PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) – If you ask him, 18-year-old Matan Horenstein will tell you about the extremely safe, diverse Israel he remembers living in for ten months.
But within twenty minutes, his iPhone will likely buzz with a push alert from an app that notifies him every time a rocket enters Israeli air space.
“It’s terrifying to think my family and friends are in danger,” he said.
“Israel’s an extremely safe place year round, there were no sirens when I was there, but unfortunately it’s not the case now.”
Wednesday, after nine days of air strikes, Israel and Hamas agreed to a five hour “humanitarian” pause, following Hamas’ rejection of a cease fire in the conflict that has left at least 213 Palestinians and one Israeli dead.
Living in Israel
While enrolled at Yeshiva University in New York, Horenstein spent the better part of a year studying at Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel. During that time, he stayed in a small kibbutz (or commune) near the Gaza strip, where rockets are regularly launched.
“You can see Gaza from the kibbutz,” he said, where a 22-year-old woman was killed in an airstrike.
The country, which is no bigger than New Jersey, is now experiencing air strikes from the very north to the very south.
“I had to look for bomb shelters when I was there because the people in that village live in a constant threat of missile attack,” said Horenstein. “We don’t hear about it in the media at home.”
Horenstein remembers trying to sleep one night: “and I thought ‘I have 15 seconds to run if I hear a siren.’”
However, what’s different about the situation now is that the majority of Israel is under threat – including major cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv — rather than cities on the border, he said. Horenstein’s family members living in the country have had to run to bomb shelters during attacks, he said.
“I don’t know how they cope, I wouldn’t be able to.”
One family member caught a missile defense mechanism called the “iron dome” in action. The device is shot at rockets to detonate them before they reach their target, exploding the bomb in mid air instead.
‘The psychological trauma will endure’
Matan Horenstein’s father, Bob Horenstein, Director of Community Relations and Allocations for Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, said the organization is currently funding social service programs in Israel for families and children at risk.
He is currently fielding calls from parents concerned for the safety of their children traveling there, where the daily threat of rocket attacks looms. Many of the teens’ trips will be restricted to areas that pose the least danger.
“You can’t live a normal life when you don’t know when a rocket’s going to fall on you,” he said. “It’s causing psychological trauma among these civilians.”
He said he knows of children and teens who sleep with their parents because they’re afraid of attacks, wet their beds regularly, and suffer PTSD.
“The psychological effects will endure,” said Horenstein. Many of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland’s fundraising will go to help Israelis deal with the psychological aftermath of the conflict, including PTSD counselling.
KOIN 6 News will continue to monitor this conflict.