The sirens wail all around us in the early morning. They echo in our minds. Run, they say, run.

"Quick, Logan, grab Sadie. I have Aaron," I yell, panicking.

My husband and I grab our children. Neither of them are dressed. I'm in my pajamas, my husband barely has time to put on his pants. With shaking hands, I open the door and we run out into the hallway. The siren continues. We run down one flight of stairs and then two. Neighbors wearily open their doors, fatigue etching lines on their faces.

We hear a BOOM and then another BOOM. My hand shakes as I update my Facebook, trying to see if the rockets landed or were shot down by Iron Dome. The siren stops. It's quiet. We all look at each other, silently agreeing we can go back to our homes. And then life begins again. The gardener outside turns on his weed wacker. The bus stops loudly at the corner. The birds sing. The news proudly proclaims Iron Dome shot down multiple rockets over Tel Aviv, where we are visiting with my parents during their vacation in Israel.

Three hours later, sirens sing again. My son is napping in the stroller. My daughter is resting on the couch. I'm still in pajamas, suffering from a fever. For a moment, I panic. And then, once again, we grab our children and run down the stairs. Our neighbors open their doors and we sit in the stairwell, waiting for the inevitable booms. The booms seem louder this time. The building shakes a little more. This is the third time my children have sat in a stairwell hiding from rockets. This time my daughter looks at me and barely whispers, "Mommy, I'm scared."

Prior to our life in Israel, we were a traditional Jewish family attending services at our local, beloved Chabad in peaceful San Diego. My four-year-old daughter attended Chabad Hebrew Academy, my husband worked long hours six days a week, and I stayed home with our one-year-old son and dog. After five years, my husband needed a sabbatical from working. He craved Torah learning. We decided to use our savings and give my husband the opportunity to learn in yeshivah for six months. We put all of our belongings into storage, gave away our dog and rented out our house.

After two months in Jerusalem, I decided I wanted to study Torah and enrolled in seminary. I enjoyed my hour-long walks with my one-year-old through the Machane Yehuda Market and the ride up the light rail to Kiryat Moshe, where I attended seminary. For the first time in my life, I learned how to read Hebrew. I spent two hours a day translating Chumash, reading the words G‑d gave my people thousands of years ago.

But five months into our spiritual journey, riots erupted in Jerusalem and rockets started raining down on southern Israel, reaching as far as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Prior to the riots, I was never afraid to walk alone in the streets of Jerusalem. The day the riots started, I feared for my life and the life of my children. I felt unsafe riding the light rail. My seminary has encouraged its students to avoid the Kotel and the Old City. Jerusalem transitioned from a place of safety to a place where I constantly look over my shoulder. As an American citizen, I try to emulate my Israeli family and live. I go to restaurants. I walk outside. I face life despite my fear.

Photo: IDF
Photo: IDF

Despite the chaos and the constant threat of violence, I am in awe of the Israelis’ ability to stay calm and kind. Today, my husband and daughter were walking along a busy road. My daughter accidentally dropped her pink balloon. It rolled onto the street before my husband could catch it. A police officer on the road stopped his car, stopped all the traffic on the road and picked up the pink balloon. He walked up to my husband, handed him the balloon and waved at my daughter. I'm sure that moment will forever be etched in her mind.

Our sabbatical will be ending soon. I will miss sitting in a classroom of my peers analyzing Chumash and Navi. I hope to continue my studies in some capacity when we return to California. As I walk the streets of Jerusalem knowing it's my last Shabbat here for some time, the desire to cry burns deep within me. I want to hug the stones and touch everything. I want to imprint Jerusalem on my soul.

Good-bye, Israel. Stay safe. May G‑d watch over you always.