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Only a heartbeat away

A report from Jerusalem

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The Iron Dome defense system firing missiles to intercept incoming rockets from Gaza in the port town of Ashdod. Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90/JTA

We were at Newark airport waiting for our flight Wednesday, the 14th, when the news of the killing of the Hamas mastermind came through.

On Friday night we went to the Kotel, and suddenly during the Maariv service I realized that women were rushing into the men’s section. Our minyan kept davening, even though there was a mad rush for the tunnel rooms that adjoin the plaza area. I thought there was a problem with stone throwing but then the police came onto the loudspeaker and announced that the siren – which I had not heard at all – was a legitimate warning.

Still the minyan I was participating in continued.

My wife, Shelly, had been pushed into the tunnel. As we walked back from the Kotel we heard noise that I thought sounded like firecrackers and that my wife thought sounded like shots. Then we saw fireworks from the Arab section below, I assume in celebration of what we later learned were two missiles that passed in the vicinity.

On Shabbat during the day the Kotel was normal, but after the afternoon service someone we met told us a wild rumor that 10 rockets had been fired from the west bank. (We later learned that was not true.) Because it was Shabbat, information was in short supply.

On Saturday night we visited relatives in Bet Shemesh and found out that several had been called up during Shabbat. One cousin who had come from her home seven kilometers from the Gaza border on Friday afternoon left to return home with her husband, leaving their young children in Bet Shemesh.

Most things are functioning normally, and we have been going about our trip doing the things we intended. Malls, restaurants, and museums all are open. Our children in Teaneck were nervous because they had heard about the Friday night events on Friday afternoon. We had to reassure them immediately after Shabbat via email to calm them.

One of the strangest experiences is opening the Huffington Post, which automatically offers the British version, which is quite hostile to Israel, and then switching the setting to the American version. That one is far more evenhanded in reporting the truth.

I have been posting extensively on Facebook for the benefit of my many hundreds of Facebook friends. Fortunately, there has been excellent material to forward, including great information directly from the IDF. Only some of my Facebook friends are fully informed and the new alternative media of Facebook and Twitter are very valuable in drowning out the many lies Hamas and its allies have been promulgating.

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