Facing Death, How I Survived Visiting Israel During War

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Last year around this time, I visited Israel during one of the worst times to visit, during war! I experienced war first hand, in the scariest and craziest way possible. It took me awhile to even talk about it again because I was seriously scared for my life and was completely traumatized for a very long time even after I came back home to Los Angeles. Here’s my story on how I survived the Protective Edge War. 

 

Life is the most precious and fragilest thing we have. Without it, we are nothing. When your life is literally at risk, with something that is out of your hands, you feel helpless and powerless.

 

A LITTLE BACKGROUND BEFORE MY MAIN STORY:

 

Moving to America because of War

I was born in Israel and moved to Los Angeles at the age of 8 during the Gulf War. I guess you can say that that was my first war experience. Although I was just a kid, I still very much remember what it’s like to have a gas mask on. The smell of that suffocating rubber never really leaves your system. But, yet again I was just a kid, with no real worries of life or really knowing the true meaning of life and love. (Related Post: Why Did I Move To America? I Ran Away From War)

Since I left Israel, I normally, visited Israel almost every summer. It was a family tradition and 6 years ago my mom and 2 little sisters moved back to Israel, after my parents got a divorce and my dad, brother and I stayed in the U.S.

This gave me a even better excuse to travel to Israel every summer and spend some time with my family and my close friends.

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Santorini, Greece

My Original Plan

My original itinerary, was to travel to Israel for a week to see my family, drop off my big suitcase and then travel to Greece and Turkey for 2 weeks. I was planning on meeting my mom in Greece, that was my birthday gift to her for my last 5 days in Greece. Then the plan was to go back to Israel for 3 weeks and have the best summer ever, sadly it didn’t turn out that way.

My trip started off great! I went to Israel, saw my family, hung out with a bunch of friends, headed over to Greece to visit the main land and then did a island hopping cruise that included Turkey, Santorini, Mykonos, Patmos and Crete.

The morning in Turkey
The morning in Turkey

 

Where the Problem Started…

If anyone has ever traveled on a cruise before, you’d know that they have the worst wifi in the world. So every chance I got to visit an island I looked for wifi, since I am a blogger and like to keep in touch with my mom daily.

I arrived to Turkey early morning, found a nice cafe on the beach to hang out at and loved that they had free wifi. My mom then send me an urgent message, telling me that 3 young Israeli boys were missing and kidnapped by terrorist and to be very careful even speaking Hebrew in an Arab country to her (we were WhatsApp’ing recorded messages to each other). She totally freaked me out and even worse was not being able to find out more about the story during my trip, due to bad wifi.

 

How the Protective Edge War Started

The protective Edge war started when a few Palestinians terrorist, dressed up as religious Jews near Jerusalem and picked up 3 religious teenage boys (16 year old Naftali Frenkel, 16 year old Gilad Shaer, 19 year old Eyal Yifrah) at a bus station. After they got into the car, they realized that they were Palestinians. Gilad Shaer called a police emergency hotline to report the kidnapping. He whispered “They kidnapped me”, the taped call also recorded shouting in Arabic from the kidnappers and several gun shots. The problem was, the lady on the line, thought at first that it was a prank call and didn’t take it seriously.

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The entire country of Israel was devastated and everyone did anything they could to find the boys. During the time, 350 Palestinians and Hamas leaders in the West Bank were arrested that had leads and connection to the story. This went on for 3 weeks, until it finally turned out that the boys were indeed, kidnapped by Hamas and murdered. I remember where I was when they officially announced that the boys were murdered and I couldn’t stop crying at the cruelty, their poor mothers and the hope we had for finding them alive.

This caused an outrage in Israel, the entire country was devastated and heartbroken. The next day after the boys bodies were found, it turned out that a Palestinian teen went missing and later found to be murdered by a few Israelis. Oddly enough, the Jewish mothers of the 3 boys comforted the Palestinian mother at her home in peace.

Israeli’s Prime Minster Bibi was disgusted with the act of the murder of the young boy, but regardless, that made the Palestinians really upset and they started a war.

