A Trip to Israel Under Fire

Amos Gil Image
Amos Gil
on May 24, 2021

Amos Gil is J Street’s Capital South Regional Director. While he lives in Washington, DC, during the past few weeks he has been visiting his family in Israel and witnessed the escalation in violence firsthand. Here are some of his reflections on the events, written a few hours before the ceasefire was announced:

We landed in Israel on what seemed to be a peaceful Saturday afternoon despite the interference by Israeli police with Ramadan prayers on the Temple Mount. It didn’t stay that way.

The first sign of trouble was that we were delayed for two hours on the way from the airport to Jerusalem. The police had stopped dozens of busses carrying Muslims from all over Israel that intended to go to Temple Mount in Jerusalem, to show support for those who had clashed with the police.

Two days later, at 6pm on my balcony in Jerusalem, with no warning, two loud sirens were heard, followed by the rumble of rockets falling a few kilometers away. Nomi, my American wife, and my Israeli kids were equally startled. For a few moments, we were in such shock that we just stayed in our seats and stared at the sky above us. Minutes later we learned that it was Hamas. Thus began the current ‘war’ (though the word is very unfitting).

Two days after that, when visiting family in Petach Tikva, a rocket fell on a building not far away and wounded five people. We chose not to have our coffee in the safe room (which is required of all new apartments here, reinforced with concrete). My wife learned that having time to nap in the afternoon is a luxury in Israel under certain circumstances.

When in Haifa, another day later, rockets were fired from the Lebanon border. The same happened again and again in the next few days. It’s a unique feeling to look at the beautiful view from our friends’ balcony and realize the gas tanks you can see are not secured from potential bombs from Hezbollah.

The next two nights were spent with friends in Tel Aviv, and we were given their spare room, which is the safe room. At midnight, we were awoken first by the sirens, and then by our friends, who came to find shelter. Their cat did not appreciate either the piercing sirens or the thundering rockets.

My son is a student in Be’er Sheva, which is under fire rockets daily. He has no safe room in the building where he lives, so he just sleeps through the sirens — “what difference will it make if I ran to another room?” he says. What can I, a current resident of Washington, DC, really say to him?

For my wife, Nomi, who had been to Israel numerous times, this kind of visit is the first of its kind. In the scheme of things, she is taking all of this well. However, her pregnant daughter in Fairfax is worried sick and wants her mother to come back home immediately. When Nomi reminded her that she had made Israel her second home, Molly responded by saying “If you really need a second home, what’s wrong with the Caribbean?”

We are really, really tired. And not just because of the lack of sleep. We are constantly confronted with canceled flights and expensive COVID tests, anxious grown-up kids and friends, and the big unknown — when it will all end, what’s next, and when we will be able to travel back?

All of this has been hard for each of us to deal with. But of course, our frustrations and inconveniences are minor compared to the ongoing suffering faced by the people of the border communities in Israel, and even more so by the people of Gaza itself.