Talia Lefkowitz is a volunteer from New York in an IDF paratrooper unit. She currently lives in Israel, on a base between Sinai and Gaza, where she says it feels very much like a war zone. The past week of Hamas rocket fire shook her bunker, and her sense of safety. Talia writes of the experience for Tablet:
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.
I didn’t think it could be a rocket or bomb because the warning siren, the tzeva adom, had not sounded. We all ran out to see what the noise was all about, and in the distance, maybe 2 kilometers away, we could see the telltale plume of smoke.
Seconds later, the siren rang and we all ran to the nearest shelter. The shelter is windowless. The room is built to hold 30 people, but somehow we managed to squeeze 70 inside. Luckily there was air conditioning, but it leaked everywhere and no matter where we sat, our bodies were splattered. People were pushing themselves up against the bunker walls to make room for the latecomers. In this chaos, it was my job to get a head count of my whole unit and make sure everyone had made it.
After three hours, we were told by the head of the base’s intelligence that it was safe to leave. It wasn’t for long, though. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Three more rockets fell minutes later, this time even closer to us. The tzeva adom rang, but there was no time to find safety. Two seconds after the siren’s scream we felt the earth shake beneath our feet. We were totally vulnerable.
Despite the chaos, and sometimes fear, Talia is proud to be serving in the IDF, and honored to be protecting the Jewish state. Read the rest of her story here.