Home / Opinions / OpinionsRSS Feed
The arc of fear and normalcy
January 29th, 2009
“Rachel, just because we have been through wars here before, does not mean we ever get used to them,” responded a friend of mine during a discussion about the escalating conflict in Gaza.
Osher, a resident of the Ye'elim absorption center in Be'er Sheva, holds a thank-you note for volunteer Rachel Adams.
I was trying to explain to her how scary it was for Americans, unaccustomed to such conflict, to live in Israel now.
When the first rockets fell on Be’er Sheva, my roommate found herself running for cover amid the wailing of sirens. After talking to my Israeli friends, I realized that the experience was just as scary for them as it was for us. No one can ever become desensitized to fighting like this.
My first inkling that trouble was brewing in Gaza was in the end of December. I spent two weeks volunteering with the volunteer army program, Sar El, on Tze’elim army base in the Negev. We heard daily reports of rockets falling on southern Israel, as the “truce” with Hamas drew to a close.
Tze’elim is the tactical training center for Israeli ground forces. Most reservists pass through its gates to go through the most up-to-date training, especially in urban fighting, since the Lebanon War.
As the expiration date of the truce neared, we saw increased training activity on the base. My group was charged with organizing gear, cleaning out storage, and making sure that everything was in good shape. I spent most of those two weeks laughing with friends and soldiers, yet we could all feel an underlying tension permeating the base.
During our winter break, I went up to the Golan Heights to spend time with family friends. We watched TV together, as the Israeli Air Force attacked Gaza, and reservists were called to the border.
A close friend of mine, a commander of a tank platoon, accompanied his unit to the border in early January. We spoke every night by telephone and I sensed an increasing anxiety in his voice.
A week later, he told me that we would not be able to talk for a while, and I knew it meant that he was going into Gaza. Later that evening, the news reported the ground invasion of troops into the Gaza Strip.
In the three weeks of the war, my friends and I were constantly glued to Ynet.com and the television, waiting for updates on the situation. Despite the war, our lives continued.
We moved to Haifa for the second part of our volunteer program and have started to ease into new volunteer positions. The daily routine continues, even with Katushyas falling occasionally 20 minutes north of us. As the last IDF troops pulled out of Gaza last week, soldiers returned home and children in the south return to classrooms.
Every morning I wake up and go to my volunteer job. Even with the uncertainty and tension, I remember to tell myself the famous Israeli mantra, “Yiyeh b’seder, it’ll be okay,”
Rachel Adams is in Israel with Otzma, a ten-month program that includes education and volunteering in a variety of Israeli settings. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in May with a bachelor’s degree in Hebrew, political science and international studies.