pounding hearts and trembling legs.
And for the weak elderly Holocaust survivors who have no choice but to stay in bed as the code red sirens blare, even a “false alarm” serves as a stark reminder that the Jewish people’s destruction is still being sought by the enemies that surround us.
Anyone who has experienced a code red siren knows just how petrifying it is. The siren serves as an unwelcome reminder of your vulnerability and mortality, and these traumas stay permanently etched on your soul.
Although I have had my teudat zehut (Israel ID card) for close to 10 years, I feel that it was this summer I truly became Israeli. During this summer’s war, I had 90 seconds to run with my three sleeping children to seek safety I don’t have a bomb shelter in my home. Sitting in my stairwell shaking, the radio reported that the siren sounded in my city by mistake. The rocket had landed in a nearby town. Believe me, that was little comfort to my numb bones and devastated soul.
Two months later, the trauma has remained with me. To this day, when I hear a police siren, an ambulance, or smoke alarm, I instinctively search for the closest shelter. The sound is just too similar to a code red alarm.
Last week, we observed Yom Kippur and remembered the surprise war that almost destroyed our nation. The fact is, here in Israel you never know when war is going to break out.
Or with whom.
Or if we’ll win.
That is why for me, the code red siren serves as a wake-up call, a stark reminder that, despite generally feeling safe in Israel, we indeed have enemies who wish to destroy us. And even if they don’t use their missiles at this very moment, those missiles are pointed in our direction just waiting for a strategic time to launch.
But there can’t be darkness without light. Indeed, all of the Gentiles in the world are not out to destroy us. Thank God, through my work with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, I have been exposed to Christians who passionately love Israel, want to help Israel, and don’t want anything in return.
What my father Rabbi Eckstein began more than 30 years ago as the first interfaith organization between Christians and Jews has grown into the largest philanthropic organization in Israel.
Through The Fellowship, it is Christians and Jews who are working together to secure Israel by building bomb shelters, setting up trauma centers, providing first responder kits to dozens of city councils, bringing food to Holocaust survivors who cannot leave their homes, and much more.
Through this historic work, each year over one million of the neediest Jews in Israel and the former Soviet Union are receiving lifesaving aid and what is sometimes even more important hope.
The fact that there are millions of enemies who wish to destroy the Jewish people is nothing new. The fact that we have millions of friends is historic.
When God told Abraham to “go to a land that I will show you,” He didn’t say it would be easy. When He promised us this land, He didn’t say there would always be peace.
But what God told us about this land is that it is our home.
And that is why there is no place I would rather be.
With blessings from the Holy Land,