It’s been a quiet day in Tel Aviv. I’m hoping this will continue and I can get a goodnight sleep. There is so much I want to write while it’s still fresh in my mind, but I’m too tired and tomorrow will be a long day. A few words:
I’m not as angry as I was a few days ago, but every time I hear that siren it really instills fear and panic in me and I react in ways I never thought I would, which ultimately leads me to get angry. Thank all ethnic, religious deities out there for the Iron Dome Missile Defense System, thank you Israel for making this revolutionary life saving technology, and thank you America for funding the project. With that said, I don’t mean to sound unappreciative and I know there is no alternative and I’m very grateful for the warning, but that siren is the most wretched sound I have ever heard and my gut reaction is automatic-impending-doom-panic. It’s getting easier, I’m getting more use to it, but the anticipation of it is causing uneasiness. I’m noticing every little sound a lot more these days, that damn hum from the mini-fridge in my parents hotel room gets me every time it clicks on. There are definitely more helicopters flying around, I find myself always looking up at the sky, stars look like twinkling rockets, but it’s just another clear night. Jaffa was a ghost town last night, most restaurants were closed and not many people were out. It’s strange to see Tel Aviv on edge, this place is so full of life and laughter, but there is a thick fog in the air and it’s not the usual Mediterranean humidity.
The loneliness of my apartment is palpable, but it’s not that I’m scared for a rocket to hit me, it’s more about the anticipation of that sound, and horrendous feeling in the pit of my stomach, the knee-jerk reaction to run to the stairwell since my building does not seem to have a bomb shelter.
I’m so proud of my parents, and I’m so grateful that they were here close by me this weekend. I think that if they were in Michigan and saw what was going on in the news, they would have flipped out and been more worried. But they were here with me – in a car on the way to Be’er Sheva on Thursday for a distant family’s wedding (they refused to cancel it despite the bombardment of rockets, because they’re Israeli and they celebrate life whenever they can. Also I just learned that in the Torah it’s actually forbidden to cancel a wedding). Not many cars on the road but mammoth-zized war tanks trucking down on either side of our little taxi. We saw rockets twinkle and move through the atmosphere like shooting stars and then the crash of Iron Dome technology. We saw people running out of their cars – a bus full of Hasidim and a handful of secular cars – to take cover by lying on the ground and covering their heads. This was my first experience with Gaza, with Hamas, with their rockets, with Iron Dome.
We finally arrived at the wedding only to hear the siren about 4 or 5 times in the next hour, every time running into the kitchen for cover. But that last hour everyone danced and everyone ate and there were no more sirens. We drove back to Tel Aviv that night, I kept looking out my window at the sky… I didn’t feel good about coming back to Tel Aviv (the bubble), because the bubble had burst. We had just heard that a rocket was launched and intercepted near Holon (southern Tel Aviv) – for the first time in over 20 years (since the Gulf War in 1991) a red alert siren went off in the city. I kept checking my twitter feeds – IDF calling up reservists. Sure enough, 5AM the next morning the phone starts ringing and we’re off to the train station, where crowds of olive-green uniforms with backpacks are boarding trains to their respective army bases. It was strange, there’s no other way to put it, the attitude that soldiers have. They didn’t seem sad or scared just another day on the job, an annoyance. I come home to an empty apartment with the realization that this is war time, this is my first experience with war. I came to Israel and the Middle East to study conflict resolution, specifically this region because of it’s tumultuous nature. Instead of taking a field trip to learn about the concepts we discuss in class, they brought the field trip to us.
Friday night, Shabbat in Jerusalem – red alert siren goes off. First time since 1970 a rocket is fired at the holy city landing in an open area in Hush Etzion without causing causalities. We were having dinner with family friends, we watched a lot of news broadcasts that night. Another siren in Tel Aviv that I missed that day and Saturday too. Got my first Tel Aviv siren Sunday morning, I stayed the night in my parent’s hotel room. Another one later that same evening after we were coming back from Jaffa – the interception caused a louder boom this time, you could feel the world shake briefly and a huge sigh of relief exhausted from everyone in the city. Tel Avivi’s are not use to this, I am not use to this, but this is how people live in this region we call the Middle East. It’s worse in the south, Be’er Sheva, Ashkelon. It’s even worse in Gaza.
There’s so much debate about what to do with this issue, the whole world seems to have an opinion. Violence is never the answer, but what can you do in this situation? I am sitting this one out (this very personal ideological debate) for a little while longer because it’s still something I’m having a hard time comprehending and also I’m exhausted. Wartime means I get to take on extra shifts in the newsroom, my coffee intake has been increased to a maximum of 2 cups a day. I eat more sweets, more gluten. I walk around with a backpack with a change of clothes in case I decide to couch it a friend’s house – the load is heavier, but i’m extremely and pleasantly overwhelmed with the feeling that there are people here who care about me. My parents flew out back to the States yesterday morning, but I’m not alone. There is a sense of community in Israel, even before the IDF decided to assassinate Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari on Wednesday November 14th and Gaza kicked the hornet’s nest by pissing off Israel with it’s vintage 4 year collection of handmade rockets (parts courtesy of Egypt? Iran?), I always thought there was something here that I couldn’t pin-point. Something that made the Israeli society different than anything I knew, something that was both appealing to me and something that as an American made me a little uncomfortable – the country is built for this situation but it doesn’t want to be. It knows what it’s like to fight and run and attack and take shelter.
currently waiting on whether or not there will be a ceasefire in the coming hours. Hillary Clinton should be here soon.