This Is Not A Test: Motherhood in Israel


It was one of those evenings when the biggest problems you face with your kids is whether there should be seconds on strawberry ice cream (there were), whether we had time to play one more round of Go Fish before bed (we did) and whether we would read King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub or Where the Wild Things Are (we went with both.)

Their hair was still wet from the shower, their eyes starting to droop when the siren wailed.

No. This is not a test. This is not a test. This is not a test.

We live in Israel, and our country is at war with a terrorist organization just an hour’s drive away; a terrorist organization committed to destroying Israel, a terrorist organization hurdling rockets at us for the last 10 years. And anyone living in this country – Muslim, Christian, or Jew – is a target.

And you know what’s crazy? Just like I learned STOP DROP AND ROLL as a kid growing up in LA smack dab in earthquake country, my kids knew exactly what to do when the sirens screech through the night. They ran to their flip flops lined up by the door – thank GOD for cheap slip-on shoe. My daughter struggled with hers, so I swooped her up in my arms while my son and I fled our home, past the purple scarecrow my children built “to keep the rockets away, Mama, so they don’t hurt us when we sleep,” over rough and rocky ground to a public bomb shelter.

Um, can I get a WTF? We have a public bomb shelter.

Like everyone else in Israel. Bomb shelters are all over this country.

Air raid sirens, Iron Dome – a system to take down rockets mid-air before they land on families like us – bomb shelters and safe rooms, they’re part of the rhythm of this place. And thank God for them, because just before we reached the shelter, the ground moved. Like literally moved.


No, keep running until we’re safe inside.

“Red Alert, Red Alert” my children sang. “Hurry hurry hurry because now it’s dangerous. Hurry hurry hurry, to a safe area.”

So basically, while I grew up on “The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round,” my kids know a song about what to do during a rocket attack.

“Breathe deep, it’s ok to laugh!” they sang as we reached the inside of the shelter with several other families.


We shook with the blast and my daughter screamed – the kind of horror movie scream you hear when the monster slithers out from under the bed, or a deranged clown crawls through the sewer – because these are our monsters, these rockets hurdling towards us, seeking to make a direct hit.

Inside the shelter, what can we do?

We ate Pringles and chocolate milk. We played Go Fish with our neighbors, and prayed.

In Judaism, we have an expression: When shit gets real, first you cry. Then you get angry. And finally you laugh. With your mouth wide open and all teeth showing, you laugh as your body reels.

And as the news broke on Whatsapp that the rocket landed less than a five minute walk from where we were eating strawberry ice cream only minutes before, we skipped the tears, hopped past the anger and went straight to laughing.

Really, there is no other choice.

About the writer


Sarah Tuttle-Singer lives with her two kids in a small village in Israel with a kick-ass view of rolling fields. She is a contributing editor at Kveller, the new media editor at Times of Israel, and her essay "We Need to Quit Telling Lies on Facebook" will appear in The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.


Comments for this article are now closed.

Angela Tuglu Dudok 2 years ago

Only America and several European country’s are still clothing there eyes, but most of the world know the truth but don’t dare to so anything

Angela Tuglu Dudok 2 years ago

Motherhood in palestina would be more appropriate. It’s worse there. Palestina is just defending itself from a ‘country’ Israël that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Learn your history. An israélien ministre even said that they have to kill all of them, beginning with the mothers because they give birth to terrorists. The israéliens are the real terrorists here, they try to genocide a whole race. I think they have already forgotten world wars.

Amanda Bonilla 2 years ago

How incredibly sad that anyone must endure this violence.

Brooke Morrison 2 years ago

I couldn’t help but cry as I watched the news and saw those poor babies being carried through the hospitals. I could not even imagine and my prayers are with both babies and parents.

