If you have been keeping tabs on news in the Middle East, you would know that there is some unrest going on in Israel. I just left israel yesterday, and I thought I would share my perspective on the situation. I waited until now to post about this because I did not want to unnecessarily worry anyone at home. I have tried to gain a better understanding of what is going on here because of the circumstances.
I worked on an archaeological dig at Tel Lachish, which is located about 35 km from the northern portion of the Gaza Strip. I stayed in a small village area some km north of Lachish.
Almost two weeks ago now, we found out that three Israeli kids who had been kidnapped a while ago were found dead. This helped to spark a battle of retaliation between Israel and Gaza. At first (a few days ago) we heard what were probably some bombs very far off in the distance while digging. As we followed the news, we knew that the situation seemed to be escalating.
July 7th, 2014
Two nights ago, while we we back in our village area, we were surprised to see and hear missiles. We were rushed inside and waited – what we saw was the counter attack from the Iron Dome. From that point on we told if a siren went off, we were to go to the bomb shelter that is located in our dormitory (prior to that event, the shelter was locked). The siren goes off for 5 seconds, and then you have an additional 40 seconds to get into the bomb shelter. That night, the siren went off once at about 3 am. The siren goes off if there is an incoming attack coming within 10km of us. It is expected that the Iron Dome will counter attack it anyways, so it is just a precautionary.
July 8th, 2014
There was obviously an unrest among the students that evening and still continues to be. The next day, we were given the choice to go back to the dig site or stay at the village. I choose to go back to the dig site. It is not a target area, we are working on the east side of the Tel (which protects us from attacks), and we are basically in ditches. Plus, it would be likely that the Iron Dome would take any attacks down before they hit land. We did hear some noise while at the site but not much. During this day we found out that one of the square supervisors got called in through the reserves. We also got some information from high in the government that at the moment we were safe in the place we were located. If that safety should change at any time, we would be contacted immediately. The day was mostly quite, and we carried on as usual. Later that night, we saw the “fireworks” again and retreated to the bomb shelter (I was actually already asleep, so I was awoken by the screams). I returned to my bed for the remainder of the night undisturbed.
July 9th, 2014
I found out that another square supervisor of the dig got called back to the reserves. We went for our last day on the dig, and again the day was pretty quite with the exception of some jets and a helicopter. We did get word that three missiles have gotten very close to Jerusalem. Two of the three landed in desolate fields and were not shot down by the Iron Dome because of this. The third landed closer, but there were no injuries. Once we were back at the village, the siren sounded once around 4:30pm. We carried on as usual after that. We said our goodbyes to the people who were staying. Around 11pm the siren sounded again. This time it sounded three times in a row meaning there was a string of missiles. We could hear them drop, this was the closest they had ever seemed. I headed to bed around 1am, undisturbed during the night.
July 10th, 2014
We headed to Jerusalem early in the morning. Once in Jerusalem we were able to visit Hezekiah’s tunnel and the Western Wall. We went back to the hotel to rest for a bit. We then heard an alarm, well I was shaken awake by my roommate because I did wake up. We were on the eight floor, and we had 1 minute and 30 seconds to get tot the safe zone at the bottom of the hotel. The remainder of the day was quite, and we carried on as usual.
July 11th, 2014
We found out that Lebanon had attacked Israel, escalating the situation further. My university said anyone was allowed to leave, and if they chose to do so the university would reimburse them. Two girls choose to leave. The rest of us went on as usual. It was later in the day, that the university decided all of us had to leave. We were all very disappointed to hear that we would be leaving at 6am the next morning. We tried to enjoy the rest of our time there. We went to the Western Wall to observe Shabbat. We then took just a little time to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the most holy site for Christians. Around this time we heard some riot noises from the Muslim Quarter. We had a bus to catch at 2am, so some of us chose to just stay up the whole evening.
All of this may sound absolutely crazy to some, and maybe it is. But, you have to take it for what it is. Precautions were set in place and the likeliness of anything happening to me at that point in time was slim. A lot of family and friends were thankful that I was able to come home early, but I wish I could have had the time to see everything in Jerusalem. I felt very safe in the present situation, the only worry was that if it was to escalate even further while I was there. It is very possible that Israel is going to go into the Gaza Strip on foot. As of now, all I can do is hope for the safety of all those involved in this crisis – on all sides. One life is not greater than another. I just hope a ceasefire can be attained sooner rather than later.