The Indian expatriate community in Israel is in a state of perpetual anxiety and fear as Palestine’s Hamas militants and Israeli forces continue to fight a pitched battle over Gaza.
Even as the government has started evacuating Indians in small tranches so much as the logistics allow, the scary tales trickling in give a glimpse of the gory realities that sound no less than a tense war movie.
Zeevabhai Muliyasha in Tel Aviv, hailing from Rajkot’s Manavadar town, said, “We are in a highly scary situation, the kind very few people would have experienced in their life.” Zeevabhai finds himself along with his wife and two sons, aged 14 and 18, confined mostly to a bunker-like room, a common feature in Israeli homes. The incessant wailing of sirens sends them scurrying to this ‘safe-room’, a stark reminder of the danger.
The attack came after the end of Sukkot, a weeklong celebration to commemorate the harvest season.
“The ordeal began with the piercing shrieks of air raid sirens on a Saturday morning,” said Sandhya Vaijapurkar, a caregiver from Vadodara residing in Ashdod. “I could hear the missile bombings in Ashkelon, 25 km away, and all I could do was pray to god that no missile lands at our place. It’s difficult to sleep at night with the constant bombardment, ground quakes and rattling of windows, as Ashdod is around 60 km away from Gaza Strip,” Sandhya said.
She recounts hours without food as shops shuttered amidst the chaos. The scant openings of stores witness a frantic rush for supplies before the silence and fear engulfing the streets again.
Derick Christian, also from Vadodara, currently living in Netanya, said, “Netanya is comparatively safer as it is the central part of Israel but in the southern parts the situation is very bad. None of us expected the attack to be of this magnitude.”
Zeevabhai says, “The government has guided citizens to go into the safe room immediately after a siren.” He has hosted lunch/dinner diplomacy on three occasions for the Gujarat government delegates during their visit to Tel Aviv and said Gujarat minister Raghavji Patel has been in touch with him.
Conversations with Arab acquaintances are held with caution, echoing the larger sentiment of fear among the Indian expats.
Zeevabhai, whose daughter Nitsha is studying in the US, shares a family’s anxiety stretching across continents. Nitsha’s previous service with the Israeli Defence Force increases the concern, making her cautious of her identity abroad amidst a tense international narrative. The figures of casualties, with Zeevabhai estimating a higher toll than the official 1,200 due to unfound bodies, reflects the grim reality.