OAKLAND, Calif. - Rotem Sarig Shmueli describes the fear she and many in Israel are living with as violence envelops the country. "We don’t sleep," said Shmueli. "We’re completely stressed and anxious and you’re always on edge."
As the fighting between Hamas and Israel escalates, she said two rockets have hit her town of Mazkeret Batya, about 30 miles from Gaza. "You can still hear them and you can feel the windows and the doors shaking," said Shmueli. "You can feel the explosions all the time, constantly, the airplanes and everything."
Shmueli said her family has been going back and forth between the bomb shelter and the television, glued to news of the war, looking for any updates on the killed and missing—fearing the worst. "You literally search every list you can to find out if you know someone, if someone from here, someone you know," said Shmueli. "There are so many that are still missing."
One of the most horrific scenes so far from the violence, the Supernova music festival, where Hamas terrorists attacked young people. Israeli officials have found the bodies of 260 people so far, Rotem’s roommate was supposed to be there. "She decided at the last minute not to buy one and didn’t go," said Shmueli. "I know a lot of her friends are still missing, I am so relieved they didn’t go."
Her boyfriend is one of the 300,000 Israeli reservists drafted amid the fighting. She’s constantly worried about his well-being as Israel’s counteroffensive continues. "We did a lot of things, so I actually know what’s going on with him," said Shmueli. "He’s securing supply routes in the Golan Heights. Knock on wood, he’ll be safe."
As the death toll rises in Israel and Gaza, Rotem is praying for peace, while fearing the situation is only going to get worse. "It’s a disaster, far worse than we could’ve imagined, It’s worse than our worst nightmare," said Shmueli. "We don’t want wars; we don’t want people to die. We don’t want them to die on the other side either."