The first few days of the war, they were throwing bombs on Israel in an insane amount, it started off with 80 bombs the first hour and then went up as the hours were passing by. Israel didn’t act upon any of the bombs for the first few days. Israel called for a ceasefire, but the Palestinians/Hamas didn’t want to stop, so Israel fought back.

 

The difference between this war with Israel and the Palestinians

Is that this is the first time the Palestinians threw bombs to major cities like Tel Aviv and even further. Most of the wars usually happen around the Gaza Strip area. 45% of the population of Israel lives in Tel Aviv and during this war they reached to 100% of the population of Israel with bombs. What does this mean? Nothing was safe! 

via nleresources.com
via nleresources.com

 

The war was official and I was scared for my life!

When I first saw on the news that the war has started, no one seemed to call it a “war”. I guess in a country that’s fighting for it’s existence, war is the normal and the word “war” is only used when shit is really REALLY BAD! Which it was eventually.

I had a really bad feeling about this, the moment I saw how many bombs were being thrown at us per an hour and how close it was getting to Tel Aviv.

via www.jewishpress.com
via www.jewishpress.com

 

My mom’s house is about 15 miles from Tel Aviv and her and my dad kept telling me to stop being so dramatic, it’s going to be over in a day, but clearly it wasn’t. My parents grow up experiencing many wars in Israel, since they were both born there in the early 1960’s and both served in the Israeli Army. To them it wasn’t a big deal (in the beginning), they kept trying to make it seem like it wasn’t a big deal and it’s just the norm. UGHHH!

As the war kept getting more and more intense, so did my addiction to watching the news 24/7. I wanted to know every little thing that was happening.

 

How Israelis stayed safe during the war, but still not safe enough

Sirens:

There was a few ways, for starters, there is a siren in every city and town. There was commercials and reports throughout the day on the news, of how much time you had to get to a bomb shelter, once the sirens went off. There was also broadcast interruptions of CODE RED EMERGENCY. Some residents had 1 minute, like me, others had as low as 15 seconds to get to a bomb shelter!

Do you understand how insane that is?! 15 seconds to save your life! Grab your children, pets, put on your shoes and start running for your life! It doesn’t matter if you were given 5 minutes! It’s just not enough time! But that’s how long it took for the bombs to hit the ground. What if you were sleeping? In the shower? or bathroom?! You’re totally F***ed!

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Here is the problem with that:

Problem #1: Some sirens aren’t loud enough to hear in small cities, like my mom’s house, so you always have to be aware with the windows opened in pure humidity, not be too loud, so that you can hear it. What if you heard it too late? How much time do you really have then?

Israelis take cover in a stairway of an offices building as a Code Red siren sounds warning of incoming rockets in Ra`anana, July 13, 2014. Over 500 rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israel over the past six days. Photo by Gili Yaari
Israelis take cover in a stairway of an offices building as a Code Red siren sounds warning of incoming rockets in Ra`anana, July 13, 2014. Over 500 rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israel over the past six days. Photo by Gili Yaari

 

Problem #2: Some houses have a bomb shelter and others don’t, like my mom again! We would have never made it to the nearest bomb shelter, running as fast as we could because it was at a park too far away.So in case of an emergency, we had no where to go.

If you didn’t have time to run to a bomb shelter, you were told to go to a staircase, which my mom did have, but those bombs as I saw on TV completely eat through the walls.

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Driving:

If you were driving during a siren, you were suppose to pull over to the side of the road, park your car, get out of your car, get on the floor and crawl up in a ball with your hands over your head. That sounded completely insane to me! What if the car blows up? What if you had kids in the car? Completely nuts!

 

Iron Dome:

via missiledefenseadvocacy.org
via missiledefenseadvocacy.org

The Iron Dome is by far, the one thing that saved the entire country. The Iron Dome is a mobile all-weather air defense system that destroys bombs in the air from hitting the ground. At the beginning of the war we only had 6 and then towards the end 8, but still that doesn’t catch EVERY SINGLE BOMB! and pieces from the original bomb still land on the ground and cause damage, injuries and sometimes death. Like when it landed on a gas station.

