Letters From Rosh Ha'ayin
Amit Zehavi, November 11th, 2023
It’s really hard to anchor myself these days. All I really want is to be/do something meaningful and I have a nesting urge: to clean and cook and organize and to create new things and be surrounded by beauty, naivity, simplicity.
I see Israel as a body with a huge open, bleeding wound. Our best people are trying to tend the wound, that is spreading to all our body parts, including overseas. Some parts of ourselves are held hostage, and unreachable right now.
We hurt. The pain is felt to the tips of our toes and finger tips and beyond. The body sends white blood cells see definition:
“They flow through your bloodstream to fight viruses, bacteria, and other foreign invaders that threaten your health. When your body is in distress and a particular area is under attack, white blood cells rush in to help destroy the harmful substance and prevent illness. White blood cells are made in the bone marrow.” WBC in the form of people and good energy and endless doing and helping.
When will this wound heal? When can we make peace and art and friendships, not war? When can we awake to a normal morning and complain about the heat, dust, cost of living, beaurocracy, traffic?
Monica Levy, October 22nd, 2023
On the 7th of October 2023, our morning took a sudden and alarming turn when my 88-year-old mother-in-law, residing in Tel-Aviv, woke us up at 6:30 AM. She urgently informed us that she was in the staircase of her building, as the sound of sirens filled the air.
With haste, we switched on the TV, and from that moment onward, it was evident that our lives would never be quite the same. People often speak of our resilience as a nation, and I have no doubt that we will navigate through these challenging times. Yet, I must confess that we are far from being alright, we really are not ok!
Our children, Noa who is 26, Maya who is 23 and Gal, 21 were all at home with their respective partners when the events unfolded, and it became immediately apparent that a war was upon us. I didn’t grow up in Israel; I only made Aliya at the age of 18, so I had never experienced a real war before. Witnessing an entire country being called up for reserve duty was a new and disconcerting experience for me.
My daughters sat in the living room as their boyfriends received calls from their units, and by noon, they were both on their way to fulfill their duties (and they have not come home since). Meanwhile, we sat in the living room, tears flowing down our cheeks, trying to grasp the inexplicable reality before us.
Then, we began to see the names of their friends, former students of mine, sons and daughters of friends on social media —some had tragically lost their lives, others were initially reported missing but were later confirmed as casualties, and others reported kidnapped. The funerals and going from one Shiva to another without finding the right words to console, because there simply are no words… was just heartbreaking….
One of the most difficult moments for me was when Maya’s boyfriend, stationed in the South, woke up with stomach pains and remained at the base instead of going out for training. He called Maya to let her know that she could come visit him. She obviously did not hesitate, yet as I checked the location and realized how perilously close it was to Ashkelon, I expressed my fear and reluctance for her to go. However, after a 20-minute talk with her and a call from him, it became clear what needed to be done. She locked eyes with me and said, “I don’t know when I’ll get to see him again.” Swiftly, I got ready, got into the car, and we drove for 46 tense minutes, my heart pounding with the hope that there would be no sirens on the way. I couldn’t believe that I was anxious about driving in my own country. It was a surreal experience that I don’t think I will ever understand.
We reached the base and returned safely, but on the way back, my older daughter called to inform me that her boyfriend needed his second pair of army boots, which were at home. She asked me to accompany her because she, too, was anxious to drive alone. How could I refuse? The feeling was just like in our earlier trip. Driving to Rehovot, a city in the center of the country, had never been so scary. What if the sirens went off? Where would we take cover?
We made it there and back home, and just 15 minutes later, the sirens began. I felt a rush of relief knowing we were safely indoors. We hurried into the bomb shelter and waited for the sounds of explosions.
These are just a few snapshots of what life has become in Israel for me.
I would like to add that Gal, my youngest son, who served as a combat fighter in the navy, was officially discharged from the army on Tuesday. The navy has not yet called up many for reserve duty, so at least in that respect, I’m grateful to have him back home.
All I yearn for is for life to go back to normal…to relish the simple, often taken-for-granted joys, like walking the dog, without fear overshadowing every step.
Sharon Meidoni, October 18th, 2023
We live in Rosh Ha’ayin, a city located in the center of the country, east of Tel Aviv, sister city of New Orleans. On Saturday, 10/7/23, we woke up in the morning to the sound of alarms and news clips that testified to the horror that is taking place in the settlements near Gaza, including alarms indicating a missile attack on Israel, from the south to the center. And since then, the news, in which we learn about the amount and intensity of the atrocities perpetrated by the murderous organization Hamas. And we feel that the entire country is under attack. The great fear is that the atrocities committed by the terrorists from Gaza will encourage the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, who are a few kilometers from Rosh Ha’ayin, to act in the same way. Every rocket fired into the area makes us anxious. The houses are locked, people leave the houses for a short distance, to be ready to return quickly to the houses and to a protected area. At our house, in the Midani family’s house in Rosh Ha’ayin, since the incident both sons have been drafted into the army, for an unlimited time. One in the north and one in the south. And caring for them and many more of our friend’s children is very difficult. And the level of anxiety is compounded by the fear of every missile that is fired, of every alarm that makes us jump and oblige us to run to a protected place, in a very short time. In order to relieve the anxiety and mental stress, every day I volunteer and works wherever possible to help and strengthen soldiers who were recruited and families who suffered badly from the murderous attack. During this period, all our personal conduct revolves around the war. There are quite a few moments of downfalls and anxieties and in between there are also moments of hope.