Dareen Zoughbi 2 years ago

To all…I’m a Palestinian. I can tell you this much. I don’t belong to any political party.. I’m a normal mother like you all. Please know this much what is happening in Palestine is a Genocide. Please understand I’m not saying this because of emotional feelings or hatered…in an educated woman ..I can tell you this much…whatever you hear on the news is not just…it’s not true….please ask me any questions. Children and new borns ..entire Palestinian families are deliberately being killed.. Please read from non basis news…there is so much to say but this not the right place…I urg you.. I beg you to learn the truth about Palestine…there is so much more you don’t know…just ask me. I’ll be happy to answer!!!

    izzy 2 years ago

    Yareeb Allah helicom. My heart is with you and your family, my family in ramallah, and all the families of Palestine. It’s tragic. It’s frustrating for being attacked by pro Israeli trollers, god forbid you tell the story of the other side of the wall. Stay strong ya sebhaya, Palestine will be free. If I have to stand alone with my last breath to speak of the tragedy so my children have a right of return then so be it. You are not alone , sending much love your way.

Marian Ware 2 years ago

May God watch over you and your family. Prayers for Israel.

Soraya Marlie 2 years ago

ya Allah let their be peace in Gaza n Israel!! my heart goes out to the people of palestine!

Noah Tepperman 2 years ago

Praying for a path to shalom for you, all Israelis and the Palestinians too (Hamas, not so much).

Canada stands with Israel.

Lisa Younk 2 years ago

Can’t we (and by we I mean YOU) see the truth in the message here?! Take away the “sides”. Take away land borders. Take away religions. Take away languages. Take away style of dress. What’s left? Just the fact that WE ARE ALL THE SAME!! Just stop killing each other. Live and let live. Experience empathy for your fellow human. Period.

Karen Helm 2 years ago

I can’t imagine being a mother in either country. Scary situation on both sides. My prayers go out to everyone who is hurting and getting stuck in the crossfire.

Leslie Domsich 2 years ago

Katja Levi, wow this really gets you!

Joan Garrity 2 years ago

Scary Mommy – I respect that you did indeed attempt to present this without bias. Unfortunately, humans like to operate in a binary world — right/wrong, good/evil. Everything, including this horrible conflict, is way more complex than that. As commenter Kelly already wrote, “There is no side to take but the HUMAN side.”

Farina van Veen 2 years ago

Today Israel overstepped it’s boundaries. Today, the world should mourn with the Palestinian mothers and grandmothers who lost their children when Israel bombed the U.N. shelter. These kids also deserve a childhood and life as much as any other kid on this planet. I am for the existence to Israel but I am appalled by this action of inhumanity by the Israeli army.

    izzy 2 years ago

    Absolutely. Bombs or no bombs being stored in the shelter does not mean you get to blow up the only safe havens for civilians.It’s a war crime and I hope the ICC and the rest of the world rip those responsible apart in the same inhumane manner Gaza is being ripped apart.

Tamar Gurlekian 2 years ago

At least there are public bomb shelters and air raid warnings! Many countries, most countries, DO NOT have either causing widespread civilian casualties. Tired of the bull taking place in the Middle East!

Roni Martin 2 years ago

Sad. So heartbreaking sad. What is wrong with our world? Im praying for peace. Not that it will bring back those who have been lost. :( These poor families. <3

Leslie Henry Egan 2 years ago

Pray for PEACE

Michelle Wilson 2 years ago

So terrifying. From the pictures I’ve seen to the stories I’ve read I absolutely can’t imagine. Makes me an emotional mess just thinking about it.

Ruth Hughes 2 years ago

This brought on tears as a soldier I’ve had to run to bunkers many times but I can’t imagine have to do so with my children!

Debbie Lin 2 years ago

Said very well by a father living in Israel

Jaci 2 years ago

Thoughts and prayers are with all my brothers and sisters in Israel. You shouldn’t feel bad that Israel goes to great lengths to protect you. I wish Hamas had used all that concrete Israel sent them to do the same for their innocents rather than use it dr terror tunnels into Israel to kill civilians. then they would be safe as well and no one would be spewing hate towards you simply because you are lucky to have shelter and a country who cares.

    izzy 2 years ago

    Yes very lucky to have a country, a country who is occupying another countries land.

Elizabeth Vasquez Bennett 2 years ago

I’m crying now. I’m glad I read it but wow that hurts.

