A few nights ago we had a special set of emergency exercises in the moshav (neighborhood) where we live. For about 4 hours or so, first responders from the Golan went through four or five possible scenarios, two of which were a severe earthquake and a terrorist intrusion. SMS messages to residents’ phones were included in the exercise to reflect the kind of texts that would be sent in case of the real event. One message I received on my phone read in part, “…report of infiltration of terrorists…must remain in your homes with doors locked…” while an explosion—for greater realism—rocked the neighborhood. How did we prepare for the exercise? Meg went to Katzrin for an hour of exercise of the physical (and painful, sweaty) sort, and I decided to watch a movie on Netflix. All in all, a typical evening.
But all the action reminded me of the bigger picture and some questions. Why are we even having these exercises? The earthquake part I can understand since we had about a dozen small earthquakes in a two-week period earlier in the summer. But the terrorists? How would they even get to where we are? The fact that I’m even asking the question shows that there’s a lot more going on around us than we’re told in the news.
Conversations that we’ve had over the past week or so indicate that many believe a war is coming—and coming sooner rather than later. This includes conversations with both Israeli Jews and Golani Druze. What fascinates me about this is that each group is coming from very different political situations and news sources, yet they are all arriving at the same conclusions. Of course, the “next” war is always being discussed here, but people really seem concerned. And these are all people who have lived through numerous wars.
All of this talk about war contradicts what I currently see and hear around us. For instance, today is Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Hebrew calendar. As of this writing, the country has literally been shut down for 24 hours already, with another few hours to go. Flights in and out of Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) stopped yesterday at about 1:30pm and won’t restart until about 9:30pm tonight. All public transportation stopped more than 24 hours ago. The roads are empty. The gates to our moshav (which sit on, and therefore closed, a main road) closed yesterday at 6:00pm and won’t reopen until 7:00pm this evening. All television channels are off the air. I cannot personally imagine such a scenario anywhere in the States outside of a catastrophe.
Other than the birds and our windchime, I can hear NO sounds outside. It’s exactly what Yom Kippur is supposed to feel like: a super-sized Shabbat, allowing the Jewish population an entire day to contemplate repentance and atonement. It was also exactly this kind of day 45 years ago when Israel was surprised by a multi-pronged attack by Syria and Egypt. Iraq soon joined in, and Jordan supported Syria in various ways. People here in our moshav told me about how they knew that a new war had just started when Syrian fighter jets flew over our moshav on that Day of Atonement in 1973.
It would be very surprising if a sudden war like that broke out today. There have been no real indications of anything happening soon, and that’s counting the nearly weekly Israeli bombings in Syria of weapons caches belonging to Iran and Hezbollah. They euphemistically call this kind of action, “mowing the grass,” which is a bit funny considering the fact that there are virtually no yards with real grass in Israel. Even with the unfortunate and somewhat ironic downing of a Russian plane by Russian anti-aircraft missiles—shot wildly by the Syrian army a couple of nights ago—everything is calm, at least on the surface.
Maybe that’s why we had the emergency exercises earlier this week. Although no one is expecting anything, they want everyone to be ready in case something does happen. How do you prepare for an earthquake that you can’t predict? You practice what to do in case it happens, so that your responses come automatically. It’s like a tornado or fire drill when we were in school. And here, they’re simply readiness exercises performed during times of quiet, and the reminders to make sure your bomb shelter is ready to go. You probably already know how we fared on that matter, but if you don’t know, you can find out here.
I wonder, are there areas in our lives that we should be “exercising,” things we need to be “practicing?” If the Lord came back suddenly, would we be ready? Are we sleepwalking through our lives—acting as if we are ready, but in reality, ill-prepared for things to come? What regrets would we have if the Lord took us home today? Where would that “home” be?
“But understand this: If the owner of the house had known in which watch of the night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. For this reason, you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.” Matthew 24:43-44