My Facebook page is covered with photos and posts about the latest round of missile attacks launched into southern Israel from Gaza. “Fifty Rockets Hit Israel In the Last Three Days” the photo caption reads. The comments below the photo range from sanctimonious pro-Israel sentiment and prayers for the Jewish state to angry rants against Israeli arrogance and calls for a Palestinian state in the West Bank.
It’s a bit surreal to be reading these posts as I sit in a shelter with those very rockets shrieking overhead. I am a volunteer IDF soldier from New York City serving in an elite paratroopers unit. I am the only girl in a unit with 85 combat soldiers. Over the past year, we have served all over the country. Now we are based on the border of Gaza and Sinai, and things have started to get hairy. The rocket attacks always stop at some point. I know there will eventually be a temporary ceasefire, and life on base will go back to normal. I’m surprised, frankly, that the current attacks even made it onto Facebook, because outside of Israel, no one seems to think they’re newsworthy, much less an act of war. No big deal, right?
It doesn’t feel that way inside the bunker. When you are on the other end of these rockets—hearing their high-pitched squeal as they fly past, feeling the room shake as they hit ground, and smelling the acrid smoke plumes that rise from the craters—it feels like war.
Our rooms on the base are similar to a caravan. The walls are thin, and the ceiling is just weak metal. Our beds are made of thin pieces of steel, and the mattress is a smelly egg-crate that has probably been slept on for over 20 years. When soldiers are not on missions, they are doing exactly what the movies portray: playing cards, smoking cigarettes, lifting dumbbells, making coffee on a little gas stove. Three days ago we were just minding our business when we heard a huge explosion that literally shook the ground. I know the floor moved because our coffee spilled.