Memories from Israel


A blog post by Amalia Phillips, Director of Israel and Overseas Education

The news from Israel bring back memories like a kaleidoscope; a medley of sweet and bitter images, sounds and smells that are forever etched in my brain. I was born during the Sinai war and lived (through several wars) in Ramat-Gan, a lazy town just north of Tel Aviv, deep in the heart of Israel's 'central' coastal region. 

My childhood memories include those of most children growing up. Walking to school through the orchard, playing ball on the street, giggling when a boy I liked walked by....


Waking up to the blare of sirens, loud and shrill, running down three flights of stairs in the dark to the basement of the building, listening to low flying planes and the wailing sirens of the first responders. Until today, when I hear low flying planes and sirens in the middle of the night, I wake up in a panic thinking of war. 

More recently, I was in Israel visiting my sister who lives outside Be'er Sheva, a city just 30 miles or so from Gaza. Shells from Gaza can hit the populated areas in less than a minute. I had just fallen asleep when suddenly I felt my sister tugging on the blanket, "Hurry,” she said, “we have to go." She wasn't exaggerating. We had just 45 seconds to run downstairs to the safe room, a tiny reinforced room without windows. It was pretty dirty in there, not pleasant. My sister never cleaned there on purpose; she said she didn't want it to ever become like just another normal place in the house.

The next day, we were meeting family for lunch in Ashkelon. Instead of listening to local music as we drove to the restaurant, we tuned in to the channel that announces “tzseva adom” which means “color red,” but less literally, “code red” or the warning that a rocket is coming. This is new to me. My sister tells me that if there were an incoming rocket, we would have to jump out of the car and lay on the side of the road. It is a hundred degrees outside. I immediately become a typical babe, thinking this would not add to my appearance once we make it to lunch.

And so it goes, even to this very day, no rest. I got off the phone with my sister yesterday. The "code red" rocket warning had just sounded, she had to go. 

Lehavim, the town where she lives, is 20 minutes or so north of Beer Sheva, so rocket fire is to be expected. But now the ball game changes as more highly populated areas become targets: Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Kfar Shmaryahu, Rishon Letzion, Nes Tziona, Beit Shemesh, Rehovot, Gadera. Fully 70% of Israel's population and 80% of its industry is estimated to be in these regions. 

Please join me in praying for God's protection over all of Israel and its people, who are our family.

CJE is an agency funded by THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.