I can only describe the setting in which we ate breakfast on Friday as idyllic.
We sat overlooking the calm blue Mediterranean, the warm November sun caressing
our bare arms, devouring top-notch omelettes, pastries and other delights.
Midway through our meal, however, the siren sounded, followed by a mighty
“boom,” blowing visions of the ideal far away. I felt like an extra on a
Hollywood set where the occurrence of “something bad” is emphasized through
dramatic juxtapositioning with something overly lovely.
The shock of
hearing the siren was lessened only by having already heard it the previous
evening; an insistent wailing sound which burst our Tel Aviv bubble. Since then
we have continued to run for shelter at its command at least once a
Having spent most of my life in London, this is a rather new
In addition to first-time rocket fleeing, I am also newly
privy to the pronounced feeling of national solidarity which binds Israelis
together in times of war.
We are getting to know our neighbors better
through shared time in the basement shelter, and sympathetic enquiries in the
elevator: “Where were you when the siren sounded yesterday?” and “how are you
coping with the baby and the rockets?” When a siren sounds and we’re out and
about, we run into the shelter of the nearest building and are unfailingly
welcomed by its residents. Thus one finds oneself sharing moments of heightened
excitement with a motley crew of strangers cum compatriots.
worryingly, we all have family and friends who have been called up. We truly
feel each other’s pain at the absence of a loved one, and apprehension about
what the coming days and weeks will bring. There is a tangible sense of unity as
everyone chips in to help the families of those called up.
terms, we are aware that despite our manifold internal divisions, enemy fire
seeks us Israelis indiscriminately. As a nation, we have mourned the slaughter
of a Chabad family in Kiryat Malachi, and watched in disbelief as rocket fire
drove panicked, bikini-clad Tel Avivians from the beach.
And yet one
can’t help but feel that this born-again feeling of brotherhood is frustratingly
impermanent; we know it will dissipate once the external threat is quelled. Time
and time again, we Israelis, so bound together and internally solid when facing
an external enemy, have relaxed into the humdrum of warring, mud-slinging
factions and petty politics in times of “peace.”
How then can we somehow
capture, elongate and preserve our current feeling of unity, of mutual
responsibility, our awareness of the bigger picture? How can we take the
appalling experience of running from rockets, and draw an enduring, positive
note? Now is the time, when we’re confined to our shelters, or when we’re out
walking or driving, conscious that we’re in a big open space, to focus on this
question, both as individuals and as members disparate communities.
is the time for us to invest in projects of common concern that we can integrate
into our regular routines. And we should do so with projects which shatter the
stereotypes which plague our culture.
Volunteer at an institution that
would not normally expect to see someone like you. Reach out to someone to whom
you would not have normally. And don’t stop doing it once the skies
If you’re stuck for inspiration then here’s one way to get
involved. This Friday, Gesher, an organization which closes the gap between
secular and religious Jews in Israel and promotes our shared heritage as the
force which can hold us together, is encouraging Israelis in less impacted areas
to collect and distribute food and comfort gifts to those in the
Join their convoy of volunteers from across the Jewish spectrum
traveling together to support suffering businesses and deliver supplies to
people for Shabbat.
To many Israelis, the crisis with the Palestinians
feels interminable, and too deep and complex to know how to tackle on a personal
level. Yet our internal crisis of division is closer at hand, and pulls
dangerously at Israel’s seams. If we can sublimate our fears and anxieties
around an external enemy into determined action against our long-term domestic
enemies – societal division, intolerance for the other, and pettiness – then we
will have done good. We will have created some tikkun to our shattered vision of
the ideal, blown so far away.
For more information on how you can help
with the convoy, visit www.gesher.co.il/english or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The writer is a member of the Israeli venture capital community and a supporter