Life in Jerusalem

Since Shabbat, Jerusalem’s downtown is quieter than normal. Outwardly, even with the massive call-up of the reserves, the streets do not appear less crowded and life continues, though not without change. But the quiet is unmistakable.

For Jerusalem’s bubble was pierced Friday – just as Shabbat was entering, air-raid sirens, the first in decades, pierced the normal erev Shabbat serenity. The scene was repeated yesterday mid-day and we all sought shelter in the nearest “safe place”.

It’s the little things one notices: spouses, parents, friends, frustrated at not being able to reach loved-ones, and colleagues, on the phone as circuits are overworked. Parents, many for the first time, finding the need to calm their children while they themselves wonder what the day will bring.

The nervous energy when the siren sounds and we gather in the stair-wells at home, or at work. (eJewish Philanthropy shares space in downtown Jerusalem with several nonprofits including Bronfman Youth Fellowship and the PresenTense Group.) Co-workers, colleagues, friends and relatives currently called up for military duty.

The news continues to speak of a ceasefire, but not one person we’ve spoken with gives this much chance of even mid-term success.

And while life is certainly anything but normal, comments like “Jerusalem does not have the Iron Dome, and people are terrified,” by Israel’s Consul General in Los Angeles and promoted through a JFNA Leadership Briefing last night are over the top, and not really helpful (or supportive to those of us living here).

For the near term, eJP will bring our readers a selection of the many personal stories reaching us in Jerusalem, some in full, some as links to other publications. We especially call your attention to yesterday’s moving piece, A Letter from Tel Aviv by David Ya’ari and two from today, When the Siren Sounds by Florence Broder and An Unfair Fight by Rabbi Gustavo Surazski of Kehillat Netzach Israel in Ashkelon. Also, appearing in Tablet Magazine today, a poignant piece by Alieza Salzberg, wife of PresenTense’s co-founder Aharon Horwitz, Waiting for My Reservist to Come Home:

The fact that Aharon was called out to emergency miluim (reserve duty) in the middle of Shabbat dinner certainly drives my search for answers. From my wanderings on Facebook, I realize it is unpopular to admit that you want the violence to end just so your personal life can go back to normal, though personal experiences and feelings surely lurk between the justifications of war, the moral critique of violence, and grand messages of support for the IDF broadcast across social media.

And this, from friend and colleague Michele Chabin writing in The Jewish Week (Witness: What Do You Do When The War Comes to Jerusalem?):

In the past, every time Israel fought a war, we Jerusalemites took comfort in the belief that no Arab leader in his right mind would risk hitting Al Aqsa mosque with a rocket.

That’s how we interpreted the fact that Saddam Hussein, who pummeled Tel Aviv with Scud missiles during the 1991 Gulf War, seemed to deliberately steer clear of the Holy City.

How naïve we were.