How I Feel Living in Jerusalem Right Now

Masa Israel is highlighting the voices of our participants and alumni who are in Israel during Operation Protective Edge to give an authentic look at what it’s like to live and work in the country at this time. This account is from Rachel Jetter, a recent alumna of the Yahel Social Change program, through which she volunteered in an Ethiopian-Israeli community for ten months. Rachel made Aliyah after the end of her program and now the Assistant Director at BOMAH in Jerusalem.

I was at a concert outside of the Old City with some friends last week during the first siren. Everyone knew that the country was facing activity that day and while we were all constantly checking the latest updates on our iPhones, we weren’t going to abandon the concert tickets we purchased out of fear of something that might not even disturb the night’s events. Trying to provide constant comfort to my parents back in the states, I sent this picture with the caption “Safe in Jerusalem - at a concert!”

Nefesh Yehudi Concert

Old City, Jerusalem minutes before a siren


Three minutes later, sirens went off. The concert was shut down and everyone raced home.  The rest of the night was quiet — although if a siren went off, I’m not sure I would have heard it over the volume of my loudly beating heart.  

My anxiety about Operation Protective Edge pretty much ended that night. Reading articles and engaging in conversations with Israelis gives me comfort and enables me to be more informed. Restaurants, stores, and public transportation all operate normally, and continue to do so five minutes after a siren stops. My Israeli friends are calm and go about their daily lives without fear or worry. No meetings or classes are canceled. I worried before thinking about the situation because I felt like I should; because that was what I did when I was back in the States and when I didn’t hear about people grocery shopping, laying out in parks, and going to school on the news. Needless to say, I’ve started reading more Israeli news articles than American ones.


Down town Jerusalem, last week, the evening after a siren


Other sirens have gone off since this first one and luckily I haven’t been by myself during them. The composure of the people around me, the amount of shelter-selfies taken, and the sense of community prominent during these times, all allow me to take these sirens as five-minute disturbances to my day.

So, what’s my reality during Operation Protective Edge? My ears and eyes are alert, my phone provides me with updated notifications, I regularly call family members and I give an extra big smile of appreciation to the guard on the train. I grab coffee at Aroma on my way to my office in Musrara, Jerusalem and I meet a client or two throughout the day. Ironically, I work at an Israeli start-up that specializes in social media and much of our energy goes towards explaining our Israel experiences. In the evenings, I have been going to Ulpan and meeting up with friends.

I am well aware that unlike many other areas in Israel, Jerusalem has seen very few missiles at this point in the operation. I also know that these sirens are not simply disturbances and that they are serious threats. However, my “keep on trucking” mentality is the result of an implicit trust I never before realized I had within me. I trust my Israeli friends around me, the individuals patrolling the streets, and the IDF, specifically the technology of the Iron Domes. Forgetting Hamas for just a minute, I think about that trust and how THAT, not necessarily experiencing the sirens, has made me just a little bit more Israeli.


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