Daily Israel Report

Life in the South: A Mother's Dilemma

Three children, two hands, and seven seconds to find shelter. A mother in southern Israel describes her all too frequent dilemma.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 9/4/2011, 8:14 PM

Children run for shelter in Sderot
Children run for shelter in Sderot
Flash 90

A mother from southern Israel, Esti Lehman of Moshav Shuva, recently put the experience of being under rocket fire into words.

Lehman's description is as follows:

A summer night, the window is open and grasshoppers are making music for us on a gentle breeze. This evening I went to bed early, after another hot summer day with the children. Thoughts pass through my head when suddenly the loudspeaker outside goes on, and a woman's soothing voice announces, “Color Red, Color Red." A loose translation: a mortar shell or Kassam will hit in another 15 seconds...

I switch to autopilot. Shake my husband, “Run and get them.” The two of us shoot up, almost pushing each other as we race, breathless, to the other side of the house – to the children's room.

In that second I am always struck dumb – and for a fraction of a second, I am united with all those Jewish mothers who came before me, and who experienced with me this dreadful moment - “who should I take?” The last thought a mother wants to think flashes through my head, “Which of them should I take first?”

For one moment I remember, chillingly, the Holocaust survivor who led us in Poland, and told us how his mother had managed to push him, him of all five siblings, into a small hiding place when the Nazis came to take them...

Three little ones, three options – the oldest just celebrated his fourth birthday yesterday – and he is so heavy to lift from the bed and race to shelter. After him our princess. I sat for hours getting her to sleep, hours of stories and songs, she just fell asleep an hour ago – how will she go back to sleep?... and the soft breaths of our youngest, five months old – and I have only two hands, and only seven seconds...

And that evening I was lucky – my husband was there, the oldest was already with him on the way to shelter, and I was left with two. I lift her with one hand and pull the baby with the other, one second later run to the other room. Usually at this point I already hear the boom in the background – and now I'm praying it will stay in the background...

I put them on the bed – and in the meantime close the iron door and windowshades – the handle has not yet turned and the explosion comes... the house trembles,

So do I.

It ends,

Struggling for breath, I look at the three of them. The little one woke up in shock, and is crying – she finally stayed in her bed, “why did you take me?” I hug her and stroke her back to sleep.

I look at my husband - “horrible, terrifying, shocking.” He doesn't understand. “We're used to it. That's it, we've been here two years, we're used to it.”

They're shooting at me, at my children – this is war – they're shooting at our soft underbelly, at the mothers, exhausted during summer vacation... and in the state of Tel Aviv all is quiet and calm, they make do with reports in the news – but the traffic jams on Ayalon Highway and the price of cottage cheese are much more annoying.


I don't understand politics. I am just a mother of three children, a mother tired out from the long vacation, a mother with two hands and a few seconds and a terrible decision to make every two or three days.

And you? Did you know? There's a war here – the Kassams are not being fired at soldiers or at an army, they are aimed at me -

Jewish mother.


Lehman sat down with Arutz Sheva this week to discuss what she had written.

How do families manage stay in the south? Not by getting used to it, Lehman says. “There's prayer,” she told Arutz Sheva. In her case, she noted, her family has always been told their home was dangerous – when they lived in Judea and Samaria friends suggested they move somewhere “calmer,” and the same was true when they lived in Jerusalem, and remains true today.

Her new hometown of Moshav Shuva has not only remained strong under rocket attacks but has grown, its mix of Judaism, Zionism and ecologically friendly living drawing more families each year.

Lehman expressed frustration with the apathy she perceives on the part of the Israeli public. “We hear about rocket strikes and mortar shells from right and left. We hear the 'Color Red.' It feels like a real war, but from the 'state of Tel Aviv' one gets a sense that what's important is each person's own pocket, the price of cottage cheese and all that,” she said.

Ultimately, there is a solution, she continued. “When it becomes clear to the people of Israel that a situation like this cannot be allowed to happen, it will not happen,” she stated. “If the mothers rise up and demand that this not happen, it will not happen.”