Short read

Despite the war, I feel safer in Israel now

I’ve been living in London for five years, but when the news came from Israel, there was only one place where I felt I should be

Omri Gal Kornblum

A good friend of mine, an avian ecologist and former officer in a top IDF unit, once told me that only two species in nature do not run away from the sound of a gunshot: crows and Israelis.

They run towards it.

I find myself repeating this ‘Chuchma’ (a piece of Jewish wisdom) when trying to explain to my Israeli friends and family why, five days after Hamas’s horrific attack on Israel when the country was already at war, my wife and I have decided to temporarily leave London – our home for the past five years and fly back to Israel for a month.

Of course, Israelis don’t actually run towards fire; the truth is a bit more complicated than that. The truth is that sitting in our UK home watching the news from Israel unfold, feeling helpless and worried, was simply unbearable. Learning how Israel’s civil society rose to the challenge, with millions volunteering and donating to help the victims and soldiers, was the only thing cheering our spirits. We wanted to support our families, friends and nation; at the same time, we wanted our families, friends and nation to support us.

But as I’m sitting in my mum’s flat just south of Tel Aviv, listening to alarms warning us of Hamas’s missiles and calling us to run into the flat’s safe room, I realise there’s more to our decision to be here now than just wishing to support and be supported. As insane as it may sound to some people, I realise I also feel safer in Israel these days.

The comfort of being surrounded by Jews like you

We live in West Hendon, not a particularly Jewish neighbourhood of London (though we have a Jewish girls’ school right down the street). When the news from Israel arrived and broke our hearts, our first reaction was to hang an Israeli flag in our window. Within minutes, our neighbour’s son decided to play Muslim prayers with their flat door open in what we felt was an apparent attempt to spite us. Luckily, his father returned home minutes later and stopped it. And though we heard no complaints or witnessed any attempt to vandalise our flag, we were aware that, unlike in Israel, in London some would frown upon an Israeli flag being raised in their street. Before we left for the airport, we even took the flag down. We felt we couldn’t risk leaving it hanging in our front window when we were away for so long. Knowing that conflict in Gaza always causes a spike in antisemitic incidents, I worry that terror might strike the Jewish community in the UK.

While Jews living in the UK feel they have to lower their voices when discussing recent events in public, here you can scream out your worries, fears and anger

Having said that, I have no delusions that Israel is safer for Jews than London these days. It is not. It never is. But right now, Israel feels safer – not physically, but psychologically: I feel safer because I know that nearly everyone around me supports Israel’s efforts to eradicate Hamas from Gaza. While Jews in the UK have to watch pro-Palestinian rallies led by Muslim extremists, in Israel everyone rallies to show appreciation for the IDF and its soldiers. While Jews working for international companies might feel their colleagues can’t understand what they are going through, in Israel, entire offices offer support to those who have lost their families, friends and homes. While Jews living in the UK feel they have to lower their voices when discussing recent events in public, here you can scream out your worries, fears and anger. And many do.

The flag from our London flat now hangs proudly off my mum’s balcony, next to many others. I wonder if we will hang it up once again in our window when we return to the UK next month. I wonder if we will feel safe enough to do so.

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Omri Gal Kornblum

Director of Communications

Omri Gal Kornblum

Director of Communications

Omri holds a Master’s degree in Political Communication and a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and International Relations, both from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He...

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