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How I Live Amid the Daily Barrage

How I Live Amid the Daily Barrage

January 6, 2009

Social Sciences & Humanities

I was underwater when my life turned upside down.

The 30 people around me frantically jumped out of the pool in the middle of my weekly swim practice at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

The lifeguard had heard the bomb-raid siren.

I moved to Beer-Sheva from the cozy confines of the Upper East Side in September to pursue a master’s degree in Middle Eastern studies.

“Where better to study?” I told friends who worried about the decision.

Beer-Sheva, the largest city in the Negev desert of southern Israel, had always been out of harm’s way.

That all changed last week. Beer-Sheva was now within reach of new Hamas rockets. But long-range bombs were something you tried to put out of your mind, especially when talking to family back home.

In theory, you have 50 seconds from hearing the siren to when the bomb falls.

That and other thoughts raced through my head as I joined the other swimmers sprinting to the designated safe area.

No one actually thinks that the bomb is going to hit you. Standing there soaking wet in my bathing suit, I was busy asking people what to do next.

I was somehow able to reach my Israeli boyfriend, Dotan Harpak. He’s been through all this before, and I knew he’d have something comforting to say. Plus, I wanted to let him know that I was OK.

After five minutes of calm, everyone went back to the pool. I went home.

A couple of hours later, more bombs fell. I heard a loud boom, and could almost feel the ground shaking. Your first instinct is to call friends because you fear they’ve been hit. But the phones lines are all tied up.

We found out later that five rockets were shot. One hit a school. Another smashed into a building nearby. But the exact locations were never reported, in order to prevent helping Hamas better direct their rocket fire.

I called my mother to let her know that I was unharmed. There’s really no way to tell her everything is fine.

During my time in the U.S., I saw how the media would splash pictures of the damage on the other side. But there were no front-page photos of the young Jewish child who had to have his leg amputated after a bomb fell on his home.

There are no media accounts of Israeli children too afraid to leave their homes or their parents’ sides due to the daily barrage.

A lot of my friends don’t understand why I moved to Israel. A lot of them are still really worried. I was so confident that Beer-Sheva would never be touched. But now it’s under siege.

Life has to go on – that’s what they do here.