Daniela Miriam Askin 2 years ago

There NEVER has been a state Palestine. Before the state of Israel was established in 1948, the British had occupied the land from the second decade of the 20th Century until 1948, but there was no outcry from the Palestinian people for their own state then. In fact, there has never been an outcry from the Palestinian people for their own state until the state of Israel was established. And for the record, there is NO mention of Jerusalem or Israel in the Quran. However, the Torah is consumed with the land of Israel and the concept that it was given to the Jews by God. Mecca is the Muslim Holyland. Ever since history was originally written into language, there have been Jews in Israel and Jerusalem. This is not Muslim land. Nor will it ever be! Am chai Israel!

    Izzy 2 years ago

    Your god can promise what he wants, doesn’t make it true or reality. That’s so ridiculous you can use that as an excuse for crimes against humanity. Allah Akbar! Gaza gaza don’t you cry Palestine will never die from the river to the sea Palestine will be free. Oh and what about Christians in the holy land? Jews massacred Jesus, that’s cool though right?

    Sam 2 years ago

    There is no justification by the Jewish holy book for the Jewish people to have their own state.

    Einstein once said “it would be my biggest sadness to see Zionists (Jews) do to Palestinian Arabs much of what Nazis did to Jews”.

    Izzy 2 years ago

    Have you ever read the Quran? In arabic not translated? Of course there has never been an outcry from these people who apparently don’t exists since there is no Palestine according to you, why would anyone out cry until Israel was “created” and they were kicked out of their land. They had nothing to outcry about since Palestine was there country until the world powers decided to create the country of Israel… And since the Torah tells you god promised the Jews Israel that makes it true? Since that’s how history was originally written, since you were there to actually verify with your own eyes that was actually the historical facts of that day? A book is a book is a book. I don’t care who wrote what it says and what time period it came out of, does not make it true or reality. Your god promises you land well how about tomorrow I write a new book where my god promises me I get to rule the world? Are you gonna be cool with that? Probably not, just like everyone else doesn’t have to bow down and make concessions to you for what your book says. Religion is the worst thing to happen to humanity, and no matter if your religious or not it should not mean the world is ran on the basis or principals of others religion.

Jenneca Reeves-Yarbrough 2 years ago

Would love more stories from them…the loving mothers of far away places. I get so caught up in my “Problems” that i forget that 99% of them DONT MATTER!!!

Vicki Mena 2 years ago

I can’t even begin to imagine living this nightmare on a daily basis. God bless to those moms who do and make it thru the day. I am a white American woman, my husband is a Christian Egyptian man and we have a mixed son and another on the way. I can’t even begin to fathom us living in Egypt as Christians being targeted by those who aren’t. Especially us as a mixed couple. Stories like this really give you pause and make you count your blessings.

    Izzy 2 years ago

    Egypt is actually exceptionally open. I spent a month there last summer, I am an american white woman and my husband is from Palestine. The musri people are unbelievably giving, it’s the goverment that sucks. I hope that will not stop you from visiting one day, you should for your sake and your childrens go visit so they have an understanding of the other half of where they come from.

yu 2 years ago

What about stating that the terrorist organization started because of Israel’s invasion of Gaza? Settlements?

Meredith 2 years ago

I read every single comment, because I feel so passionate about this issue, and I am not even from the area.

While I greatly sympathize with every family going through this nightmare, I cannot ignore the huge elephant in the room.

While the author is presenting her own struggles, which are very real, and she should have the right to do that, it is insensitive to write about Israelis struggles with complete ignorance of the horror going on in Palestine, especially Gaza. Especially, since that horror is inflicted by Israel.

Now lets move on to Hamas, the favorite topic of Israel supporters.

This article is claimed to not be political, but in the first few paragraphs the author points to Hamas and calls them terrorists. I am not pro Hamas, but lets be realistic here. What is Israel?

Lets look at the history on how Israel was created. Somebody on here said that calling Hamas a terrorist is like calling a woman out for punching her rapist. That somebody was onto something…
And Israelis struggle really is like a punch compared to what the Palestinians have been, and are going through, and that is not the fault of Hamas, regardless of what is convenient to be believed.

For God’s sake, if somebody came to the US and occupied our land and pushed us out, oppressed us and treated and killed us like cattle, what would we do? Thank them?

