|Limor Steinberg (left) studying with a classmate in Jerusalem.|
When Annandale native Limor Steinberg moved to Israel in August, she knew the country was subject to frequent attacks from its neighbors, but she didn’t expect to be living in a war zone.
Steinberg, a 2011 graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, had enrolled in a Jewish religious school in Jerusalem for intensive Torah studies and was still adjusting to the school routine and making new friends when Hamas stepped up its rocket attacks from Gaza a few weeks ago.
“When the bombing started, it was and it wasn’t scary. Jerusalem is mostly out of range of the rocket fire, so we didn’t feel it so much,” Steinberg says. But “Israel is such a small country, everyone knows someone who is affected. I have friends in the Army and it’s scary for them.”
“We had a few briefings about what to do if you’re at school or on the streets when there’s a siren indicating a bomb is on the way,” Steinberg says. People had 90 seconds to get into a shelter. “If you’re out in the street and can’t get into a building, you’re supposed to crouch down and cover your head. It’s like what we did in the States for a tornado drill.”
|Steinberg (lower left) arrives in Israel Aug. 14.|
In Jerusalem, the sirens went off twice, she says. Fortunately, those rockets fell south of the city and they didn't kill anyone. The southern part of the country, closer to Gaza, was constantly under attack with rocket fire every 20 minutes or so, and people there only had 15 seconds to get to a shelter.
“It’s not so much that I was scared for my life, but it’s a scary feeling that people are shooting at you with the intention of trying to kill you and trying to scare you. It’s a really horrible feeling,” Steinberg says, noting that a siren warning of a rocket attack was like nothing she ever even thought about in the U.S. “We felt it was a little surreal, like it was a movie or something.”
Even though it was a horrible situation, she says, “it was very beautiful to see the entire nation coming together and taking care of each other.” Many people in Jerusalem invited families from the southern Israel to come and stay with them, and her school hosted 10 families from the South to stay in the dorms. “All of the dorms were pretty much full. So girls were sleeping on the floor.”
Steinberg grew up in an observant, but not Orthodox, family in the Wakefield Chapel area of Annandale and attended Canterbury Woods Elementary School and Frost Middle School. She first traveled to Israel at age 16, and “I fell in love with it,” she says, adding, “I always felt a strong connection with it.”
As her faith deepened, she decided to put off college and instead delve into the religious texts in a school for girls in Jerusalem. “I knew there’s going to be a conflict and terror and war. I came into it with that mindset. It’s part of life here,” she says. “My parents were completely supportive and awesome about it.” They are definitely worried about her being in a war zone, but “they knew the situation I was going into, and we have lots of family here.”
After finishing her year of study, Steinberg says she might go into the Israeli army or enter the national service, the country’s alternative to the armed forces, and after that probably go to college.
Meanwhile, she is living in dorm-style apartments while attending school from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday through Thursday. During her time off she has been exploring the country and visiting with some of the 30 or so cousins she has there.
With the ceasefire, “everything is kind of turning to normal,” she says, although there’s “a collective holding of our breath. We don’t know how long the ceasefire is going to last.”
“People are praying a little extra. In my school, the Israeli girls are more used to this. The girls from America are feeling more tension,” she says. The best thing to do is to “keep on with your normal life. The terror organizations want people to be scared.”
Steinberg wants the American people to recognize that “Israel completely has the right to defend itself. It’s so important for people to understand that.” She encourages people to read the news and be informed about what is really going on.
Despite the increased tension, “I will definitely stay,” Steinberg says. “It never even crossed my mind to leave. Israel is my home, and now I think it’s so important for me to be here.”