 

MY STORY:

 

Leaving the house while bombs are exploding 

I don’t know how, but my mother some how convinced me to leave the house, 4 days into the war, this was the night when things got REALLY bad.

We had tickets to go see a flamenco show of a close family friend that was the main performer. I went with her and my little sister who was only 10 years old at the time and before the show started they told us that the theater was a bomb shelter. This kind of made me feel better, but not exactly.

The show was over and everyone went out side to chat a little and then leave.

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BOMBS HEADING TOWARDS MY WAY

I’m not really sure, the time spam of this, but it all happened so fast. As my sister and I went outside, my mom was on the phone talking to a friend on the complete other side of us. There was probably about 300 people outside the theater, when someone said “LOOK! BOMBS!”, I turned around and looked up and in lease than 10 seconds, I saw 12 bombs, each getting closer and closer to us! The siren went off and everyone started screaming and panicking! Everyone started running and pushing to get back into the theater. This was 300 people trying to fit inside 2 glass doors, it was INSANE to say the lease. My little sister started screaming and crying. I nearly had a heart attack, but some how managed to grab her by the arm and run with her for shelter. Through the crowd we were screaming “Mommy! Mommy!” We couldn’t see my mom and all we wanted was to grab her and run with her, but we just couldn’t find her with all the screaming, crying and pushing.

I had to be a big sister and take care of my precious baby sister and run and try to save our lives. 

It felt like I was in one of those end of the world, Hollywood movies, only this wasn’t a movie. This was my real LIFE!

My sister was hysterical and I was in tears and so overwhelmed, it took us a while to find my mom and thank G*d we did! We hugged her tighter than we ever have in our life.

If that wasn’t scary enough, now we had to get home, some how! My sister and I were completely against it, but we had to get home eventually. After 30mins, we got into the car and headed home, meanwhile seeing bombs exploding in the air, in the back rare window of the car.

My baby sister was so scared for her life that she throw up the moment she got home from fear.

I was kind of happy to be back home and meet my other sister, but at the same time I wasn’t because my mom’s house had no protection if a bomb did hit. We had no bomb shelter and we had no time to run to shelter if something did hit near our home.

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the show we saw

 

The next few days…

Were a complete nightmare. I have never been more scared in my life. I was addicted to watching the news, trying to hear the sirens, I could barely sleep because bombs would normally start from 7am until 1am and when I managed to get any kind of sleep, I slept with my shoes on. Just in case, we had to run. I didn’t want to leave my house, I didn’t want my mom to go to work and I didn’t want my sisters to be out of my sight.

My dream vacation, turned into a horror movie.

The places and beaches I spent time at a few days ago became danger zones. I watched them on TV getting bombed and couldn’t believe I was there a few days ago and that this is real life. Everything seemed scary to me. I would panic if we were stuck in a traffic jam, what if a bomb hits!?

Things got even crazier, when my x-fiance was on the news one morning, after he was running for shelter from the sirens and a piece of a bomb fell right behind him and hit his home!

I left my house 4 times during the next 2 and a half weeks, for only an hour at a time to get some fresh air and was still scared out of my mind. Up until the day I had to go back to the U.S.

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Leaving Israel during War

The day finally came for me to go back home to Los Angeles, but the war was still going on. A part of me wanted to leave SOOO BAD! and another part of me was completely heartbroken that I had to leave my family behind and my country, during this horrible and scary time.

When we got to the airport, I thought to myself, “Thank G*d I’m here, this place has to be safe”, but it wasn’t!

After saying my goodbye to my family, going through security and heading to my gate, I waited in line to board the flight, sad, traumatized and heartbroken.

The moment I handed over my ticket to board my flight, the siren went ON! AGAIN! At the airport! 

a photo from the bomb shelter at the airport
a photo from the bomb shelter at the airport

 

Everyone seemed confused, if this was real or an accident. Then an announcer on the speaker went on and said everyone go to your nearest bomb shelters, everyone stopped for a moment and then completely ran for their life. Women, children, men, elderly all running and pushing again! My worst nightmare on repeat again!

