Countdown – January 1991.  Place – Ra’anana – suburb north of Tel Aviv.

‘Dear Australian Citizen,
The new Consular Travel Advice suggests that Australians in Israel should consider leaving the country temporarily.’

(I was writing to family back in Melbourne sharing some of the daily abnormal life that we were forced into living).
This picture illustrated is of a gorgeous child in full preparation for a missile attack! Finding this a few days ago has urged me to share a morsel of my experiencing a momentous time in my interesting life.
The caption from the picture reads – ‘What if they threw a war and everyone was forced to stay home?’
Our Pandemic has forced us to be in lockdown for the best part of 2020 – and in my lifetime, who would believe this would be our reality?

One is a deadly Virus and the other was the threat of the tyrant Sadaam Hussein, to cause mayhem in the land of Israel where I had the privilege of doing my Master Class for more than a decade!

‘I have lost count of how many missiles have fallen in Israel. That seems strange to say, but I have! We are sitting having early breakfast – pitta bread and Vegemite and drinks. It is 3.40 a.m.

One hour ago, we were rudely awoken from our sleep by the siren – the signal to dress and run to the sealed room, don your mask and sit waiting to hear and feel if you have been hit, or some other member of your family (meaning everyone in Israel, as they are all a part of your family). I personally feel sad and angry at the same time. Why do we have to walk around all the time with a gas mask swung over our shoulder? Jews once again must be terrified of GAS! It is too ironic and sick that this nightmare is taking place in 1991.

I want to get on with my life. I don’t want to think of my people dashing out of bed in the middle of a deep sleep, fearfully awakening their little ones and placing them in the masks or plastic cots, trying to wake them calmly, whilst at the same time, feeling completely overcome with emotion and tension and plain old fear. This is me discharging after the latest missile attack on Israel – and maybe I am not being rational but, when I write, it is my way of expressing my true feelings at the time.  I can now get into my comfortable bed, physically unhurt, just with a pain in my heart at the thought of those who are injured.  Even being in Israel, I felt no immediate danger – the fickle finger of fate is in the air!

Try and go about your business. Wherever possible, do what you would do on a regular day.  This is the advice from the Israeli government. Quite a challenge. Nothing is normal, and so you think very carefully before heading off in the morning. Where were you going to go, and should you still head in that direction? This is a time for good common sense. You do not take unnecessary risks by visiting someone or tending to some business that will endanger your life. Israel is always an emotional roller coaster, but now it is very exaggerated. Yes, I am scared, but am trying to prevent Sadaam from dictating to my every move. I went from anger to anxiety, and not having come from a family of Holocaust Survivors, I had not grown up with the wounds, and this was my fragment of being on a war footing.

Downtown Melbourne was never like this!  The fortitude of the people running around during the daylight hours; shopping, working, communicating with each other in such a caring and concerned manner; volunteering their precious time – this must be seen to be believed.

There are so many outstanding events taking place, but if you asked me to name but a couple, I would have to say the first was seeing this wonderful lady giving birth to her first baby with a gas mask on – that completely blew me away. The doctor was singing Hebrew songs to her. You could not have a more moving scene even if you planned it.

The second was seeing the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra playing their beautiful music with their gas masks placed neatly under their chairs at the Mann Auditorium.

The pictures of the devastated areas make me think of Beirut. I cannot believe that suburbs in my country look the same as that unfortunate city, but they do.   This is ironic to say this in 2020 about Lebanon!  The monster is wreaking havoc in my country – only because Israel exists, not because they are doing anything wrong in his eyes – just by being there. We are sitting here like sacrificial lambs, helpless to do anything.

America is doing their show business warrior campaign but, meanwhile, we are here. This is getting more difficult every day. A deadly game is being played, and we are the bait. It is a frustrating situation, and one which Israelis have never played before. Israel has defended itself for 43 years and now she is waiting for the appropriate moment, but the price is becoming exceedingly higher with each passing day. We were practically annihilated from Europe half a century ago – now we have the strongest army in the Middle East – but we are obeying Big Brother and sitting quietly – not reacting. The psychological damage this is doing to the macho Israeli male will be played out in the coming months!!’

But it did end just in time to celebrate the happiest Purim in years.

And now in October 2020 – Melbourne is looking for relief as we travel through this tunnel in 5781! It is going to be a different world – and for my children and grandchildren, both here and in Israel, I must have hope.

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Sandra Israel Saks
Sandra is a Melbourne Writer. She lived in Israel for over a decade, and had the amazing experiences of working in Herzliya Film Studios, Alexander Muss High School in Israel, and teaching English as a second language to both children and adults. Upon her return to Melbourne, she had the privilege of being Sunday Supervisor at the Jewish Museum of Australia for 18 years. Sandra is now ensconced in her study, in the foothills of the Dandenongs, putting together the 30 years of writing into Memoirs and Short Stories.

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