Friday, December 9th | 15 Kislev 5783

May 24, 2021 12:43 pm

A Parent’s Perspective on the Latest Violence in Israel

avatar by Yoni Zierler


Six-year-old Ido Avigal, who was killed by a Hamas rocket. Photo: Screenshot

When the siren went off in Jerusalem, I was on my way to pick up my daughter from a play date. It caught me in the street, exchanging glances with an older Jerusalemite, who advised me to seek shelter against one of the walls. My four-year-old daughter, thankfully, was calmly whisked into the safe room by her friend’s mother, who turned the moment into a game.

I’m not sure my heart has returned to a normal pace since.

There had been “sporadic” attacks on cities in southern Israel in the week leading up to the Jerusalem attack, but when Hamas sent the Holy City’s residents to shelter, that was a declaration of war that could not be ignored. A week later, any fire-engine, police siren, or accelerating motorcycle jolted me into air-raid mode.

I had been through this before, leaving my newly-wed wife behind in both 2014 and in 2012 (when we were soon to be engaged) to join up with my reserve unit. But the pressure of being a father of a young child, with another one due next month, is more immense than I could imagine. Improvising will simply not cut it any more.

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Since that siren, my life, which had just begun to relax after a year and a half of COVID anxieties, returned to a heightened sense of awareness and caution. Every decision was debated, every move accompanied by some form of plan – conscious or subconscious. Before going to bed I checked with our neighbors to make sure they were home if we needed to make good on their invitation to share their safe-room. If they weren’t home, I calculated the best place to squat in their stairwell.

When my daughter’s pre-school alerted us of where the children will be evacuated to, I let out a sigh of relief that their safety would be ensured, along with a sigh of despair that my daughter might be caught in a siren without a parent around.

Still, as a Jerusalemite, these are luxurious worries compared to those held by southern Israeli families, as well as families in central Israeli cities like Tel-Aviv, which were once thought to be a bubble of calm in even the tensest times. I shake when I think of Ido Avigal, a five-year-old boy who could have easily been one of my daughter’s playmates, and who was killed by a Hamas rocket that penetrated his family’s armored safe room.

I am also aware that my anxiety pales compared to the plight of the many innocent Gazans on the other side. Their lives are caught in between Hamas’ rockets of terror, fired indiscriminately from within their civilian population towards the Israeli civilian population, and Israel’s defensive response. Though I take pride in my country’s determination to safeguard the lives of Gazan civilians while eliminating threats to the Israeli population, I am not blind to the fact that rockets are not precise and that fathers in Gaza are also rushing their children to safety. My heart is anything but impervious to the fact that there are Gazan families that are no longer whole.

Life in Israel requires accepting that there will be times that completely overwhelm your heart with fears and worries, and make it impossible to answer simple questions like “how are you doing?” without an hour-long journaling session. The emotions are too many and too complex, the grief so deep it crosses borders.

And as a parent, it is even greater.

I am not a security expert, nor am I a politician. I have no tangible solution to the conflict. But I have my daughter and my hopes for her and her peers from all sides of this conflict. She is my central concern and the root of my anxiety precisely because she is my future, and, along with her friends, our better tomorrow.

Yoni Zierler is the chief tour guide and Director of “Discover,” the tourism department  of StandWithUs, a non-partisan Israel education organization.

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