Poetry Can Wait, the Siren Is Blaring

Rockets and Savagery Force Liberal To Claim Place in Fight

Our Enemies: To one Israeli professor, the rockets from Gaza exposed Hamas for what it is: an enemy of all liberals.
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Our Enemies: To one Israeli professor, the rockets from Gaza exposed Hamas for what it is: an enemy of all liberals.

By William Kolbrener

Published November 21, 2012.
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In the middle of a class I was giving on Renaissance poetry, the students uncharacteristically started checking their phones all at once. Another siren, I learned afterwards, was warning of an incoming missile, this time one fired at Jerusalem.

My day had passed at Bar Ilan, the university where I teach near Tel Aviv, surprisingly enough, without the shrieking siren that has become part of the daily routine for so many of us in Israel. But when I heard about the latest missile, sharing the concern of my students, I made the round of phone calls home to Jerusalem before my next class.

My youngest daughter, who is 12, was in the house, stoic, somehow finding herself comforting the hysterical neighbor from downstairs who had ran up with her two little girls. My 14 year old had been at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station where, though terrified, she had resolved, with her two friends, not to cry in fear. I heard the rest of the family’s stories that night, They were over the shock of the first siren at Sabbath candle-lighting last Friday and by then were able to pretend not to be shaken.

My children have come to believe, however reluctantly, that there is no danger in Jerusalem. The missile that fell harmlessly on the outskirts of the city succeeded only in one way: instilling terror, in, after the last week of conflict, over half of Israel’s population who have run frantically to their bomb shelters.

In my Twitter stream, which I read on that day of the first rocket fired at Jerusalem, the shock registered: ‘OMG, they are attacking Jerusalem!’

This was not only fear, but incredulity. For me, more the latter: all of the assurances I have been giving my children over the years, that Hamas would never endanger their own people, never risk their own holy places, fell away. I shared that Friday at dusk, the tweeted ‘OMG’ of incredulity, as I was herding my crying daughters — ‘Where is Shmuel?’ our 10-year-old was still nowhere in sight — into the protected room, our bomb shelter at home.


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