Ella Julie Rubenstein, October 17th, 2023
My name is Ella Julie Rubinstein and I live in Tel Aviv (Originally from Rosh Ha-ayin).
I was part of a student exchange program at Birmingham Southern College (2001-2002). I fondly remember some of the families I have met and the wonderful times I had while staying with the families in Birmingham. Fast forward to today, I’m now married and a mother to three sons, living in Tel Aviv.
Just last week, our country faced a terror attack by Hamas.
I think I was mentally paralyzed for 3 days.
It was Saturday, October 7th—a day that started like any other. I laced up my running shoes for my usual run along the beach of Tel Aviv, eventually making my way to our local “Central Park.” That’s when the first siren pierced the air. For a moment, I hesitated, thinking it’s a “false alarm.” My phone, which was tucked in its belt, remained unchecked, keeping me oblivious to the news.
Just as I finished my run, another siren wailed. This time accompanied by a strong explosion that jolted my entire being. Across the park, a smoke rose between the tall buildings (It hit an empty apartment).
“This is real” I thought.
My heart raced with thoughts of my kids, who were at their soccer practice right there in the park. I broke into a full sprint, my focus was on reaching my children. The atmosphere had shifted; everyone sensed that the park had instantly transformed from a sanctuary to a danger zone.
I finally reached my kids, my voice’s tone had urgency but also reassurance: “Get in the car. We’re going home, now.” They quickly gathered their gear, and we sped off, each of us silently grateful for the sanctuary of home and family.
In that moment, the weight of the situation sank in—but so did an overwhelming sense of gratitude. We were together, we were safe, and that was everything.
On that horrible day, we gathered around the television and our phones, hearts heavy as we listened to reports of what would become the most devastating terror attack we’d ever witnessed in Israel. Initially, the news reported 30 lives lost—an already unbearable toll. But as the hour passed, that number climbed to 100, then 200. A friend from the army cautioned me that the count would only escalate, and escalate it did, far beyond what any of us could have conceived in our darkest nightmares. A week later, the number had reached an unimaginable 1,300 lives, and it is still not the final count.
It wasn’t until Monday morning that I felt I could finally gather the strength to move, to begin functioning again. Up to that point, my phone had been an extension of my hand, as I consumed every news update and social media post, tears flowing freely. My mind felt foggy, my energy dropped—my entire being weighed down by a sense of helplessness.
But on Monday morning, a realization hit me: I needed to take action, to channel my emotions into something constructive. So I began researching volunteer opportunities, determined to make a positive impact however I could. I took my youngest son, who’s 12, with me to help collect supplies for soldiers and affected families. My 16-year-old son joined another initiative, sorting donations for those in need. My eldest son, already serving in a Cyber unit in the army, continued his work from central Israel.
The meaning of our days has changed, colored by a collective grief that hangs heavy in every conversation, every gesture. I talk to friends, and I hear the same feelings of despair in their voices, reflections of the emotional rollercoaster we’re all riding. I find myself wandering through the supermarket aisles, my eyes landing on the meat section, and I’m struck by a painful thought: some mothers will never again prepare their children’s favorite chicken dinner. Even as I tackle the constant mess in my youngest son’s room, my mind drifts to the mothers who are probably facing now the silence of their children’s empty rooms. How can I go about these everyday tasks knowing that there are kidnapped kids, teenagers, parents, and soldiers confined in dark, underground tunnels—bound, blindfolded, hungry, cold, and scared?
This morning, I laced up my running shoes and hit the pavement once more. A friend and I had made a decision to bring back our physical routines, sensing that our bodies—and spirits—desperately needed this. We wanted to purify the emotional toxins that had built up, to recharge our energies for the future challenges. It’s as if our souls, bodies, and minds were guided by a survival instinct, compelling us to move, to breathe, to live.
We’re doing this not just for ourselves, but for the families who’ve lost their loved ones, for those with no homes to return to, and for our missing kids/teenagers/parents/soldiers whose return we pray for.
These days, we’re channeling our energies into acts of support. We’ve been collecting essential items for anyone in need, fully aware that our nation has shifted into a single, powerful unit focused on uplifting those who require aid. In this unity, in these acts of collective care, we find strength—an enduring light that guides us through our darkest hours.
Amit Zehav, Director of P2G, October 16th, 2023
A week since this madness began.
Still, we feel shell shocked,
We have no access to my normal tool set.
Things that should take a few minutes drag into hours.
Where did the time go by?
We keep getting distracted,
Drawn into the news,
Reading horrible testimonials on FB,
Seeing one name after another of fallen soldiers, sons and daughters of friends or people we know somehow. We are a small country. Almost zero degrees of separation.
We try to distance ourselves, we find ourselves cooking, gardening, crafting, cleaning, staring out the window.
We get beautiful messages from so many people I love and miss overseas. They see it all on TV, want to make sure we are all right. Are we??? Will we be?
Something has died, not just people. Unwritten rules have been broken, unimaginable lines have been crossed. Things we never dreamed of happened, are happening.
At moments we look at our cat and dog and envy their cluelessness, their unawareness to evil.
This week, we went to 2 funerals. 2 too many.
The pain is sharp.
Some sources of solace now:
Our circles of support: my family, Tzora the wonderful community we live in, my work at Partnership2Gether, the Jewish Agency for Israel, that makes me proud, Israeli civilians and the IDF and last, but not least our tribe, worldwide and thank you Biden!
It just started raining. We love the rain and I pray that this will be a turning point for better days to come.
Praying for all our soldiers and for those abducted. Our hearts go out to all those who suffered loss and who are worried sick.
עם ישראל חי