It’s been long since people believed those lies we have been fed to. If nothing else, now there is the Internet and social media. The truth is coming out and more people are being aware of it; as seen through the comments to this article. Awareness is the first step to everything…and awareness is spreading like a disease now.

But lets be realistic, again.
It would be difficult to expect the author to think differently because she is in Israel and thinking independently and critically is reserved only for few. She is a mother, and as a parent, when your babies are in danger, when you are in the middle of the mess, it’s hard to be critical and objective, especially if you are surrounded by people who are like minded, and are being fed careful propaganda. I understand that.

There is however a growing number of people of the Jewish faith who are critical and objective, just look at the Jewish voice for peace organization. And they are not the only ones…

“It as been proven time and again that even when Hamas has not fired a single rocket, that Israel continues to fire on Gaza… And most recently when American were celebrating the election victory of Barack Obama, Israel has used that opportunity to go into the Gaza strip and kill civilians.”

Randi Thomas 2 years ago

I never knew we had so many perfect people in this world! Stop judging, it’s not your place! This is a story about children living in fear. It doesn’t matter where. It shouldn’t matter where. Be thankful, America isn’t going through this. PRAY FOR EVERYONE, both sides.

Renee Crook 2 years ago

I pray for u all

Sarah Donza-Hughes 2 years ago

Emotional and very poignant post! Thank you for sharing

Lisa Dicarlo-Lawrence 2 years ago

I just finished reading a book about WW2 and its still fresh in my mind. This is so terrifying for this country. May they find peace soon!

Monika 2 years ago

Haven’t we all been in that position that we can’t believe our child is prepared to deal with something that we didn’t prepare them for? That our heart is broken when our three year old looks at us and says “Stranger danger.” This is what Scary Mommy is about. Some truths about mommy hood are universal. This could just of easily of been about children on the other side. My heart breaks for this family, just as my heart breaks for every family involved. I was taught to love my neighbor. And the people in this article are my neighbors…they may live around the world..but their children are my children. God Bless you all. So sorry for your pain.

Zlatina Zlateva 2 years ago

The mothers in Palestine who are mourning their children murdered don’t have their voice on this website. Do we have to hear from the Israeli mother without having the chance to hear from the Palestinian one?

Sarah Sousa Stevens 2 years ago

Really? All we hear about on the news ARE the Muslim children and how Israelis are killing them despite the fact that Palestinian terrorists are ALWAYS the ones starting this nonsense. Really, let’s just be disgusted that any children are dying regardless of their nationality and religious affiliation.

Lisa 2 years ago

“past the purple scarecrow my children built “to keep the rockets away, Mama, so they don’t hurt us when we sleep,” – I absolutely lost it and just cried.
I think about this all the time whenever I hear of horrible things going on in the world. What about the kids??? They are so sweet and innocent, they don’t know what’s happening, they don’t understand what’s happening and it’s not their burden to bear. How could you help them have a “normal” life as a mother (or father)? This just makes me so so so sad. My heart goes out to every mother who has to endure life like this and every child who has to live in fear.

Grace Gee 2 years ago

I appreciate Scary Mommy for broaching this current event. After reading the comments….it’s clear we (including myself) should all listen more & judge less. Maybe then we would understand each other a tiny bit better and enough to make a difference in the bigger picture of ALL things that spark debate.

Nara 2 years ago

Forget politics, or the whole “who is bombing who and why” stuff.

Watching the kids sing that song, and reading about your kids singing it made me cry. I am so sorry they have to go through that. No one should have to.

Lori Bond Atkins 2 years ago

Can’t we agree that it is horrifying for all right now, whichever side the explosions and maiming of children occur on? I don’t think incendiary devices have a political agenda. They just kill, whomever they land on. I am begging and praying parents stop teaching hatred and horror in the name of God. No god wants this……

Marla Aberbach Lewis 2 years ago

WOW! Puts it all in perspective!

Melissa Corbeil 2 years ago

If only mothers ran the world. Maybe such atrocities wouldn’t exist. I think we can all agree, no matter what culture or creed, that we are all rightfully scared of what kind of world our children are faced with. Once we realize that we are most powerful when we agree to disagree, when we learn to focus on the fact that we are all human beings, we will create a world worth living in.

