Naturally, I was worried about this young girl who, at the age of 18, had to leave the warmth and security of her home, to go out and protect her country. On top of it all, she was not feeling well on this particular night - but life in the IDF is not a job one avoids by calling in sick.
I immediately took a picture of her with my young son Natanel before hugging her and wising her well. I couldn’t help thinking to myself that if she was my daughter I would not be handling this so well. We all said our goodbyes to her and as soon as she left, my cousin told me that she will not sleep until her little girl returned home.
We watched the news intently, and heard that more rockets were being launched into Sderot and that all surrounding cities should be aware. My son and I were scheduled to get a ride back to Beer Sheva that evening. As we waited, my family told me that if we hear a siren on the way we must quickly stop the car, get out and try to lay low. I thought to myself, ‘is this for real? Could this really be happening?’ I was in disbelief that innocent Israelis live through this scenario far too often. Finally we arrived in Beer Sheeva safe and sound. My family, huddled around a television set watching the news, was thrilled when we walked through the door.
Sunday morning came and it was a beautiful, sunny day in Beer Sheeva. Natanel and I went out to enjoy the day with my niece at a café when we started getting calls from friends and family that there were many rockets flying, some may even reach Beer Sheva. They suggest – strongly - that we postpone our lunch plans, and, instead, return home. They informed us that the news warns of imminent terrorist attacks on buses and in malls, etc. At that moment, I felt overcome by fear, wondering when – if ever before – had I felt so frightened. The answer was never. I immediately thought about how lucky I was to Iive in Canada and how terrible it is for my family - and all the people of Israel - who feel this fear constantly.
I told my niece that it was time to head home as I really felt uneasy being outside. After we got home we start watching the news and stare at the television in utter dismay and disbelief at what is going on around us. The news warns us that if we hear sirens, we must quickly get into a bomb shelter. I can’t believe what I’m hearing. My son asks me what’s going on, and, as I look into his eyes, I see that sweet, innocent, happy face becoming increasingly frightened. My heart breaks to see this little boy experience this kind of fear and tension.
Monday arrived and still no sirens. But as we are glued to the television with the rest of the country, we see that more and more rockets have been launched into Ashkelon, Ahsdod, Netivot and now Ofakim.
Then they announce that there will be no school for the children in Ashkelon and Ashdod the next day due to the danger. The danger? These are children – they shouldn’t have to worry about the danger. How lucky are those of us living in Toronto who only have school cancelled because of a snowstorm.
As I left my beloved Israel and returned to Toronto, I hope and pray that the future for the people of Eretz Israel will be a lot better than the few days I have experienced there.
--Livana Ohayon is a native of Israel and is Executive Assistant, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.