In the current round (lately we don’t have wars, “just” rounds like in boxing matches), the central area of Israel where I live was targeted several times by Hamas missiles. So why do I feel lucky? Because areas closer to the border with Gaza are pummeled by Hamas rockets for years, whereas the central area is targeted much less. Also, Southern residents have only 15 seconds to run to a shelter after the air raid alarm goes off, whereas we have 45, which makes a big difference. Literally, life and death. Our apartment has a safe room made of concrete, with an iron window and steel door to protect us, but older buildings have either a common underground shelter (which you need to reach in seconds!) or just a staircase or inner room that can be used as a shelter. Plus, Israel’s miraculous Iron Dome system intercepts rockets and destroys them in mid-air with a 90% accuracy. But all these facts are pretty much known by now by my family and friends abroad.
I will now try to describe how it feels to live through these rounds from my own perspective. First of all, work goes on as usual. Through all the recent wars and rounds, Israel has continued to supply products to customers abroad. Production must go on and deadlines must be met. Employees of essential facilities go to work, or work from home (thanks to Covid, this is now much easier than before). Most facilities have shelters. When the air raid alarm goes off, employees take shelter, wait 10 minutes for the last piece of shrapnel and debris to fall and then continue working, if not directly hit. Kind of reminds you of the London Blitz, right?
The sound of the air raid alarm is a weeping-blood rushing-frightening one. During a round, my ears are constantly and actively listening to background noises. Sounds such as an accelerating car or motorcycle are always suspicious, not to mention police, ambulance or fire truck sirens, which can be confusing for the first second until my mind categorizes them as unharmful. In the background, we hear distant missiles as far as Ashdod, which is about half an hour drive to the South. In the secure room, we clearly hear the falling missiles, as well as the screeching sound of the anti-missiles being launched. Lately, I also observed my body language in the secure room: I sit hunched up with my head down, as if waiting for a missile to fall on my head.
If you are in the car during the alarm, you should stop the car, get out and run to a nearby shelter. If there is no shelter nearby, lay on the ground with your hands protecting your head. Same goes for buses. It happened to most of us, myself included, when I walked in a park. Not fun, but at least I could watch the missiles “kissing”.
Since the alarm can go off at any time of day or night, I take short showers, don’t take unnecessary trips, and I’m always mindful of essential items (like my mobile phone) to take with me to the safe room. Last time, I was in the middle of lunch, so I took a bowl of cabbage salad with me, although I’m pretty sure it wasn’t essential J. In the safe room, we check our phones to find out where the rockets hit and make sure all family members are safe. After waking up, we also check the news apps to keep up to date with developments we might have missed while sleeping.
I have a recurring video looping in my head about opening the safe room door and not being able to step out, because there is nothing to step on, the entire apartment being blown up by a missile. Could you imagine losing your home? Hard, isn’t it? Yet it did happen to some Israelis and I could be next. Even though I insisted on adding an anti-missile coverage to our home insurance (yes, there is such a thing) years ago, and the authorities are quite efficient with assessing the damage and providing you a place to sleep, it could take months till your home is repaired or rebuilt and you have no belongings. Again, not fun.
On top of the above “not fun”, this round brought us a new development, potentially even more worrisome than the round itself. In mixed cities (where Arabs and Jews live together), you can be attacked or your business or home or car set on fire or vandalized by a mob (usually young, unemployed or low social-economic situation extremists) just because you are a Jew or an Arab. Or your car can be hit by a deadly rock while on the road. Police claim they help only in life-threatening situations, not vandalism (which makes me and everybody else very angry). As none of the parties is going anywhere and we will have to live together after the round is over, I am not sure how this will work out.
Some people claim we should destroy Gaza completely, revoke the citizenship of the rioters and exile them. Well, about the destruction, you need to know that Israel has the military power to complete this in about 12 hours, but we act as a civilized country (as opposed to a terrorist organization), with all the ramifications, so I wouldn’t hold my breath. Same goes for revoking citizenship (ramifications, remember?). Rioters will probably be prosecuted and jailed.
And there are also the normal, compassionate human beings (whatever their religion) who help and comfort the other side no matter what and now more than ever, but of course they don’t always make it to the headlines, unless they march together and give out flowers to passersby (this happened a couple of days ago). So there is hope. Maybe.
Friends invited us to stay over at their place in the North, but for the time being the situation is bearable. Not even the southerners left their homes, so we really cannot complain. Not like in the old communist joke, at least.
So when is this round going to end, I was asked. Although our prime minister announced right at the beginning that this round will take a long time, Israelis are a pretty impatient bunch. Wars longer than 6 days J morph into a boring routine and we are already anxious to move on the next news item. By now, I think both parties are ready to stop, but being in the Middle East, they are waiting for the other party to blink first and then announce their own victory.