This post is the seventh in a series about 25 years living in Israel.
After two years in Israel I was back in the Netherlands. I did not know in which direction to go, and, for the time being, worked in cleaning jobs and as a help in an office. A visit to my mother’s cousins brought about a change in my future that I would like to call destiny, though everyone is free, of course, to call it something else. They just came back from a visit to Israel and showed me a video they made in Jerusalem’s city center. Suddenly I felt that I was wasting my time here and I had to get back. At the time, dark clouds were packing over the Middle East. Iraq had invaded Kuwait in August, and a large coalition was threatening Iraq with war. Saddam Hussein threatened to send Scud missiles with chemical heads to Israel if the US and its coalition partners would start a war. In the office people tried to talk me out of going to such a dangerous place. But I had to.
I landed in Israel in the end of November 1990, and the atmosphere was stressed. People were talking about gas masks and sealed rooms to protect us from chemical warfare. I seriously doubted whether I had made the right decision. I believe now that I did…
On the 15th of Januari the ultimatum of the US expired. On the 17th Operation Desert Storm started.
I and many other tourists had been given gas masks just a week earlier. And it did not take Iraq long to start firing rockets at us. The Scud missiles turned out to be ‘regular’ rockets, without chemical heads. All in all 39 were fired at Israel and the Palestinian territories. They did damage and caused deaths, a few directly from the rockets and others from heart attacks and suffocation due to mishandling of the gas masks. But not in Jerusalem.
I will never forget the waking up to the sound of a siren, the sealing of the sealed room and the waiting for the all clear sign with my mask on.