Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Rocket rain

There have been air raid sirens in towns and villages across Israel tonight with Hamas firing huge volleys at populated areas from Gaza border areas in the south all the way up to the northern port city of Haifa.

Hour after hour my friends and family check in over social media, by phone and with texts letting us know they're OK. First from around Beer Sheva and Ashkelon, then Rehovot, Gedara and surrounding villages, moving north to the big city of Tel Aviv.

My e-mail and Facebook feeds have been full of questions from worried mothers wondering whether they should keep their kids home from camp and summer school tomorrow, how to calm their children, what to tell little ones and wondering what to do if they are caught by a siren while driving with kids strapped in car seats, making it hard to get everyone out of the car in the painfully short time between the first siren warning and an incoming rocket.

In another online forum a local birth educator was agonising over whether she could teach a class tonight to a group of heavily pregnant women in surrounding villages. There had been no sirens in her town, but the next villages and towns over had several. While there was a chance she could teach the class in a shelter she was terrified that she or one of the women might get caught out in the open during a rocket alert. In the end she cancelled with a heavy heart.

Even in towns where there were no sirens the ferocity of the multiple volleys led many municipalities to cancel big outdoor events, in one case nervous crowds were escorted by police away from a scheduled outdoor film screening in a park in a town that has been quiet. No one wanted to take any chances as the pace and scope of alerts rapidly spread to encompass ever more Israeli population centres throughout the south, central and Haifa regions.

As the night wore on we got messages from more and more people spending the night in shelters, stairwells or even internal windowless bathrooms, anywhere deemed somewhat protected in the event of rocket attack, as not every building has its own shelter. Jerusalem, Bet Shemesh, Ramat Gan, Kfar Saba, Ra'anana, Pardes Hanna, Binyamina, Zikhron Ya'akov and on and on, hundreds and thousands more people spending their night in terror of rockets heading their way.

Thank God for the Iron Dome anti-rocket system that has managed to intercept so many missiles before they were able to strike these densely populated areas.

People tried to find the humour in the situation too. Some enterprising folks have started a "shelter selfie" page inviting people to snap pictures of their families in their secure rooms. Some people are hamming it up for the camera with goofy smiles and thumbs up, other photos show entire families crammed into cramped shelters or peacefully slipping children cuddled up on makeshift canp beds, matresses or sleeping bags, camping out for the night in a family or public shelter.

No sirens here thank God, we can just hear booms from other regions, sound carries far at night. The noise kept the kids awake long after their bedtimes, distant dull thuds breaking the stillness of a balmy summer night. My oldest finally dozed off towards the end of a hilariously madcap Danny Kaye musical film.

It's after eleven now and my husband is still sitting with our kindergartner trying for the millionth time to sing or read him to sleep, anything to help him settle. Been quiet for a while now, and we pray this means an end to the rain of rockets but experience has taught us not to get our hopes up.

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