A rude awakening

Shabbat is my favorite day of the week. Among other delightful and culinary reasons, it includes a morning without an alarm clock. It is a day that I can allow the gentle rising of the sun to slowly rouse me from blissful slumber. That or a crying baby; whichever comes first. This Shabbat, however, sleep was not nearly that peaceful.

Sometime in the middle of the night the familiar chime of an sms arriving broke the silence and our sleep. As we do not use the phone on Shabbat unless it is an emergency, we rolled over and ignored it. It didn’t even dawn on our barely-cognizant, sleepy selves that this could be an emergency, so we didn’t read the 3am message that said, “Suspicion of break-in to the neighborhood. Stay in your houses and tell the security services of anything suspicious”. Ditto for the next sms an hour later which more ominously read, “Every family is requested to call in to the security services”.

We did not, however, ignore the sudden banging on our door that stunned us all from our sleep at 5:45am. We heard our friend Aharoni urgently calling Lawrence’s name and we jumped out of bed – Lawrence for the door, me for the instinctive need to check on my children. After the devastating Fogel family murders in Itamar, I believe the entire national psyche was affected.  I know mine was. A 5:45am pounding on the door is certainly reason enough to run and check on the children.

Thankfully it was not grim news that brought Aharoni to our house at dawn, rather an extremely efficient effort at securing our neighborhood after an apparent breach of the security fence. Aharoni greeted Lawrence with a terse, “Check the house – make sure everyone is here!” Of course I was already doing that so within milliseconds he was on his way to the next house. We were stunned to look out our window and see not only Aharoni and a few other neighbors from the emergency response team, but several army vehicles around and soldiers everywhere.

As the day unfolded, the details of the story were filled in. A random security patrol had discovered a fresh breach in the security fence of our neighborhood. Fearing for the safety of the residents, an instantaneous and highly organized collaboration between the army and our local community security services was set up. We’re talking major, with a central command tent, maps, tons of soldiers, you name it. Any resident found outside was told to go home immediately, and a meticulous house to house check was established to be sure anyone expected to be home was safe and accounted for. Two teens were at the center of quite a scare and more intense searches when they were found to be missing from their homes, having gone to the “nearest home”, instead of their own homes, when sent home by the soldiers.

By the time synagogue services began at 8:30am there was nothing left of the incident except for tired residents and a lot of talking. The soldiers, the tent, the maps, were all packed up and gone. While I didn’t take a poll, it seems to me that despite the breach, the general mood in the yishuv was very positive and secure.  After all, the response was fast, thorough, and clearly effective. Whoever broke in must have been scared off because there’s no way he would have been missed. Of course it’s troubling that someone could get in, but it doesn’t take rocket science to breach a fence. And we are only too aware that the petty thief who wants to steal your laptop can get into a neighborhood the same way that someone with more ominous intentions can. And we’re not about to wait and find out if the fence-breaker is a criminal or a terrorist before we decide to act. 

It’s amazing how a situation that at first glance appears so dangerous and frightening can actually make you feel more secure. Despite the magnitude of what could have been – or perhaps because of it – the immediate, methodical and all-encompassing response made us feel strong, protected and safe. Safe enough, at least in my case, to go back to sleep and dream about the culinary delights that still awaited me on my beloved Shabbat. At least to sleep until my baby thought I’d had enough.

About the Author

Laura Ben-David is the author of numerous articles and the book, MOVING UP: An Aliyah Journal, a memoir of her move to Israel. She has done public speaking about Israel and Aliyah all over the United States and Israel. Contact her at laura@aliyahbook.com or follow her tweets at http://www.twitter.com/laurabendavd