A personal perspective of Israelis living with terrorism on their streets
By Jonathan Feldstein
At 9:34pm Thursday, I received a strange message from my daughter in our family WhatsApp group:
“For all those who asked, I am ok and alive”
Since nobody asked, her sarcasm coupled with a little fear was eerily palpable.
I had been recording a podcast and didn’t know what she was talking about. None of us did. It seems that there was another terrorist attack, this time in central Tel Aviv. I had not heard about it.
Three people were injured, one shot in the neck and as of this writing, is still in critical condition. One terrorist was killed on the spot but there are reports that another terrorist escaped. The last time this happened, much of Tel Aviv remained on lockdown until the terrorist was caught, as it was again.
I also didn’t know my daughter was in Tel Aviv. She is 26, I don’t need to know her every move. But she lives in Jerusalem and we live just south of Jerusalem so, while not far away, we’re not often there. It’s a strange paradox in Israel that our kids have such wide freedom, so much so that we don’t feel the need to keep track of them 24/7 or on an unusually tight leash, yet we live in a society in which this could happen.
My daughter was out at a restaurant when it happened, fifteen minutes away by foot on Ben Yehuda St. They were just about to leave to walk to Israel’s first 7-Eleven on Dizengoff Street, right before it happened.
Fifteen minutes after her first note, she wrote that she and her friends had decided to return to where they were staying and had arrived safely. Thank God!
Forty-five minutes after her first message, another daughter wrote, “There was a terrorist attack?”
Fifteen minutes later, an hour after the shooting attack happened, my younger son came into the room announcing another attempted terrorist attack in a community nearby. A Palestinian Arab terrorist entered the largely ultra-Orthodox community of Beitar Ilit by bus, left a package on the bus which began emitting smoke but didn’t explode, and then fled at the second bus stop into the city of some 50,000 residents. The residents were put on lockdown while a bomb-squad arrived to detonate the explosive, accompanied by other security personnel who began the search for the terrorist.
While this was unfolding, several friends from overseas reached out to ask:
“Are you guys OK?”.
I assured them we were all fine, that my daughter who was fifteen minutes away from the attack was shaken but also fine. I explained that it’s sometimes surreal that things like this happen sometimes; that it’s close to home, sometimes closer, and sometimes too close. But we go about our lives.
While we were watching the news unfold, three of my kids were out, going about life. I didn’t really think about it, but did want to stay up to be sure they got home safely. My youngest son went to a midnight movie with friends. Another daughter was out at a kosher Korean restaurant with her boyfriend (and didn’t bring me any), and my older son and his fiancé went to an engagement party for other friends.
One friend asked about mental health and trauma related issues, a logical and intuitive question. I explained that because of the reality of terror and the threat of terror and war that exists (though the impression is that Israel is unsafe like the wild-west which is not the case), people do suffer trauma but most just go about their lives.
Trauma like this, particularly impacts terror victims and families of terror victims, military and former military and at-risk youth who live in areas that might be particularly unsafe and/or come from homes where they have no parents or parents who are unable to care for them. These children need support. It’s one of the important projects that the Genesis 123 Foundation funds, to empower “at-risk” youth so that they can pursue – with security and confidence – successful lives.
Both military and private civilian security in communities like mine which abut Palestinian Arab communities, go on high alert in situations like this as well. First responders must be trained in defense, able to confront a live terror incident, and take care of anyone injured from an attack before EMS personnel arrive. Providing resources for these rapid response civilian security teams saves lives, I know this, because my son-in-law is in one of the local teams and has actually saved people’s lives. It’s a reason that this is also a project that the Genesis 123 Foundation is proud to fund.
Friday morning, while running errands before the onset of, Shabbat (the Sabbath), I drove by Beitar Ilit, just 15 minutes away from my house by car. I went to the bakery where “Abed” and I always greet one another, as we did again. In another shop, another Palestinian Arab worker helped me professionally and politely. All as if nothing had changed. Maybe it hadn’t. Maybe this is just the norm: on one day others try to kill us and the next day we’re being polite and respectful.
All this comes on the heels of other civil strife in Israel that has been adding to the stress of increased terror attacks. Earlier in the day there were country wide protests over proposed sweeping judicial reforms. Roads were blocked to and at Ben Gurion airport, and main arteries in Tel Aviv. Hours later, Tel Aviv’s roads were clear of protestors, replaced by police and military securing the area and hunting for the terrorist who got away.
This is a taste of life here. There are injured people and their families who need your prayers. There are others for whom this creates trauma. And if these don’t hit too close to home, the rest of us just try to go about our lives.
About the writer:
Jonathan Feldstein - President of the US based non-profit Genesis123 Foundation whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Christians – is a freelance writer whose articles appear in The Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Townhall, NorthJersey.com, Algemeiner Jornal, The Jewish Press, major Christian websites and more.
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