Today was one of those days where I hit the snooze button on my alarm more than once, or twice… I often find myself with a case of the Mondays, which here in Israel is actually a case of the Sundays.
As I reached over to hit snooze on my alarm clock for the third time this morning, the air raid siren began to sound. It’s blaring tone promptly drowned out my alarm. I grabbed my phone, still chiming away with it’s little wake up tune, my bird’s cage, and my laptop, and headed for the safe room. After my roommates and I sat there while the customary 90 seconds ran out, we heard the faint “boom” as the Iron Dome shot down another rocket–one of two fired out of Gaza this morning that had been headed for Tel Aviv.
Today’s faint “boom” was far more pleasant than feeling the reverberations in Tel Aviv on Thursday when the first (and unexpected) rocket was launched from Gaza. It was the first time that there had been a targeted attack on Tel Aviv since 1991. My friends and I were walking around Ha’Tachana—the old train station in Tel Aviv-Jaffa—wandering in and out of the shops and galleries, when the faint sound of the air raid siren began. It became louder and louder, and that’s when I realized what it actually was—I saw people scattering about running into shops and trying to find one another. After spotting a couple of people I knew, I ducked into the closest non-glass front shop I came upon… which was ironically a toy store.
The shop was no more than 10’ X 10’ square, and there were about 15 of us crammed inside. A couple of Israelis argued whether or not to close the door, and eventually decided that if the roof collapsed it would be better to have it open… so there we stood, listening to the siren with the door open, just waiting. The first 30 seconds had passed before I was inside, and the remaining 90 seconds that followed seemed like forever. I glanced around the shop, with its board games and colorful wooden toys displayed, the wood floors painted a sea foam green… the siren finally stopped and then there was a loud “boom.” I could feel it, which made me slightly uncomfortable for the first time since the ordeal had began. After that we all stood there for a moment—no one moved. Once we were sure that it was over, people began taking out their phones and frantically texting, emailing, and calling family. A man standing behind me shouted for the shopkeeper to turn on the radio. As she turned the nob and the volume increased, all that was heard was the sound of calm music as it trickled across the room.
A couple of days later a friend of mine returned from a Shabbaton…. He told me that he had been on a bus when the first rocket hit Tel Aviv, and the only way people knew was because one by one everyone began to receive text messages from relatives and friends. A young Israeli man spoke about how difficult it was to explain to his younger brother, who was only 7, what was going on. “I began to explain to him,” the young man described, “There are some people who don’t like us and are trying to hurt us, but its okay because we won’t let them…”
This afternoon I will go to my volunteer site, as usual, and lead an art class… as if it were any other Sunday. However, when I arrive I will be with 20+ children who, like me, have experienced this only for the first time in their lives.