She considered making a cloud room, with white puffy cumulus clouds filling cerulean walls, and beds covered with fluffy white pillows. But instead Reena Barnett Tasgal opted for cobalt walls, and duvet covers with planets and galaxies. She added glow-in-the-dark stars and taped up posters of the solar system. The Tasgal Space Room.
Tasgal’s appealing post on Facebook made me smile. At first you might think this mother of four is sharing tips for educational and whimsical home decorating. Not exactly. Reena Barnett Tasgal, and her husband, Richard Tasgal, are trying to reduce the trauma of their safe room, called mamad in Hebrew – the place they run to when the bombs fall.
The Tasgals live in Beersheba, a city of 200,000 residents, which is in the second orbit of the rocket range from Gaza. Beersheba isn’t as close as the western Negev towns in the “Gaza envelope,” the Gaza border area. Still, when the rockets launched from Gaza are pummeling Israel, Beershebaites are vulnerable.
A month ago, Miri Tamano, who also lives in Beersheba, was asleep when the Color Red rocket-warning siren woke her at 3:43 in the morning. She had to wake her three children and pull them into the safe room. Seconds later a Grad rocket tore through the roof and landed in a bedroom, destroying her home.
That night, Rena and Richard didn’t succeed in getting their own four children to safety. Recalls Reena, “When the siren sounded last month, I herded the kids and the sleeping husband down the flights of stairs to the safe room. Two kids made it into the room before the boom, but the rest of us were only near the entrance. Our safe room has thick walls and is located in the basement, which is safer than a regular apartment. But we were out of practice and didn’t all make it in time. We heard the boom and assumed that the Iron Dome shot down the missile, but it turns out that the Iron Dome wasn’t in our neighborhood. Across town, a mother dragged her three sleeping kids into their safe room and perhaps had time to exhale before a rocket hit her house. A direct hit.”
When the most recent round of rocket fire began, she and Richard put the three older kids to sleep in the decorated Space Room, trying to reduce the stress by making it seem like fun. The baby, says Reena, is easier to carry when the rocket warning sounds and can sleep upstairs with them.
Four hundred sixty rockets crashed onto southern Israel last week. As it turned out, none fell on Beersheba.
When I first saw Reena’s Facebook post, I thought, wow, look how creatively this family is trying to sweeten the bitter pill of having their children sleep in a safe room. But as the week went on, I thought how sad it is that we have become used to personalized bomb shelters as permanent features in our homes. That’s still part of Israeli parenting, decades after the kibbutzim near Lake Kinneret were being bombarded from Syrian heights.
The latest attacks on Israel were in the South, but in the North, 100,000 Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon are pointed at the citizens of Israel. That’s the threat we live with 24/7. STILL, IN a world newly awakened to hate crimes, are the rocket attacks considered an expression of antisemitism?
Not if you look up “antisemitic attacks” on the Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia. The editors have added a note to clarify. “This category should not be used for articles about events inside of Israel, or for attacks on Israeli embassies or officials. Such articles should be placed in other categories deemed appropriate.”
Antisemitism, it seems, happens only outside of Israel.
Reena and Richard Tasgal are American-born. She went to Yale, he to Columbia. They could have lived anywhere. In Israel, she transformed her liberal arts degree to becoming a nurse and then a midwife. He went into physics. Richard is from Newton, Massachusetts, and she’s from the Bronx. One of Reena’s fellow Israeli midwives I spoke to last week is from Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh. She was frantically worried about her parents in Pittsburgh after the recent massacre there. And although her parents worry about her, too, the threat to the Jewish state isn’t considered a result of antisemitism.
Or take France, for instance, the largest Jewish community in Europe. Who isn’t delighted by the new plethora of French bakeries in Israel? Macarons and madeleines, butter croissants and chocolate éclairs. The silver lining, the proliferation of French patisserie, reflects the arrival of French Jews, many of whom are fleeing antisemitism.
There, physician Sarah Halimi was murdered by a neighbor who recited verses of the Koran and threw her out the window. Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll was stabbed 11 times and left in her burning Paris apartment. The French government finally classified those murders as antisemitic attacks. But if French Jews move to Israel, the rocket attacks or street terrorism no longer count as hate crimes.
“There’s so much hate,” said Reena. “I’m just a tired, frustrated mother. I’m grateful that I have a safe room and a pantry of food supplies. I do think of mothers in Gaza. The babies I’ve delivered in Beersheba come from all ethnic groups. I have no idea what the solution should be. As much as I try not to tell my kids, there are people who just want us dead. And even if they don’t want us dead, they don’t want us living where we live. I know we have a right to live, and to live here. I don’t want the Gazans dead. I get really frustrated with anyone who thinks there is an easy solution. Every night, when I crawl into bed, I pull up the covers, leaving the window open so I can hear the siren better, if it sounds. I always hope that tomorrow will be a boring day.”
[At first] I thought, wow, look how creatively this family is trying the sweeten the bitter pill of having their children sleep in a safe room. But as the week went on, I thought how sad it is that we have become used to personalized bomb shelters as permanent features in our homes
SECURITY PERSONNEL check a damaged house in Ashkelon following a rocket attack on November 12.