I ran as fast as I could again, with my carry-on, purse and laptop to the bomb shelter, which wasn’t close at all.

After about 15mins, it was “safe” again to go back to the boarding line. All I wanted was to get out of there as soon as possible.

A bomb hit a half a mile away from the airport. There was clearly a delay even after I got on the plane, for 2 hours, which felt like 100 years. I felt nauseous and sick to my stomach, all I wanted was to get the hell out of there alive.

The plane had to take a different route then usual to avoid bombs.

After my flight took off, the airport was officially closed, the first time in all of Israel’s history.

flying over bombs
flying over bombs

 

Trying to go back to normal life

Coming back to America, was strange. I slept for the first few days and didn’t leave the house, I was overdue on some serious sleep from the last 3 weeks and besides that, leaving the house was strange. It wasn’t normal to me anymore. I would leave the house and walk my dog and look up at the sky and be scared to see a bomb. Seeing a normal blue sky, seemed weird to me. Going to a restaurants for lunch with my girlfriends, was a luxury I hadn’t experienced in so long. Honestly, doing anything “normal” seemed crazy to me. Even crazier than all of that, was the fact that no one that was Israeli, that I made contact with had any idea that a war was even happening in Israel! I felt like I was the crazy one. No one had a clue what I was talking about when I would bring it up.

It took a very long time for me to get back to myself. I couldn’t blog for a while during and after this was going on. I wanted to avoid talking about it or being on social media that had photos and news about it. All I wanted to know was that my family and people were safe.

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I love Israel so much. It’s my favorite country in the world and I wouldn’t be who I am today without it. When there isn’t war it’s the funnest place to be at and has so many amazing things to do. I really wish and hope to move there one day, but I really couldn’t handle going through that experience EVER again.

I am happy and blessed to be able to live in America, where that kind of circumstance doesn’t really exist.

Be honored and grateful to live in the country that you do, sadly not everyone gets the true luxury of freedom and peace.

This world can sometimes be horribly scary, but it can also be amazing.

SIDE NOTE: If you watch the news, always remember and know that every side has its own story and during war everyone is a victim, even your enemies side. There are innocent people getting hurt on both sides, simple people, that all they want to do is live in peace and save their loved ones.

 

COMMENTS? THOUGHTS? ATTACKS? 

RELATED POST: Israel Doesn’t Get Enough Credit And It’s Time It Does!

Comments

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4 Responses to Facing Death, How I Survived Visiting Israel During War

  1. I was also in Israel working there over the summer last year. The first time I heard the siren I was terrified, but after a few I got used to it. Outside of the area near Gaza, the iron dome almost always intercepts the rockets before they hit the ground. Sadly, it seems that the fighting in israel will never truly end.

    • I dont think its something you can get used it, at least myself and ya you’re right, the Iron dome was a blessing.
      Ya, the endless war. :-/

  2. Wow! This is an incredible story. I’m so happy you are alive and well. I’m sure this experience changed you forever, but I hope you keep travelling! I can’t even imagine seeing bombs coming towards me!

    I have been involved in a similar experience. While I wasn’t in a war, I was in the Nepal earthquake this year. When you talk about seeing bombs and running for your lives it reminded me of all the hundreds of aftershocks we experienced. They would come out of nowhere and were almost as strong as the initial earthquake and when they came on we had to run to the nearest field away from mountain cliffs or rocky walls and huddle together with everyone to brace for any potential avalanche or landslide.

    Take care and all the best to you,
    Lexie

    • WOW!!! That’s super super crazy! Sorry you had to go through that, I would have totally freaked out. I moved to Los Angeles 3 weeks before the big earthquake that was 6.8 and it was insane and terrible, so I totally understand where you’re coming from. The after shocks are the worse! I totally agree with you that they are just as strong as a real earthquake! Super crazy, glad your alright! <3

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