July 15, 2024
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July 15, 2024
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We Are Safe, But We Are Not OK

It started out as a normal Shabbos and Yom Tov here. My son and I had a great idea the night before: go to Vasikin at 6:05 a.m. and then do our hakafos with the rest of the shul and my family and not have a very long morning of davening. At about 6:30 a.m. I felt something—something we’ve felt before even in Beit Shemesh. I felt it a few more times before we went outside for Yizkor at about 7:45 a.m. when I heard a few others saying those booms and tremors were likely Iron Dome intercepting rockets. Unfortunately, in our four years being here in Israel, we’ve heard it before and even had the sirens go off three other times. But this time felt different.

At around 8:45 a.m., when the rest of the main shul gathered outside in the adjacent basketball court for hakafos, just as we were about to start, the first siren went off. Some ran inside, and the rest of us immediately ran up against a large divider wall, heard a few booms, looked up and saw three Iron Dome rocket interceptions directly above us. The sirens stopped and we all continued our hakafos. And not five minutes later, the sirens went off again, and again we ran to safety and saw more smoke streaks in the sky and the Iron Dome successfully protecting us from above.

I decided it was best then for me to go home to my family, to check on them and make sure everyone was OK. Though, on the way out, I heard someone say that a number of terrorists entered Israel through tunnels and kidnapped Israeli civilians. We just assumed that the rockets were in retaliation, a response by Israel, something we’ve seen before. Obviously, something was very wrong, but we didn’t know the extent. BH, thank God, everyone was safe when I got home, though a little shaken. There were five or six more sirens throughout the morning; each one had us running for shelter.

The rest of the day was quiet, but it was an eerie feeling around, as many of us didn’t know what was happening. Streets usually bustling with people were empty and we told our kids that they can go to a friend’s house, but we didn’t want them wandering the streets like they normally would on a Shabbos afternoon. Young men and boys were running to their cars to report to their army bases for duty. Something was very wrong.

Every year on Simchas Torah, our shul saves the last hakafa for the afternoon and we dance together as a community with the Torah as the holiday ebbs away. But this one was different. People were hearing a lot of things, some unconfirmed, but very bad things. I had only then learned that terrorists broke through the border fence with Gaza and had taken over border towns, many people were killed and even hostages taken. Something was definitely wrong.

The hakafos started with a somber feel, and our rabbi, Rav Dovid Bagno of Mishkan Shilo in Ramat Shilo, got up in front of our community and reminded us that only two weeks earlier, we were praying the last prayer, Neilah, on Yom Kippur, and beseeching the heavens to stay open for a few more moments of prayer. Tonight, in this moment, this is our Neilah and our job is to dance and sing with the Torah to keep the gates of heaven open. As we do every year, we sang slower, more heartfelt tunes. The emotions were palpable. We started to sing “VeZakeini” and “Acheinu,” together as one. And then a young teen walked to the middle of our large circle and started to sing the special prayer asking Hashem to protect our soldiers, as the fathers of the young soldiers in our community who left on Shabbos for their call of duty hugged the Torahs tightly. I’ll never forget that moment and that prayer of מי שברך אבותינו הוא יברך את חיילי צבא הגנה לישראל. I couldn’t join in song as I was so choked up in tears. This felt personal.

I hurried home as Shabbos ended and we turned on our phones and only then started to understand the scope of the tragedy that was happening throughout the day and continuing into the night. Border towns invaded by hundreds of terrorists from Gaza; men, women and children slaughtered, taken hostage and dragged back into Gaza, paraded through the streets. Hamas terrorists going door to door looking for unsuspecting people to kill. Terrorists still inside Israel, on the loose; shooting and fighting going on inside Israel.

We sat in stunned silence for a while, unsure of what to do and what will be. Reading and scrolling, hungry for as much information as we could get, and it just kept on getting worse the more we read. Schools were closed, flights canceled, so much uncertainty. We were told to stay inside and lock our doors, as the fighting was still going on and terrorists were still unaccounted for. After hours on the phone, I needed to put it down, but it was tough to fall asleep.

Sunday morning was just bizarre. No one really knew what to do. But the more we learned about what was happening in the South, the more shocked and stunned we became. Throughout the day we heard fighter jets and helicopters overhead, and felt the reverberations of the bombs being
dropped in Gaza. Thankfully we didn’t have any sirens, but there were plenty of tense moments. Later in the day, we galvanized and decided it was time to act. Posts were going out on WhatsApp groups from organizations that were making deliveries to our soldiers who needed food and basic supplies, so we put together a package and even went to the supermarket later for a second delivery of supplies.

Monday has been more of the same. Reading the news, scrolling to find out the latest. Booms and jet engines overhead, but we move on and try to get some semblance of normalcy. Our 18-year-old daughter went back to her Sherut Leumi at a hospital in Ramat Gan, doing amazing work where she’s needed, and we couldn’t be more proud of her. More supply runs both for ourselves and for our soldiers who are fighting this war on our behalf. We try to move on.

We are all safe, b”H, but we are not OK. We don’t know what will be, but we know we are strong, the Jewish people are strong, and we will come out of this stronger. We will win.

But right now, we are not OK.

Thank you for your support; thank you for checking in. Keep davening for us, for Israel, for the Jewish people and the brave soldiers, young men and women of our צבא הגנה לישראל.

Am Yisrael Chai

עם ישראל חי

Yaakov Rosenberg, formerly of Bergenfield, lives with his family in Beit Shemesh, made aliyah in August of 2019. He is an entrepreneur and media consultant.

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