This piece is one of an ongo­ing series that we will be shar­ing in the com­ing days from Israeli authors and authors in Israel.

It is crit­i­cal to under­stand his­to­ry not just through the books that will be writ­ten lat­er, but also through the first-hand tes­ti­monies and real-time account­ing of events as they occur. At Jew­ish Book Coun­cil, we under­stand the val­ue of these writ­ten tes­ti­mo­ni­als and of shar­ing these indi­vid­ual expe­ri­ences. It’s more impor­tant now than ever to give space to these voic­es and narratives. 

So far I’ve been lucky. Not just dur­ing this war, but in all the skir­mish­es and rounds of fire that have pre­ced­ed it since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007.

I have nev­er been under rock­et fire. The town where I live has nev­er been tar­get­ed. I have nev­er need­ed to shut myself up in my safe room and pray that the rock­ets com­ing down on Israel will miss my home.

But then it hap­pened. An alarm blared on my phone. It was the Home Front app, telling me I had nine­ty sec­onds to lock myself up in my safe room.

I called to the chil­dren. Both were quite anx­ious. It was their first time as well.

Since Octo­ber 7, when Hamas launched its bar­bar­ic sur­prise attack, my wife and I have been prepar­ing them; bit by bit, with care­ful­ly mold­ed words that will spare them the true hor­rors – but also instill upon them the need to be cau­tious and wary – and to imme­di­ate­ly heed our instruc­tions in case of an emergency.

We entered the safe room. I drew the heavy met­al shut­ter across the win­dow and all nat­ur­al light was ban­ished from the room, along with any fresh air. The heavy steel door was next. I clanged it shut and turned the han­dle to its top posi­tion. This doesn’t lock the door, mere­ly seals it. On the first day of the war, in the kib­butz­im near Gaza, there were life and death strug­gles over con­trol of such handles.

The ter­ror­ists pulled on them to open the doors and get at the peo­ple hid­ing inside. The would-be vic­tims held onto the han­dles for dear life, some­times as long as six hours, to keep the killers at bay.

I just bought a wood­en con­trap­tion that effec­tive­ly locks the door by pre­vent­ing the han­dle from mov­ing. But I did not have it yet the night of that first alarm. In case of infil­tra­tion, I might have to hold onto the han­dle with all my strength.

And infil­tra­tion was the threat. At least those were the reports. An infil­tra­tion by air of small air­crafts or glid­ers bear­ing armed ter­ror­ists from Hezbollah.

Ten­sion hummed in every blood ves­sel. Added urgency to every breath. But I had to keep a calm facade for the chil­dren. I wished then, and not for the first time since the war began, that I had a gun in the house. Even though I had not touched one since my army days.

What to do now? Play a board game? Read the boys a book? They seemed too jumpy for that right now, and I was no different.

So we sim­ply talked. No one sat. I tried to make light of things, to keep their spir­its up, to allay their fear.

Less than ten min­utes passed until word came in one of the What­sApp groups. We could leave. It was a false alarm, a neigh­bor claimed.

Not every­one was con­vinced. A quick dis­cus­sion ensued. It was only when some­one mes­saged that one of the news chan­nels had report­ed it that peo­ple allowed them­selves to relax.

There was no infil­tra­tion. There were no rock­ets streak­ing through the evening sky toward us. It was a human error. As sim­ple as that. But it sent hun­dreds of thou­sands of Israelis into their safe rooms in a panic.

As I opened the door and the chil­dren hopped out, I thought to myself, Dear God, this is what peo­ple in the south of Israel have been going through for years. And in their case, the rock­ets were real.”

And in the south, they have much less than nine­ty sec­onds to get to safe­ty. In the town of Sderot, where Hamas ter­ror­ists went on a ram­page on Octo­ber 7, the res­i­dents had fif­teen sec­onds to take shel­ter before a mor­tar or rock­et reached its tar­get. How can any­one live like this? What does it do to your psy­che? To your soul? Jews were sup­posed to be safe in their own country.

I was angry at the gov­ern­ment for allow­ing this. For let­ting peo­ple live in such fear for so long. And I was angry at myself as a cit­i­zen that I did not exert enough pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment to change its course of action. To pro­vide basic secu­ri­ty for its cit­i­zens, which is its duty.

At the time of this writ­ing, hun­dreds of thou­sands of Israelis, mil­lions even, are doing their duty. Some are in mil­i­tary uni­form. Oth­ers are in hos­pi­tals fight­ing for the lives of the thou­sands of wound­ed of this war. Some have the grue­some, soul-scar­ring task of iden­ti­fy­ing the bod­ies and prepar­ing them for bur­ial. And many oth­ers are vol­un­teer­ing, con­tribut­ing in oth­er ways, spread­ing the truth of what is hap­pen­ing here.

In many aspects, this war is like a huge, eardrum-shat­ter­ing alarm for all of us. We all need to be more involved, show more sol­i­dar­i­ty to our fel­low cit­i­zens, and to demand that we have hon­est and capa­ble politi­cians who would nev­er allow us to plunge into such a cri­sis again.

The views and opin­ions expressed above are those of the author, based on their obser­va­tions and experiences.

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Jonathan Dun­sky is the author of the Adam Lapid his­tor­i­cal mys­ter­ies series and the stand­alone thriller The Pay­back Girl. Before turn­ing to writ­ing, Jonathan served for four years in the Israeli Defense Forces and worked in the high-tech and Inter­net indus­tries. He resides in Israel with his wife and two sons.