JI journalists reflect on Iran’s unprecedented attack on Israel

Iran’s attack on Sunday morning was worlds apart from the one staged by Iraq 33 ago

By Tamara Zieve

The unnerving countdown to an Iranian retaliation against Israel’s strike in Damascus reached its climax on Saturday night after the Islamic republic launched hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel. Security analysts swiftly explained that the drones would take around eight hours to reach their targets and gave Israelis a concrete ETA for the attack to begin (2:30-5 a.m.)

The sound of the heavy iron windows of the safe rooms being pulled closed by neighbors in our Tel Aviv apartment building followed the announcement as the country braced for the night ahead — the window in our safe room was already closed, as it has been every night since Oct. 7 to ensure that our two young children are sleeping in the safest possible conditions.

Earlier in the evening, IDF Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari addressed the country and announced changes to the Home Front Command’s defensive guidelines, starting from 11 p.m. on Saturday until 11 p.m. on Monday: All educational activities were canceled and gatherings were restricted by numbers that varied according to different color-coded areas of the country — drawing tongue-in-cheek comparisons to Israel’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Some of the restrictions were lifted at midnight on Sunday following a situational assessment).

Many Israelis, as they often do, turned to black humor in response to the unprecedented situation. WhatsApp groups sprang to life with memes galore and parents grumbling about the cancellation of educational activities (while work was not canceled.) 

Even with plenty of Israeli resilience, there was also panic and anxiety. Friends and family checked in with each other; questions flew regarding the safety guidelines and Home Front Command officials sat in news studios clarifying that the public should adhere to the same rules that had already been in place for rocket attacks; some stores extended their hours to allow last-minute shoppers to stock up on essentials to put in their safe rooms; and many Israelis stayed up for the better part of the night following the unfolding situation.

The attack began shortly before 2 a.m., with the first sirens blaring in Israel’s southern district, then in the West Bank, Jerusalem and northern Israel. Tel Aviv was quiet, other than the sound of Israeli fighter jets in the early morning hours. I watched on my TV screen as the IDF and allies intercepted hundreds of drones and cruise missiles — what looked like blazing shooting stars — until it became apparent that the attack was over, at least for the night.


By Ruth Marks Eglash

When U.S. officials issued warnings on Friday that far-away Iran was gearing up to strike Israel, I felt like I was going back in time to 33 years ago and the tense months leading up to the first Gulf War. I thought about the build-up and the threats and, ultimately, an underwhelming war that was absent of forewarned chemical weapons.

I was in Israel that year as a participant of Young Judea’s Year Course program, and we initially took seriously the U.S. warnings that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was going to attack us with Scud missiles.

Many of my peers were ordered home by their parents and after tearful goodbyes, those of us who remained set about sealing up rooms with plastic and cellophane and decorating the boxes with our gas masks, which we were told to take with us everywhere – just in case.

On Saturday night, when the reports began that Iran had fired a barrage of missiles in our direction, I thought more deeply about that experience and wondered why I didn’t have the same dreaded fear as back then.

Was it because I am more mature now? Or because I’ve been through countless wars since making aliyah a few years later, including the horrific Oct. 7 attacks?

Or was it because I now have a better understanding of Israel’s defense capabilities, some grasp of Iran’s offensive capacity and thought the threat back then to us as civilians was exaggerated?

In 1991, Israel had a few Patriot missile batteries, which were used to shoot down Saddam’s crudely made scud rockets. We realized quickly that they were not exactly accurate – in the end, only 42 missiles actually hit Israel and just two people were killed directly by the projectiles (others died from panic attacks and accidents) during the month-long conflict.

Back then, there was also no precision warning system or red alert app for civilians. We had no idea where a rocket would land – if it was heading for Tel Aviv, we were still required to dash into sealed rooms in Jerusalem. There was also no internet or even 24-hour news shows for us to monitor the event and their fallout.

Iran’s attack on Sunday morning was worlds apart from the one staged by Iraq all those decades ago. This time, more than 300 projectiles, drones, missiles were fired towards Israel and by all accounts it should have been far scarier.

But it wasn’t.

While the Ayatollah’s military power is far superior to Saddam Hussein’s, Israel’s strength – and that of its allies – is even higher. I realized quickly that Iran’s missiles had to pass over the military of Israel’s allies, both the U.S. and some Arab states that since 1991 have warmed ties with the Jewish state, and I believed that all of them would do what they could to block the attack. I also knew that Israel’s impressive aerial defense array – a combination of the Iron Dome, Arrow 3 and David’s Sling – would be on full display.

So, 30 years since my first war experience, I definitely did not feel the dreaded threat of my first war.  


By Lahav Harkov

This Saturday felt a little like Oct. 7, 2023, for me. My family and I spent both days somewhat in the dark as to what was going on, because we observe Shabbat. 

When I woke up on Oct. 7, of course, I had no idea that something terrible was already happening. Shortly before I was to leave for synagogue with my husband and children aged 6, 4 and 9 months at the time, my aunt knocked on the door and informed me that there were rockets in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and that terrorists had gotten into some kibbutzim near the Gaza border. But we didn’t quite understand how bad it was. Only when we got to synagogue and saw that the Simchat Torah festivities were significantly toned down, and then interrupted by a rocket siren, did my husband run back home to turn on his phone, despite it being Shabbat. He found that he had been called up for combat. He ate lunch with us, put on his fatigues, and was on his way – ultimately for over four months, but I didn’t know that at the time. I spent the rest of the day with a sense of dread that only got worse once the kids were asleep and I checked the news and, even worse, saw the videos on social media.

This Shabbat, I was prepared. As recommended by the IDF Home Front Command, I had already ensured that our safe room, which also serves as my two sons’ bedroom, had all the supplies we needed: Water bottles, canned goods, a battery-powered radio, medicine, phone chargers. We lit 24-hour yahrzeit candles, so we would have light even if the power went out in some kind of attack on infrastructure. When I lit the Shabbat candles, my prayers were a little longer than usual.

The next day, no one unexpectedly knocked on the door, there were no sirens, no Iron Dome booms overhead. We weren’t sure what was going on, but it didn’t seem like it could have been bad if we were having a normal Shabbat.

I was driving on Saturday night when the IDF spokesman announced that all schools would be closed. I saw the headline pop up while I was looking at Waze, and narrowly avoided becoming a cautionary tale about looking at the phone while driving. I admit, I was more distressed than I had been going into Shabbat. No school the week before Passover?! Are they nuts? How is anyone going to be able to clean the house with little kids underfoot? (If you know the answer, please tell me – I am still trying to figure it out.) I could tell from all the memes I was being sent on WhatsApp, about how Iran had identified the real threat to Israel by forcing our kids to stay home the week before Passover, that this was a common sentiment among the moms of Israel. And I had the bonus of my husband’s scheduled return to IDF duty this week, which meant the childcare was almost all on me. I was still frantically texting the grandmothers, cousins, friends to see who could help, when I saw the news that Iran had already launched missiles and drones towards Israel, but they were hours away. I was in suspense, and as a journalist, I wanted to see what was happening live. But I also knew I would be woken up by a hungry one-year-old early in the morning. The baby won; I went to sleep at midnight and missed the fireworks, which passed over my sleepy central Israel city anyway. 

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