It was Saturday morning. I woke up to the sound of the Red Alert siren app ringing, announcing in-coming missiles somewhere in Israel.
Where? I knew it wasn’t in Haifa (yet) because the municipal siren wasn’t screaming outside but elsewhere in Israel, people were running to their bomb shelters.
In the north or in the south?
Missiles in the south, would be Hamas showing off. Missiles in the north might be the indication that the war everyone knows is coming, the war where many Israelis are expected to die, entire Israeli towns might need to be evacuated, the war with Iran, has arrived.
The Red Alert app was warning of missiles in the north.
I sighed, lying in bed, hoping I wouldn’t hear the municipal siren go off, warning of missiles on Haifa. I didn’t feel well and the idea of having to get up and run to the bomb shelter (which because our house is old, is outside) was not appealing, to say the least.
When that war comes, missiles on Haifa will be a given. It’s not a question of “if,” it’s only a question of “when”.
Then there was an enormous BOOM.
What was that?! It wasn’t the sound of a missile slamming near-by. I’ve heard that sound before. It wasn’t the sonic boom of fighter jets overhead (I’m used to that sound). This was something else, something very, very wrong.
Sick with uncertainty, it was not long before I discovered that an IAF F16 had been shot down. What I had heard was the plane slamming into the ground some 18 kilometers from my home.
Oh my God.
I don’t think people who live outside Israel can understand the depth of horror… I have a hard time coherently articulating the meaning of this single event. The plane is precious, the pilots flying it even more so. It’s not about the cost of the plane or the enormous investment in the pilots themselves (although that is part of the equation). It’s about life – that of the pilots and the lives of all of the people they are tasked to defend.
The IAF rules the skies of the Middle East. Nothing on earth or in the heavens should be able to bring an IAF jet to the ground but the will of those who are flying it.
Can anyone who has not lived here understand? Ours are not Rambo-Hollywood fighters, faceless tough strangers sent to do a mission we don’t understand. Our soldiers are our children, our husbands and brothers, daughters and sisters. They are us and we love each and every one of them – including those we have never met, including those who would not be our company of choice in a normal situation.
IAF pilots have an added special position. Their training necessitates physical and mental capabilities few can attain. Throughout Israeli history the IAF has executed miraculous successes: saving Israel from annihilation during the Six Day war, flying to Entebbe, destroying the Iraqi nuclear reactor… time and time again the IAF has been there to rescue the nation.
It’s been almost four decades since an Israeli fighter jet has been downed by our enemies.
The entire country is following the medical condition of the injured pilots. We don’t know their names, there are no images of their faces or interviews with their families on the news (pilot identities are classified). It doesn’t matter. We don’t care less because we don’t know them and we will all breathe easier when we know they are OK.
Today Israel’s enemies grow bold. With enablers that are willing to look the other way (or actively assist) for financial gain (or pure Antisemitism) Iran is a breath away from a full-blown war that will affect much more than “just” Israel.
Since Saturday, there was an attempted lynch of two Israeli soldiers who accidentally drove into Jenin. They miraculously escaped with their lives. The female soldier who was attacked keeps crying and describing over and over to those who visit her in the hospital how the bloodthirsty mob deliberately attacked her, mostly her and not the male soldier she was with.
Last night there was a car accident that killed two IDF soldiers (and we are left to wonder if this was an accident or perhaps the Arab truck driver deliberately rammed into them. There are crash investigators who know how to determine these things. Usually they can tell, but the evidence is not always clear.).
Car accidents happen all the time but when soldiers are involved, it is worse. If soldiers have to die it should be in defense of the country, not because of an accident. For a purpose, not by mistake.
So why am I writing this? Maybe because there are still people who think that Israel wants American help, American soldiers – we don’t, we just don’t want to be prevented from doing what needs to be done to protect ourselves. Maybe because even many of those who care about Israel don’t really understand the Israeli experience. Maybe my words can provide a little bit of insight. Maybe understanding us better can evoke a little more compassion.