Debra Steinbuch — How You Help
Hitting Home: In Israel During Operation Protective Edge
July 11, 2014
I traveled to Israel this week along with five other Cincinnatians to participate in Jewish Federations of North America’s Campaign Leadership Mission to Greece then Israel. We are part of a group of 150 individuals representing Jewish communities around North America. Each helps to lead annual fundraising appeals in their local Jewish communities. These appeals, or campaigns, fund programs locally, as well as provide support for Jews in need in more than 80 countries around the world and in Israel.
Of the six of us from Cincinnati, one of us is a first timer and the others had been to Israel before. We first traveled to Greece before arriving in Israel this past Wednesday evening. While in Greece, we had been briefed about the current security situation in Israel. We were somewhat apprehensive about what we were going to encounter when we arrived and yet none of us considered not coming to Israel. We knew we would feel better once we got there.
We arrived at 2 AM to Ben Gurion airport. After getting our bags and going through customs, we boarded our buses, tired and ready to get to our hotel. Before we could leave, our security guards and guides had us perform drills evacuating the bus within 60 seconds–this was just in case we heard a siren on our way to the hotel. I say drill(s) because we had to do this several times to make sure we were able to evacuate quickly. We were instructed how to lay on the ground and cover our heads, should we be along the side of the road and unable to get to a bomb shelter if a siren sounds.
I have been to Israel more than 15 times and have spent a full year living here. I have never experienced the frequency of the sirens in the center of Israel. The missiles are now reaching the populous center–Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and for the first time this morning, Haifa. We have heard sirens and missiles and have been rushed to bomb shelters. In fact, the second siren we heard when sitting in Independence Hall, the actual place where David Ben Gurion declared the State of Israel. Some say the War of Independence ended in 1949, while others feel we are still in it today. This hit home for our group.
This experience we are having is relatively normal for Israelis. They know the risk, the loss, the damage and the psychological impact, yet they need to go about everyday life. So after the ten-minute wait once the sirens stop sounding and the Iron Dome Defense responds, we, along with the Israelis, go about our daily activity. We learned that the Iron Dome Defense changes everything, and that during Operation Protective Edge it has had a 90% success rate, shooting missiles en route before they land.
Every visit we have made and every Israeli we met has shared that it matters a lot to Israelis that we are here, and that they are so appreciative of the support our local Jewish communities provide, and that there are people around the world that care about them. Yesterday we met with three teens who immigrated to Israel within the last two months. They came from Greece, Ukraine and Hungary–all countries where they don’t feel safe because they are Jewish. They left their families to come to Israel because it is home to them. For those of us living in Cincinnati, this is hard to imagine.
Israelis are strong, resilient and proud. Despite rockets and missiles coming in they want to be here. They are in an impossible situation and more than anything want peace. We feel proud to stand together with our brothers and sisters in Israel. When we get back to Cincinnati, we will continue to do what we can do to support Israel. We will participate in the Stop the Sirens emergency campaign, to provide immediate relief. And, along with Israeli’s and our Global Jewish community, we will hope and pray for peace, and continue to go about with our daily lives.