‘We locked our door for the first time since leaving SA’
We are a family of five who moved from Johannesburg to Israel in December 2020 due to uncertainty about the COVID-19 pandemic and the high crime rate in South Africa. We have been living in Haifa in northern Israel for nearly three years.
It has been three weeks since the massacre on the border with Gaza, and since then, we have been on an emotional rollercoaster.
We felt shock when awakened by alerts on our phones, immediately viewing real-time images and videos of the atrocities happening down south.
Then came disappointment, as we wondered, “How could they let this happen? How does this happen?” We had no idea what was going on, and it seemed like the government was equally uninformed at the time.
Fear and anxiety gripped us, as we remained uncertain about what was happening or what might happen next.
However, we also experienced pride in witnessing the entire country unite. People came together quickly, with many organising shelters for families from the south. Food kitchens and collections for the army sprung up all over the place. We witnessed the call-up of 360 000 reservists, who dropped everything to fulfil their duty. These brave individuals include husbands, sons, daughters, and work colleagues. We’re immensely grateful to them.
We now hear the constant hum of drones and jets in the sky, day and night. It has provided us with some comfort, knowing that we’re being protected.
After the events on Saturday, we locked and latched our front door for the first time since leaving South Africa.
Haifa has been relatively quiet, except for one siren scare, which was traumatic for our children since it was their first experience. Our kids have been engaged in online learning, which has been frustrating for them, but we hope they’ll be able to return to classes in-person soon. I’ve been fortunate enough to work from home and help set up the kids for their lessons. It serves as a stark reminder of the COVID-19 lockdown.
We had to remove social media from our children’s phones due to the rapid sharing of gruesome videos among their school WhatsApp groups.
We’re aware that many of our fellow olim are grappling with the same emotions, and some have contemplated leaving temporarily until the situation stabilises. However, it’s not an easy decision to make. We’re constantly messaging friends from all over the country when we hear there are rocket sirens where they live to find out if they are okay.
In spite of all this, when we drive to the shops, we find the roads packed, and people continue to jog, walk their dogs, and go about their daily lives. This resilience is a testament to the enduring spirit of the Israelis, who have weathered many years of conflict.
A work colleague asked me the other day if I regretted moving to Israel. After some contemplation, I responded, “No.”
At least, by being here, I know we have protection. I sometimes fear for my family in South Africa, as it seems the government has neglected their well-being, leaving them to fend for themselves if, G-d forbid, something terrible happens there.
Am Yisrael Chai!
- Michael Fine works for a hi tech company in Israel as a technical support engineer.