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How Do You Stop the Tears? A Personal Perspective of Israel at War



Israel love for country

“What’s all the booming?” I say to my husband at 6:24 AM on a quiet Saturday morning.


“I think I hear alarms,” he replies as we both jump out of bed.


I bang on my daughter Leah’s door to wake her and her boyfriend Roy.


I grab the keys as we all run down the stairs, turning on the TV for the news and opening the door to let in our small black furry dog, Max.


The siren sounds in our small community, and we have 45 seconds to hustle into the bomb shelter and close the door behind us. We wait to hear the explosions — the sound of our defense missile system, Iron Dome, intercepting the rockets heading our way. And pray that the 90% effective defense system prevents the bombs from hitting us.


Scanning the phone for information, we stay in our safe room for 10 minutes as instructed by the army to ensure our safety from injuries from falling debris.


We exit the bomb shelter and remain glued to our TV, watching the horrors of the day unfold.


Israel is being attacked. Our country is at war. Little did we know the amount of destruction and devastation we would suffer. We had no idea how much our hearts would ache, how many tears we would shed, and how many lives would be changed forever.


As the tragedy unfolds…

My other daughter, Orlee, is with her fiancé Saar in California, driving cross-country on a road trip in the US. The army application on her phone notified her of the alarm on our moshav in Israel. She immediately calls to get the news. Hamas terrorists have infiltrated, shooting and killing everyone in sight. They have RPGs, machine guns, hand grenades. It’s awful, heartbreaking, and the death toll keeps rising.


The rockets keep coming, loud booms, and we go again to the bomb shelter. The TV is full of the list of places where the missiles are headed. Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Beer Sheva, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and on and on as the never-ending stream of missiles heads toward the cities to hurt as many civilians as possible.


Roy gets the notification that he is called to reserve duty. His army gear is at their apartment, so he must drive to get it. It’s only 10 minutes away, but sirens can sound at any time, leaving him exposed to the danger of being hit by a rocket. He goes quickly, and we hold our breath, waiting for him to return. He prepares his bag, dresses in army clothes, and puts metal tags on his boots so that he can be identified if something happens to him. I turn away and blink back tears.


My husband drives him to the base, taking the risk of being on the open road while Leah and I are again left waiting at home. Max won’t leave our side, following our every movement and shaking uncontrollably.


But we are lucky. We weren’t at the Nova music festival, nor did we live in any of the Kibbutz by the border of Gaza. We are relatively safe, with only the danger of rockets overhead. This thought is absurd.


How can you be safe if you are under attack from missiles?


Orlee’s dilemma


woman officer

Israelis are returning from the 4 corners of the earth to join the army and defend the country. Orlee wonders what she should do. As an officer, she understands her responsibility and wants to help. She contacts her unit. They need mattresses, sleeping bags, towels, and toiletries. From California, she coordinates with someone to pick up the supplies that I gather from our neighbors. We all want to do what we can. The country pulls together in an amazing show of unity.


Orlee helps from a distance, gathering names of soldiers and preparing spreadsheets of who is on reserve duty. She’s part of the HR unit, and tracking the whereabouts of the troops is a top priority. Both she and Saar consider coming back to Israel. All of their friends have been called to serve.


Sadly, they get notifications of people they know who have been killed—her youth counselor from our Moshav, a student that she counseled, an officer she served with, 5 students from the high school she attended, and the list goes on.


Orlee has been dreaming of her cross-country trip for 3 years, but how can she continue to enjoy herself when her friends are fighting and dying?


Saar and Orlee decide to continue traveling and run into a pro-Palestinian demonstration in San Francisco. They quickly move as far away as possible as the crowd cheers and shouts, “Death to the Jews.” Orlee and Saar remain silent; their accent and speech could endanger them if the crowd discovers they are Jewish and Israeli.


Though they spend another week in California, it is impossible for them to have fun with the war raging in Israel. They drive east across the country to my sister in New Jersey, where they can feel the love and comfort of family until they fly back to Israel.


Orlee and Saar are now home, and Orlee is in reserve duty 3 days a week, tracking the movement of the troops as they fight in Gaza.


Shani Louk, my friend’s fairy princess daughter


woman in Israel

On October 9th, I called a friend I worked with at Intel to see if he had been called to reserve duty like many others.


