Friday, July 11, 2014


People overseas have been asking what this war situation means for us. It's complicated, fluid and varies from region to region and from hour to hour. Looking at the heavy barrages people are enduring in the south it seems almost trivial to mention the occasional sporadic rockets on other cities, but that is to belittle the terror of even "only" one or two sirens. From where we are, thank God, still in the periphery of the rocket zones, it feels almost petty to note how this war has changed our lives at all, listening to rockets in targeted areas while on the face of things it almost seems like business as usual.

For the last couple of days my DH and many of our friends and neighbours have been trying to figure out whether they are overreacting if they decide to work from home "just" because there have been a few air raids in and around the greater Tel Aviv area where many of them work. 

If the people in the south who are under far heavier bombardment are still going in to work, how can the people of central Israel allow themselves to be scared away from their offices? It's an insane dilemma. So the people of the centre have decided that they should also behave like seasoned rocket strike veterans and go in to work each day knowing that they will likely spend some of that time in shelters and secure areas while rockets are launched their way.

With most of the Tel Aviv suburban area as much at risk of rockets as the city itself it starts feeling a little ridiculous making a distinction, although somehow the idea of being caught out in a crowded office skyscraper is far more disconcerting than having the family together in a home shelter. 

So it was this morning I called my husband at work to ask about some mundane errand and his voice came back oddly muffled, many voices clearly audible in the background. My call found him taking cover in the stairwell of his building during one of today's rocket attacks on the city. 

On the other hand at least he is still pretty much going about his regular routine. Many of my friends husbands have received emergency call-up papers from the army, leaving their wives, children and civilian lives behind at all hours of the day and night and heading off for the unknown, possibly in preparation for a ground offensive in Gaza, though nobody knows for sure if that is even on the cards.

The second time I called him today I could clearly hear the crumps of rockets and Iron Dome interceptions from my living room from which I was worriedly trying to figure out why my oldest child hadn't come home from day camp yet. Our town itself has so far stayed in the clear, but the noise carries and we seem to hear much of what's going many kilometres away, even sometimes catching the sound of muted sirens from other towns.

In between my concerned phone calls my middle child arrived home from his summer programme. As I walked to the front door to greet him we could hear more muffled booms. He gave me a hug, and as he bent down to take off his shoes excitedly told me "Ima, you know what we heard today in the car on the way to our house? Big bangs in the sky!" And he slammed his hands together to emphasise the point. Just what every mother wants to hear her kindergartner talking about when he gets home from kaytana.

The radio announced alerts in the region of my oldest's summer camp starting around home time. I was waiting for the usual call letting me know that the kids were on the bus back to town so I'd know when to go down to the stop to wait. Nothing. No answer on the phone.  I headed out to the street to check, maybe another parent had helped with crossing the road, nothing

Rationally I know the odds of a connection between the news on the radio and my kid's bus being late are low, but with all the insanity this week yes, there was a moment of wondering through the what ifs. I know that the camp is in a building with a shelter, I know the people running the camp are responsible and taking every alert very seriously, so maybe they decided to delay the school buses just in case.

In the end the two events weren't connected, turned out a phone battery was loose, the bus was a little late, trivialities,  but it certainly gives a poignant insight into life in the south for years now, children growing up in the shadow of rockets, parents learning to somehow factor it into the normal routine of life. It's new to us in the centre, certainly to this extent. The mind boggles at how our friends and family in Beer Sheva and Ashkelon and even closer to Gaza have put up with this kind of terror for years on end. 

With all the kids finally home we sat down to our usual family lunch, the older children excitedly talking about their mornings. J, my oldest, told us that they'd compensated for having to stay close the main building and the shelter by having a special dance morning in which they learnt about dance styles around the world. Then they had a session about medical clowns (a clever move by the camp organisers to help the kids through any possible stress caused by "the situation") in which they not only learnt about what these clowns do, but had some basic introductory training in how to be medical clowns themselves.

I asked her whether she had any questions about what was going on, anything she wanted explained. Despite being our avid reader she seemed pretty unphased by current events. "Ima, you're not nervous or scared, so I'm not, right? You tell me what you think I need to know. I know what to do and I know about Iron Dome".

My kindergartner was a little less sanguine.  "Ima were they good guy big bangs or bad guys big bangs I heard?" I said probably good guy. "Ima, tell me again how the good guy rockets get the bad guy rockets?" I raised one hand in the air like an arrow, explaining how the bad guys shoot a rocket into the air ("with fire Ima, it has to have fire in the tail to make it fly"), and then made my other hand into another rocket, explaining how something called radar tells the good guy rockets to go get the bad guys, and they shoot up in the air and smash them, slamming my second hand dramatically into the first hand while making a boom noise to illustrate my point. 

My kindergartner smiled, reassured, his question answered. The toddler who all this time had been studying us with a serious expression burst into uprorious laughter. "Ima, od pa'am!" (Again Mum!) he crowed. I went through the hand motion explanation of Iron Dome again. Both boys laughed at the boom this time. Then my middle child turned pensive, "Ima, what happens to the rockets when they crash into each other? What if there are pieces left and they fall down into the road, or the balcony or in our house?" 

We spent quite some time talking about it all, him with all his questions, me trying to think how to explain this all simply but honestly, to reassure, but not to give blind promises of safety that I could not guarantee. In the end I seemed to hit the right balance though, he seemed satisfied that he was in good hands, that between his parents and our soldiers there were lots of people working hard to keep him safe, and he went off to draw a picture of an Iron Dome battery, trying to copy it from a photo in today's newspaper. He then proceeded to liberally decorate it with pink and gold glitter and a yellow feather, think Iron Dome as a float during Tel Aviv's Pride Week parade.

My oldest got inspired too and decided to draw a picture of a man with an iron skullcap on his head (in Hebrew the name is "Kipat Barzel", which can mean either an iron kippah or an iron dome). On top of his kippah there is a miniature Iron Dome battery. The caption reads "I'm not scared because I have Iron Dome looking after us", with an arrow pointing from the speech bubble to the miniature Iron Dome on top of the kippah.

So that was today's weirdness. Weirdness because we are a house where the kids don't have toy guns or tanks, and yet they spent the afternoon drawing rocket launchers and soldiers. Weird because in our region it feels trivial even to register all these minor inconveniences caused by a war that is wreaking real terror on so many other Israeli towns. Weird because the way the situation is in other parts of the country it seems petty to note "just" a few rockets on Tel Aviv when our friends in the south are getting pounded by monster barrages from Gaza. Weird in the way that this war situation mixes with the mundane routine to become a mundane routine of its own while we're left wondering if this is temporary or whether the centre is the new south.

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