I’ve been home in Chicago now for a while but I kept a journal of daily life in Tel Aviv once the air raids started, and I want to share that here, mainly for myself so that I don’t forget. The main after-effect for me of that experience is that each time an ambulance siren wails here in Chicago, I jump. See my last entry for July 16.
Monday, July 7, 2014
the event of a siren, please follow these instructions:
threat is a CONVENTIONAL threat, not biological or chemical.
building, like most in downtown Tel Aviv, is an older one without a bomb
is a bomb shelter across the street at the school.
stairwell, away from the windows, on the 1st floor (2 flights down from the penthouse,
one flight up from street level) is also secure.
Aviv residents have 90 seconds in the event of a siren to react.
is time enough to find shelter and to avoid windows etc.”
I think to myself: Good thing it’s only “conventional” and we don’t have to find a sealed room and don gas masks.
Wow, this is actually happening! As the sirens wail, I grab key and
phone, and text my husband in Chicago, “Sirens over Tel Aviv.” My
daughter yanks the stubborn apartment door and we run down the stairs. Neighbors are gathering on the 2nd floor landing, our building’s official secure spot. Some speak English and we
chat. Everybody is tapping a phone. Boom! People look up. Does this mean the
Iron Dome held? Eventually everybody disperses. As we climb up, my daughter says,
“Well, at least we met the neighbors.”
At 11 p.m. we watch the World Cup semi-final game between Germany and Brazil and what a distraction that proves to be! 7:1 for Germany. Phew, how much extra-ordinariness can you pack into one day, one evening?
When the sirens howl again at 8:30 in the morning, I’m in my
bra, my mouth full of toothpaste, rushing to make another 9:00 a.m. appointment
with the Israeli bureaucracy. I struggle into a t-shirt, and we gather on the
landing with our neighbors. Everybody is in PJs, lounge wear, or bath robes.
One guy brings his coffee; another is wrapped in a bed sheet.
8:04 a.m. The Iron Dome anti-rocket battery intercepted four missiles over Tel Aviv, Channel 2 is reporting. Residents of the city rushed into shelters as warning sirens wailed. The sirens were immediately followed by explosions, most likely the sound of the rockets being intercepted. (Jerusalem Post Live Blog)
While I review the draft for my Tablet article on this situation, sirens interrupt. The irony! This morning the booms sound closer than before. One neighbor
jokes, “This is to make sure we get up in the morning.” As my daughter leaves for the visa office, I ask, “Do
you know what to do when sirens sound again?” She nods and is off.
11:31 a.m. A Code red rocket alert siren sounds in the Greater Tel Aviv area. At least two audible explosions were heard following the alarm. (Jerusalem Post Live Blog)
I’m home alone as the sirens go off, but at least I know from texting with my daughter just a few minutes earlier that she is in a government building.
intercepted over Tel Aviv (Jerusalem Post Live Blog)
I have just toweled off after taking
a shower. I struggle into a big t-shirt; my hair is still in a turban. Off we go
down the stairs. One neighbor is in a bathrobe and her hair is wet; she says that she’d been thinking, “Please, just let me finish this shower.” She invites us
to come by tomorrow because our A/C is acting up and they keep Shabbat and are
intercepted over Tel Aviv area (Jerusalem Post Live Blog)
It’s been quiet all day, oddly quiet
actually, but then as we are chatting on the rooftop terrace after dinner,
the sirens go off. I grab my phone and quickly make video of the dark
night over Tel Aviv to capture the howling, then stumble down the staircase. Some of the stairwell lights aren’t working (mental note: dig flashlight out of my purse). This is the first time we are doing this after it’s really dark outside. The landing is empty! Apparently all
neighbors have gone out, which makes sense as it’s after Shabbat, the main time to go
out in Tel Aviv. We were supposed to go out, too, but our friend got sick and so we stayed home and had a lazy dinner on the deck.
We’re just about settled back into apartment life when the sirens wail again, two alarms on top of each other, which is a first. I still haven’t taken out the flashlight, so we tumble down the dark
stairs without it.
One thing about living with air
raids: you live in the moment, in the here and now!
Sunday, July 13, 2014
In the afternoon I take a cab to one of the eastern suburbs to meet a friend and worry the entire ride that I might have to scramble
for cover with the cab driver (what an odd bonding experience that would be!), but sirens actually go off for the first time
today as I am paying at the café. So my friend and I get the extra
bonding experience of filing into an underground parking garage with a bunch of
other mall goers. One elderly lady is having a hard time making it down the steps and I wonder how many old people struggle with this.
Monday, July 14, 2014
4:59 p.m. Several blasts were heard as air raid sirens were sounded in the greater Tel Aviv area, warning of a rocket attack. (Jerusalem Post Live Blog)
Sirens blare as my daughter and I are both home but about to go out on an errand. On the landing we meet our American neighbor and her three kids, who all stand about smiling and in good spirits. The mother looks sleepy; the sirens woke her up from a nap. She jokes that clearly Hamas does not want her to nap because yesterday the sirens also went off when she was trying to nap. We stand about for a few minutes after the boom because now we’ve learned that you’re supposed to wait a few minutes as shrapnel can fall from the explosion.
PS: This entire week in Tel Aviv, I was worried that the sirens would go off while I was in the shower. Turns out the attack on my shower was closer to home: This evening a giant cockroach was twirling its antennas on my shampoo bottle, which of course I didn’t see until I was all wet and soapy and about to wash my hair. The ensuing battle had my eyes stinging with soap, the shower flooding the bathroom and me groping about to find my slipper to clobber the thing. I did, and what a satisfying whack it was!
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
I’m scheduled to fly back to Chicago today. At the airport I notice “Shelter” signs close to all emergency exits. The entire time at the airport I wonder what would happen if the sirens went off while checking in (we just leave the luggage, right?), or worse, while already on the plane, waiting to taxi? Thankfully, it remains quiet and my flight takes off without interruption.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
I’m in my kitchen at home, the porch door is open. A siren wails and I jump up, groping for my phone, ready to make for the stairwell. But then I realize it’s just a Chicago ambulance whose wail sounds remarkably like an Israeli air raid siren, except its pitch is a little higher. I exhale, sit down and text my daughter back in Tel Aviv that now Chicago ambulance sirens send me into a tizzy, and she texts back, “You’ve been retrained.”