Israelis recall drone strike 'in our backyard'

 

March 30, 2018

Children from the Dekalim Elementary School in The Valley of the Springs, Israel, spoke with select members of the recent volunteer program to Beit Sh'ean. Shown mixed in with the children are teaching volunteers (l-r), Joyce Hoffer, Harriet Friedman, Frank Buchwald, Jane Edelstein and Joan Shall.

When an Iranian drone was shot down in a field this past February, news focused on the ensuing Israeli plane shot down in Syria, and on the long-term implications for the United States' involvement in Syria. But what of the Israelis who heard the drone fall almost literally in their backyard? What of the thousands of Israelis who were awakened at 4 a.m. just after Shabbat, in a panic about the siren that was going off?

"I awoke, dressed in my uniform, and comforted my neighbor next door, who was outside crying," noted Efi Mazor, a captain in the reserve unit of the Israel Defense Forces. "Many people here thought (missiles) might be coming, because there was (no hint) of anything before."

Indeed, "here" is Beit She'an, a small city of just 17,000 people, located in the north of Israel at the junction of the Jordan and Jezreel Valleys. The drone was shot down a few kilometers north of the city.

Although the adults were reportedly somewhat panicked, some children seemed to take it more in stride. "The kids were not freaked out-they've lived with (bomb shelter) drills and the sound of helicopters overhead their whole lives," said Genoa Taylor, the head English teacher at Dekalim Elementary School in the Valley of the Springs (a more rural community located next to Beit She'an.) And some adults on kibbutzim attributed it to more mundane factors. "We (adults in the kibbutz) heard the siren and thought it was the usual-a wild pig setting off an alarm," Tammy Steiger, another English teacher, said. "We absolutely feel secure where we live."


Children at the school said they were afraid when they were awakened, but were not panicked. In broken English, they recalled their feelings: "We heard the helicopter; I wanted to be brave because I saw my mother (crying)," said one girl. A second girl said, "My family talks about this kind of thing, so I am OK." A boy, with perhaps the best response of all, "I slept through the whole thing. Not sorry I missed (it.)"

A second boy noted that the next morning he wanted to bicycle over to the drone crash site and see the debris. It was way too late. The local authorities had cordoned off the area immediately.

Jane Edelstein recently returned from an almost 2-month stay in Israel.

Captain Efi Mazor

 

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