Living in Israel can be so hard.
Earlier this week, I awoke to the news that the IDF had started a long overdue major incursion into the West Bank city of Jenin. Although I knew it was on the cards, I was still stunned when I read the headline on my phone not long after I had woken up. Having children in the army forces you to do this. Some habits are hard to break.
Within seconds, an overwhelming feeling of relief washed over me as I realized that my own son, who served in Jenin last summer, had left the army and was no longer in any danger. The summer of 2022 was probably one of the worst of my life, as I constantly worried about my son losing his.
While he’s come through it, the newer recruits who have replaced him and his comrades, are there now, in that hotbed of terror.
When I think back to last year, I can still feel that low level of anxiety that plagued me throughout, peaking dramatically in the summer months.
Except, thankfully, it wasn’t me this time. My son wasn’t there.
And yet I still find myself checking the news constantly, all the while praying that none of our precious soldiers are harmed, or worse, killed.
I know how their parents are feeling. Some will be frantic with fear, while others will be trying to push those feelings aside so they can get on with their lives. I was a bit of both.
And it’s the same with Israelis in general. It’s not just those with children or family members in the army who are affected by the terror that blights this tiny country.
We all feel it in one way or another.
We're all affected by terror
ON TUESDAY, as I was enjoying a relaxing day off from work, I received news of a terror attack in Tel Aviv. A car ramming resulted in multiple injuries. At that stage, it was a “developing story.”
Those words are difficult to digest. Details are what’s needed – and fast. Without them, the Israeli mindset goes into overdrive as we all play out the worst-case scenarios in our heads.
Like many, my mind started racing. Did I know anyone who was in Tel Aviv at the time? Where did it happen? Was anyone killed?
In the immediate aftermath of such an atrocity, it’s very difficult to know what to do, or even think. Some carry on regardless, having grown used to such attacks. As sad as it is, for them, it’s not so shocking anymore. They simply carry on with their lives as before.
Then there are those who feel the need to press pause, if only for a short time, in order to mark the severity of the situation in some small way and pay their respects to the victims.
These are undoubtedly difficult situations that everyone handles in their own way.
But this is our reality in Israel. However each individual chooses to deal with these tragic events, the stark reality is that we are all living with terror. Whether it’s our children on the front line fighting it, or innocent civilians going about their business in our towns and cities who are victims of it, none of us can escape it.
We all try to live normal lives and protect our little ones from this horrifying reality. But in reality, they will have no choice but to face it in their own young lives, when their draft dates start to appear on the horizon, way before they have even left school.
Despite all this, still many outside of Israel blame us for defending ourselves.
Fellow Brit, Jake Wallis Simon muses in The Spectator: “How would we in Britain react to such events? The IRA years show all too clearly that, in the wake of a terror threat, the security forces fight back. Israel is adopting a similar approach – but is being roundly, and unfairly, condemned for doing so.”
What would they have us do? Sit back and wait, while terrorists in Jenin and other cities in the West Bank plot our demise while shoring up their secret military stashes?
How many car rammings, shootings, and stabbings must innocent Israelis endure before we earn the right to defend ourselves?
Would it be more palatable to our critics if we allowed more people to die, before fighting back?
And what of the makeup of the “evil” IDF, as some believe it to be?
Perhaps those on the outside looking in don’t realize that our defense force, in the main, comprises our own sons and daughters who are compelled to give up the best years of their lives to defend their country. They aren’t professional soldiers who have chosen the army as a career path (although those who do have my utmost respect).
They’re just doing what they have to do when they leave school; kids who have huge responsibilities, way beyond their years. Doubtless, most would happily trade this for the life of fun and freedom enjoyed by their foreign peers.
As Wallis Simon continues in his recent article: “The [BBC Radio 4] Today programme… included a noticeable paucity of Israeli voices, likewise focusing its coverage heavily on the Palestinian narrative. Even-handed sections – there were one or two – were islanded amid waves of nudge-nudge insinuations about the evil Israeli army.”
When will Israel be allowed to fight the terror in its midst and defend itself without drawing criticism from all sides? What would give us that right? I often ask myself these questions.
The writer is a former lawyer from Manchester, England. She now lives in Israel where she works at The Jerusalem Post.