JAFI War Diary from Southern Israel - Ravit Ohayon-Michal

Reprinted from JAFI.org; original available with other War Diary entries here.
December 31, 2008 / 4 Tevet 5769

Ravit Ohayon-Michal's story

The Grad missile that fell in Ashkelon near my home at 5:30 am Shabbat morning changed our entire reality. I now understand the torment of the mothers in Sderot who are helpless to protect their children…

Exactly a week ago I had a terrible nightmare. I dreamt that a missile fell on my home and I couldn't protect my children. I was frozen with terror. On Shabbat morning, that nightmare was here. I heard the war planes sweeping across the sky and my heart skipped a beat. I turned to my husband and said in English, so my young children wouldn't understand, "This is the beginning." I then turned to my three-year-old son Ori and my seven-year-old daughter Nitzan and said, "Don't worry, this is our army protecting us."

I have 100 percent trust in our army. I am not afraid for myself. But I am terrified for my children. And my heart is torn in half as I try to balance my responsibilities as a mother and as a working woman. As the director of the Jewish Agency's Israel Department activities in Sderot, Eshkol and Sha'ar Hanegev, my staff and I are responsible for the children of Youth Futures, the Net@ pupils and the children and youth in Partnership 2000 (P2K) programs who have been suffering on the frontline for over eight years. They desperately need our help.

Ravit Ohayon-Michal with her two young children, Ori, 3, and Nitzan, 7.

But when my daughter calls me crying, and my son's kindergarten teacher calls to tell me to come pick him up as a rocket fell less than a quarter of a mile from the school, I want to rush home and protect them. It is a harrowing situation. But I need to stay strong, my staff people need to stay strong – for our children and the children we care for everyday.

Today, the Home Front Command gave orders to all residents to stay within close range of protected areas so that we can run for shelter within 30 seconds. My staff and I were on the phone with the children in our programs, making sure that they were OK and planning possible activities to take them out of the range of fire, if budget allows.

Tensions are high. More than one missile has fallen very close to my home. We are in a life and death situation, fighting for our survival. We must prevail if we ever want to live in peace.

Ravit Ohayon-Michal is director of the Jewish Agency's Israel Department activities in Sderot, Eshkol and Sha'ar Hanegev. She lives in Ashkelon.

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