While spending Shabbat with her family in Jerusalem, Marian Stoltz-Loike, Ph.D, dean of the Lander College for Women-The Anna Ruth and Mark Hasten School (LCW), and the vice president for Online Education at Touro College, heard the piercing sound of an air raid siren, a warning that a rocket attack from Gaza was imminent. The following is a letter she sent to the students of LCW about her harrowing experience:
I am writing from Yerushalayim. By now, I assume that you all know about the events of Friday evening. As you all know, there is always a tremendous busy-ness early on Friday afternoon which progressively quiets down as the time for candle lighting approaches. The pre-Shabbos calm had descended on Yerushalayim; the Yerushalayim Shabbos siren had gone off. I was at my daughter’s home. We had lit candles for Shabbos; my son-in-law had just left for shul and I was sitting on the floor playing with my grandsons, aged 2 and 4. All was calm—it was Shabbos and then a siren sounded. My initial thought was that there was a malfunction in the Shabbos alarm system…and then I heard my daughter yelling from the other room. “Imma, that’s the air raid siren, bring the boys to the shelter.”
Because she lives in a new apartment, she has a safe room. I picked up my younger grandson and told my older grandson to come with us. We had 90 seconds to get there (as compared to 15 seconds in the south), but we had already wasted precious seconds before we realized what was happening. We went to the safe room and for the sake of the children, behaved normally. My daughter sang Shabbos songs with the children and tried to answer my grandson’s repeated questions of “Imma, what do I do if I am at gan and the alarm goes off?”; “How do I go underground?” How do you explain things to a four-year old so he can stay safe without traumatizing him?
What did I think about in that safe room—how do people in Sderot and Beer Sheva do this for four years now? What will the rest of Shabbos be like? How many times will this situation repeat itself over Shabbos? Who has been hurt?
After we left the safe room, we heard many, many emergency vehicle sirens. We were worried that that signified something deadly. It was not until after Shabbos that we could discount rumors and get accurate news reports (and then understood that the sirens were only part of the normal emergencies that happen in every city).
People here are traumatized. They recognize how lucky they are B”H that no one was hurt, but worry about what will happen tomorrow and where they will be when the next siren goes off. People’s children go to pre-schools that don’t have proper shelters. They go to work. They leave their homes—they worry about staying safe and keeping their families safe. In Yerushalayim, people understand that one rocket is not the same as the continual barrage in the south and the repeated refrain here, is what can we do for the south? How could we not have recognized what they are experiencing on a daily basis?
What should you do? First, of course, say tehillim, learn more and daven. Second, send emails to people you know in Israel—friends from high school, students from your school who were a class or two behind you and of course your family. Let them know you are thinking of them. They need that for chizuk and psychological support. Third, write letters to your elected officials on a local, state and national level. Let them know that you stand with Israel, that you support the Gillebrand-Kirk resolution on Israel (if they were among the 62 co-sponsors, thank them) and that the rocket attacks in the south and beyond need to stop. Fourth, use your list serves, social media contacts, etc. to get messages out about your support for Israel and ask your contacts to take action in tefilah, support and chizuk.
Don’t underestimate the impact of your voice.