Last, Tuesday, at 5:21 a.m., my phone started beeping. It’s an Android phone app I have, a paranoia I carry with me every day. With the cooperation of the Home Front Command and the genius of Israeli programmers, in real-time, you can learn about a missile attack. Color Red. Incoming missile.

The first thing that most people do after downloading one of several of these web applications, is to change the default settings.


What region do you want to know about? Most choose only their own, perhaps adding where their children go to school or where their parents and siblings live. I leave it for anywhere/everywhere in Israel.

What ringtone do you want to use when a missile is fired at Israel? Here, I think everyone changes it, except during a war. I changed it out of deference to others. The default sound is an air raid siren; terrifying, shocking and maybe relevant and worth keeping if I had changed that first setting to be only my region. In that case, the phone acts as an additional backup so that you hear the real siren even as the phone starts to sound the alert. When you set the app to alert you no matter what area is targeted, you need to change the sound. I made mine a binging sound that I alone would recognize as meaning an attack. Others would think it was an alarm for an appointment, time to get up, whatever.

So, 5:21 a.m., in the last hours of sleep I would permit myself before starting my day, a Color Red alert sounded. First reports suggested it was fired by Gaza into Israel and landed in a particular area – open fields, no injuries reported. People went out, even at 5:21 a.m. to search, to make sure everyone was okay.

Now it is being reported that it misfired and landed in Gaza, as so many do – I don’t know if they bother sending out people to search. I do know that many rockets, hundreds, have landed in Gaza, killing Palestinians, destroying their property. On a day when they fired a rocket at Israel, I am justified in saying that what they misfire into their own territory is their problem, not mine.

That is one facet of the story of the rocket fired at Israel this morning – that it was fired, as it often is, that it lands, as it often does, not where they targeted but somewhere else. The other, more important side is that today is September 1. Some countries have fixed school calendars; other float the days from year to year. In Israel, school starts on September 1 and ends on June 30. Today, over one million Israel children went back to school.

Perhaps they had to get up at 7:00, perhaps a bit earlier. By firing the rocket at 5:21 a.m., what the Palestinians wanted was to steal that last hour, upset the morning and first terrify and then destabilize our children. As I did not fall back asleep after searching to find out what happened with the rockets, I’m sure many parents and children also found sleep elusive.

Last summer, a missile was fired towards Jerusalem and a siren went off while we were sleeping. Elie heard it and ran around the house waking everyone up.
Going back to sleep after was an impossibility as we waited to see if it was one of many rockets to be fired. They say you should wait 10 minutes after the rocket is fired before leaving the shelter…10 minutes is a long time when you are straining to listen for a siren and the sound of a boom.

So, at 5:21 a.m., tens of thousands of parents would have scrambled to grab their children and run to the bomb shelters. Nowadays, we build fortified rooms, so often the bomb shelter is often a bedroom. Lucky were the parents last night who were able to allow their children to continue to sleep, perhaps unaware that they, this tiny creatures that are the heart and soul of our lives, were the very target of today’s attack. It happened last year as well on the first of September and probably in other years as well.

So the story of this rocket is very simple. No matter where they aimed it, no matter where it hit, it had one target – our children. On the first day of school. With their new backpacks and new clothes and new shoes…excited to see their friends, a bit happy, though they may not admit it, they were pulled from their beds and rushed to shelter.

The rocket fired at Israel this morning was a message – clear and loud to our children. We will not let you sleep; we will not let you go about your lives normally.

We too have a message to deliver to Gaza. We will sleep. Our children will sleep. We will live normal lives and our children will live normal lives. We may rush them to bomb shelters but we have already taught them the most important lesson of all – what you love, you protect and so as we protect them, they are forever filled with the knowledge that we love and cherish them. The terror fades very quickly for children in light of the love we shower upon them.

And we have another message for Gaza. We won’t do back to you what you continue to do to us. We won’t fire on innocent children; we won’t try to terrorize them on their first day of school. If they lose sleep, it will be because you hide among them. If they are not protected and loved, it is because you choose to build attack tunnels instead of bomb shelters and buy rockets instead of building schools.

As I watched our children walking to school this morning and noted the police on the street corners, a reminder to drivers to be careful, and a presence if children need them, I thought again of how many times Israel has shown itself to be a culture of humanity.

On a day when Israel’s children were frightened and targeted, I proudly admit that I would rather live in a country hit by a rocket fired by terrorists seeking to target and frighten children, than live in a place where firing that rocket is considered heroic and just.

Even though I don’t agree with surrendering to terror, I still would rather live in a country that agonizes and perhaps releases terrorists to save the life of one young soldier, than live in a society that would dance and celebrate the return of child-killers and terrorists.

I would rather live in a country where we cherish our children, rush them to hide in bomb shelters and calm them on the first day of school because the siren frightened them and brought back horrible memories, than live in a culture that believes it acceptable to encourage their young to commit suicide in the name of their religion.

May God bless Israel’s children as they return to school and may they know our love and protection all the days of their lives.


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Paula R. Stern is the co-founder of Retraining4Israel (, a new organization working to help olim make aliyah successful. Paula made aliyah over 25 years ago with her husband and their three children. She lives in Maale Adumim and is often referred to as “A Soldier’s Mother”. She is now a happy wife, mother of five (including two sabras), and grandmother, happily sharing her voice and opinions with others. She is also a senior tech writer and lead training instructor at WritePoint Ltd. ( Please visit her new website:
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