There was a missile attack today in Beersheva, where I teach English at a local elementary school.
Last night we were warned that relations with Gaza were “heating up” and tension was growing. As a result, we spent the night on rocket alert and expected to be woken up in the early-morning hours to air raid sirens. Luckily no attack came. During those hours some of my fellow volunteers were nervous, but I value keeping a level head in emergency situations — “I must not fear, fear is the mind killer” (“Dune”) — and pushed the danger to the back of my mind. Though I awoke suddenly a few times throughout the night, that represented the extent of my discomfort.
The next day proceeded much as any other, waking up mere minutes before dashing out the door for my bus. In honor of an Ethiopian holiday, my school had some special activities planned (I got to make a coil pot!), and I only taught two students. Other than the normal insanity that is an Israeli school, everything was normal, and the previous night’s warnings were all but forgotten — but unfortunately, I was mistaken to think the danger had passed.
We heard the sirens during seventh period, and nothing could have prepared me for what came next.
Since I have lived in Israel, which is just over two months, there have been three missile warnings, and one was a false alarm. As an adult, I possess a level of mental toughness that allows me to cope with stressful situations, but seeing children as young as 6 crying for their mothers (“Eema! Eema!” in Hebrew) and clutching my hand as if their lives depended on it is too much for me to handle.
Neither of my previous two missile encounters solicited so much as a frown from me, but this put me over the edge. I almost broke down in tears myself seeing the absolute terror that gripped these children, but I choked back my own tears for their sake.
After the attack had ended, about 15 minutes later, a parade of parents promptly arrived to swoop down and smother their kids in a warm embrace. I made it a point to give smiley-face stickers to every kid and teacher for their bravery — anything to take their mind off things.
A majority of the world’s population sits in their living rooms and sees all the “horrors” perpetrated by the evil country Israel. They sit idly by while rockets are launched at civilians, targeting highly populated areas and schools, and then raise hell when Israel strikes back. But the international media never shows pictures of Israeli children cowering and bawling in their school’s bomb shelter, nor is there any mention that Israeli strikes target known terror operatives and even drop leaflets warning of the impending attack.
Luckily, here in Beersheva and other Israeli cities we have the Iron Dome missile defense system, but even that is not a 100 percent effective solution. All I ask is that in the future, whenever you see a post about Israel, or any time in your daily life, think about the kids here and what they endure every day just for the right to live a peaceful existence. n
Josh Neuman is a recent graduate of Pennsylvania State University and is teaching English in a Beersheva elementary school. He grew up in Walnut Creek.