A postponed family bar mitzvah

November 2023
Jacki Levin

On Oct. 6, we travelled  to Israel for our grandson Max’s bar mitzvah. With us were our daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren. We had gone a few days early so the two-year-old could adjust to the time change. Less than 24 hours after our arrival, war broke out. 

What was it like being in Israel as the rockets flew? When the first sirens blasted, we had no idea where to go. We were staying in an Airbnb in Tel Aviv with no bomb shelter. An Israeli friend showed us how to shelter in the basement stairwell from where we heard the deafening explosion of a rocket that  hit a building 300 metres from ours. 

After a number of times in that space, we learned to distinguish between the sounds of rockets hitting their targets and those intercepted by the Iron Dome. We slept in our clothes to be ready to run to the shelter during the night. We had to stay indoors, which was especially hard on the two-year-old.

We were able to order some groceries from a delivery service and at one point, my husband Larry braved deserted streets after hearing from an Israeli friend of a pizza kiosk that was open for a few hours. Most of our time was spent on the phone trying to get a flight home. Three of our booked flights had been cancelled.

It was challenging and especially frightening for the children, but nothing compared with what Israelis in the south were dealing with. After three days, friends came and drove us to their moshav near Nazareth, feeling it was safer to be in the north than in Tel Aviv. It was good for the children to be able to be outside, but the moshav was situated right next to an airbase. The noise of jet fighters taking off constantly was deafening. 

We were finally able to get a flight to Dubai. We worried about hearing sirens on our way to the airport but that didn’t happen.  Two hours after our flight took off, the airport closed and all flights cancelled when a rocket hit nearby. 

We felt guilty leaving our friends and family behind, but we were truly a liability in Israel having to be housed and fed and not knowing what to do in a war. We are now glued to our screens for news, all the more understanding of what Israelis are going through and doing whatever we can from here to help Israel.