“Did you hear about our friend Ricarda’s daughter?” Yossi asks. “She was at the Nova dance party and has been kidnapped by Hamas.”


I start to cry. Two weeks earlier, at brunch with Ricarda, we discussed our children. We talked about the kids' school issues, what they were currently doing, and how raising kids isn’t easy.


“How bad could it be?” we all said. “As long as the kids are safe.”


Now we know things could be worse. Unimaginably worse.


I send a WhatsApp note to Ricarda. There is nothing I can do other than let her know I’m thinking about her and praying for Shani’s safety. On the news and all over social media are pictures of Shani, her broken body, in the back of a pickup truck. She is identified by her tattoos. Other than that, there is no information about where or how she is.


Shani has dual citizenship, so Ricarda travels to Germany and pleads for help. Like so many families of hostages, Ricarda does everything in her power to bring awareness to her daughter’s awful situation.


We wait 3 weeks to hear news, and when we finally do — it’s devastating. Shani, the fairy princess, will dance no more. She was murdered, probably immediately, at the Nova dance party on October 7th. She was taken to Gaza. Her body hasn’t been recovered, but the army identified a piece of her skull.


There was no funeral for me to attend, only a visit to Ricarda’s house to offer what little comfort I could. And my tears continue to flow.

Leah & Roy’s story


army troops

Roy left for duty on October 7th. The days turn into weeks. He is finally given leave for 48 hours. He comes home, exhausted. Leah is relieved to see him. I ask what he needs and what I can do for his unit. He requests sugar cookies. I pull out my cookie cutters and bake cookies in the shape of Jewish stars decorated with blue and white icing. It’s a small gesture but will give the soldiers some moral support.


Leah is lonely, a war girlfriend. She doesn’t move to her apartment as planned; we don’t want her to be alone.


Leah and I take turns keeping Max company. He is still watching us, by our side, scared by the continuous explosions we hear all day and all night. He doesn’t know if it is from our heavy artillery or rockets fired at us. Every boom sends him scrambling to the shelter or hiding under the table.


Days pass as we wait anxiously for Roy to get leave. Sometimes, it's Monday through Wednesday, and other times, it’s Thursday through Sunday. Time is more precious. I bake cookies, chocolate chips, sugar, and chocolate-rum snowflakes.


Leah’s birthday comes, and Roy wants to surprise her by coming home. He asks for my help and plans to arrive at midnight to propose. We decorate the living room with balloons, flowers, champagne, and a cake that says, “Will you marry me?” It might not be the romantic proposal he wanted, but it’s the best he could do with so much uncertainty. I wake Leah and send her downstairs for her surprise proposal.


There can be a ray of sunshine and happiness even in wartime.


Are you okay?

Today is day 87. I live with numbers. I wake in the morning and see how many rockets were fired at Israel. I’m afraid to hear the news that reports the number of soldiers killed overnight. How many other families' lives have been forever changed?


Each story brings tears, and I’m unable to express the amount of grief I feel. Is it possible to have your heart ache so much for a 19-year-old boy I have never met? Or for a 34-year-old woman who is now a widow and must raise her 4 daughters alone? What about the pregnant woman with the toddler whose husband has been killed? Or the grandfather who has buried 3 of his grandsons?


There are still 129 hostages held by Hamas, including 2 children and 14 women. I don’t know what condition they are in. No one does. The Red Cross has not been allowed to visit. I listen to the news, hoping for a hostage exchange, but I know that Israel cannot leave the terrorists in power. The country’s very existence depends on destroying Hamas. Israel must defend itself; there is no other option.


This war Israel never wanted continues, and it seems like an eternity. I attempt to focus on work, building my business, and supporting my clients by creating magic with words. I sit at my computer, pour my heart and soul onto the page, and share my story.


I am not okay. I am hurting. But I am also strong and resilient and will try to recover. I am not alone. I have the support of other women who are going through similar feelings. And I have women outside of Israel who have reached out to listen and read my words.


Pray with me for better days, for the safe return of the hostages, the safety of the Israeli soldiers, and for peace here in Israel and the rest of the world.


 

Written by: Annette Mashi

Instagram: @annettemashi


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