Cierra Holt Daughtry 2 years ago

Some people are so petty and ridiculous. No one is winning that war! And for this to be ANYONE’S daily reality, is a sad look at the human condition. People are dying, CHILDREN are dying! And here we sit behind keyboards arguing semantics and body counts..grow up! Because the kids in this article and thousands like them in warzones all over the world are forced to do so.

Kate 2 years ago

I cannot BELIEVE scarymommy would decide to post such an inflammatory article- An article which treats the incredibly complicated issue of the invasion of Gaza with such mind-blowing insensitivity. The people dying in Gaza right now are overwhelmingly innocent victims who have already endured heartbreaking levels of suffering over the last few decades. Many of the dead and wounded are children. What a time to post a political, one sided account of such a tragedy! If scarymommy wanted to weigh in on the Israel-Palestine issue, SURELY there was a more balanced account available that could have addressed the horrifying conflict with the respect and sensitivity it deserves.

I’m a massive fan of scarymommy and I sincerely hope that whoever decided to let this article through issues a serious apology to readers, and soon. Scarymommy is meant to provide a supportive community where moms can relate to each other- This post is so not in the spirit of that goal. I am disgusted.

    Meredith 2 years ago

    I couldn’t agree more. Very surprised about this article!

Megan Marie 2 years ago

Who cares “which side is fairing better?!” This is not “hide and seek” this is war. People are dying and losing everything they have-the body counting is ridiculous.
And that’s the last comment I’ll say because this is just so ridiculous.

Kelly GW 2 years ago

Breaks my heart. Be safe, writer. I’m thankful we live in Canada.

Leila Boukarim Haig Ghokassian 2 years ago

I used to turn to Scary Mommy to take my mind off of the cruelties of the world for a while. All this has caused me heartburn and heartache. I’m getting enough of that watching and reading the news. There is so much to be said about all this, so much pain to be felt and so many tears to be shed. I just wish that this remained a place where moms could get together and laugh about snot and poop and cry over sleep deprivation and potty training, united by the love we have for our children. All that has changed today.

Fiza Naeem 2 years ago

Leaving aside the debate on who is right and who is wrong or whose fault it is, or who started what, the one undeniable fact is that israel is a mass murderer of innocent children

Alice 2 years ago

A beautiful and moving piece Sarah. I’m sorry that you’ve been attacked with some hardline and factually incorrect comments when your piece was really a call to see the human cost of what is going on, not to score political points or proclaim Israeli righteousness. We are thinking of you and your children – and all innocent people suffering because of Hamas’ horrific policies.

DavidandLaura Seger 2 years ago

So scary. God bless mothers on both sides

Nanci Elmasri 2 years ago

As mothers but most importantly as HUMANS please people stop believing the lies the media is throwing out there this is not Israel simply defending itself this is a flat out genocide happening in 2014. The Jewish people are good people, Muslims like myself we are good people,This is the Devil himself.. open your eyes people

Marrisa Hunton 2 years ago

Good on this Blogger. Realism. Stuff that you Don’t Hear on the News. Poor Lady :(

Ghinwa Hassoun 2 years ago

I wonder what it feels like to see your whole family massacred. You have to ask a Palestinian mom that question. It has to feel a million times better being an Israeli mom! Let’s see how many children have died in Israel vs how many have died in Palestine? Or is that Israeli blood is more valuable? People need to wake up! Animals have more rights than the Palestinians in the biggest open air prison in the world. They were occupied by the Israeli’s, they didn’t ask for any of this.

    izzy 2 years ago

    So true and so sad. My heart bleeds for Gaza and my husband’s family in the west bank. You’ve never seen people who have nothing no ground to stand on yet they stay strong and will not give up hope everyday. The experience I had with the IDF is enough to make me not want to go back but it will not stop me from leaving next week heading to west bank to support our family in friends and stand strong with them. From the river to the sea Palestine will be free

Louise Judd 2 years ago

I bet it sucks being a Palestinian mum too…. No Israeli child deaths yet but plenty of Palestinians :-( It is a human tragedy!


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