It’s nine o’clock on Thursday night. Friday night in the Middle East. The weekend’s here and all are heading home or with their kids, or out and about at bars. I’m with my fellow students, walking on wet walkways of our University. The skies are almost clear, the moon is out. It’s fresh and quiet when the siren begins to make its whine. We freeze. We are between the buildings and three thoughts stream to our minds: is this a real siren, which building do we go to, are our loved ones safe?
We see a building ahead of us where I know to be a shelter, we walk towards it as we call our loved ones. “Go to a shelter,” I tell my wife. She runs down the stairs. The shelter is closed. “I don’t have a key. I don’t have a key.” The line goes dead. We are in front of the doors, the guard on the other side, won’t let us in. We stare at him as one of the girls, falls into a panic attack, flack back to a previous terror attack. Then we hear it. Explosive boom, not far, it shakes the ground. Then siren is quiet. I call and call and call. No answer. What have I done I think, bringing her here?
We make our way to parking structure under a Natural History Museum resembling a Noah’s Ark. We get in a car and I get a message, “go to the shelter”. We stop the car and check if this is true if another siren sounded while we were in the parking lot. “I’m at a neighbor, in the basement.” I am relieved and want to get home fast.
We drive through the city, half silent because of rain, half out and drinking because it is a Thursday night. Out as if nothing happened. My fellow students, field calls from parents, spouses, kids. They do their best to calm them. We get messages from Arab friends, emails from bosses, from the school. “Elections are near, some people are interested in making an issue,” one email says.
We drive through the quiet night and frantically search for news on Twitter, Facebook, Google. Two rockets passed through the night sky, Islamic Jihad is blamed, they deny it. Some Israelis began with humor at the situation, a kid fell off his electric scooter in front of Dizengoff fountain because of a siren, people laugh on twitter at the video. Other jokes abound: “One rocket intercepted, the other one is still looking for parking.”
But thoughts creep in as I arrive at home. How do we sleep? I’m wearing a shirt, my shorts are at the ready. How do I shower? Do I make it quick? What if another alarm goes off? We now discuss where to hide, which way our windows face. These questions grip the city, every family and home. The shelter rooms are opened and cleaned out in the new homes. Old homes review their procedures and shelters in their basements are opened up again. Parents of kids who have been through this before, calm their children who are at shock’s door. The ones for whom this is a first, are shocked and are on edge. New parents are faced with a brand new fear they never had. Parents with older kids face a fear that lay dormant for two years. Parents of kids in the Army, await the morning and commanders orders.
Meanwhile, the families on the other side of the fence, wonder, what hell hath fury brought. What will be a response from a mighty military that a nation will expect to have a swift response? We are all hostages, we are all in terror, brought out of the comfortable life, oblivious to how one bleary oscillating sound and one big boom can snap you into action, terror, flight.
A boy of ten years old, ran for shelter, was hit by a car driven by a parent on their way home. We cannot be afraid, but we cannot stop it either. We are the Russian kids of 1942 Leningrad, of 1941 Pearl Harbor, of 1939 Warsaw and London. We hear the sirens that they heard, we hear the explosions that promise death. We wonder if this will be a one-off thing or something that’s much longer, deadlier and sinister. We go to bed, clinging to each other, not really sleeping, not resting.. waiting, for tomorrow. And yet, in the New York Times, in Boston Herald, on NPR and Guardian, there’s no mention of the rockets, of fears, our terror. All is quiet in the west, we are alone, we wait alone, together.
Update: it was an accidental firing in North Gaza. Bibi knew this but bombed poor Gazans in the south all night to make himself look good for election. Gaza bombed poor people of Sderot in retaliation. All is quiet and we all feel as pawns in this silly game.