The siren caught me in the shower. But I’ll get to that.
It was a typical Jerusalem Friday. There was one thing out of the ordinary: the radio was on, and every few minutes the announcer would interrupt whatever song was playing to announce a “color red” siren somewhere in the country.
In Israel, Friday is not a work day, and neither is Saturday. Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, and therefore in observant homes, Friday is a day dedicated to cooking and cleaning the house- preparing for “Shabbat” (the Hebrew word for Sabbath). Shabbat begins at sundown. As the day progresses, any orthodox person can tell you how the cooking and cleaning become more hurried and frantic, people rushing to finish all the preparations by sundown. In the winter, when sundown comes earlier, the pressure is even greater.
And then it’s over. Everyone goes to shower, the mother of the house lights Shabbat candles and the family goes to synagogue for the evening prayers, welcoming the Sabbath. At once, a feeling of peace and tranquility blankets Jerusalem. The streets empty of cars, people dressed in their best clothes walk leisurely to the synagogues, many of them carrying trays of food to take to the meal later. Shabbat is a time for rest, for family and friends.
My wife and I had a busy Friday. We had another young couple over for dinner as well as guests for lunch on Saturday and we spent the whole day cooking. We had only a few minutes left to straighten up the house before Shabbat. At the last minute I went in to shower and it was as I was finishing my shower that it happened.
Disbelief (“Seriously?!? A siren?!? Here in Jerusalem?!?”) quickly turned to panic (“Sh#t! There couldn’t be a worse time for the siren to go off”), which in turn quickly turned into cool action mode. I quickly turned off the water, grabbed my towel, spent about 5 seconds drying myself off, and still wet, threw a pair of underwear, undershirt and a pair of pants on. Apparently, you can get quite a lot done in 90 seconds, which is the time we have to get to shelter. In Sderot and the area they have 15 seconds. My wife tied up our dog and the three of us ran down the stairs to get acquainted with our bomb shelter. The siren was still wailing by the time we got down there. It was pitch black and all we could see was a pile of smelly mattresses blocking the way. Then we heard voices and realized that someone else was also down there. This is how we met our neighbors from the next entrance to our building for the first time. The Eliyahu’s are a young couple, they have a baby daughter and we have no idea what they look like, but they sound like nice people.
A few seconds later we heard two dull thuds from far away. We waited for a few more minutes and then went back up home, still shaking.
A few minutes later, we heard multiple ambulances in the streets.
Hamas planned the timing well. They calculated the timing so that the rockets would hit just as thousands of Israelis were in synagogues. They hoped to get lucky and hit one. Thank God they didn’t.
As orthodox Jews, we cannot turn on any electric appliances on Shabbat, such as a radio or the internet, so the only way to find out what was going on is to ask people on the street. Until Shabbat was out on Saturday evening, we had no reliable source of information to find out what had happened.
What I know now: one rocket landed south of Jerusalem near a Palestinian village. We also heard rumors of two rockets falling in Jerusalem, but these seem to have been just rumors. The ambulances we heard were most likely on route to take care of a number of traffic accidents which happened during the panic of the siren, as well as a large number of people who suffered heart-attacks.
After Shabbat, I went around to all our neighbors in order to find out if the junk in the bomb shelter belongs to anyone. Then, along with another neighbor, I threw out most of the junk and tried to make the shelter semi-acceptable. These are photos I took after the cleaning. It needs a lot more work.
And here are some other updates:
- The IDF bombed Hamas headquarters in Gaza today. The building was empty when it was bombed.
- “Iron Dome”, Israel’s newly developed missile defense system, succeeded in intercepting a missile aimed at Tel Aviv this evening.
- The cabinet authorized recruitment of up to 75,000 reserve soldiers.
- Hamas continues circulating lies. A photo of a man bringing an injured boy into a hospital has been revealed to have been taken in Syria three weeks ago. Another photo of a wounded baby, is actually a photo of an Israeli baby taken yesterday (Friday, November 16th). In a video showing a Palestinian man being carried away, supposedly injured, the same man is seen walking around perfectly healthy later on (look for the man in the brown jacket at 02:12 and then at 02:45). In the same clip, another man being carried walks away on his own feet as soon as he is put down (at ~2:30). Hamas has also been reporting numerous casualties in Tel Aviv. This is all false, of course.
I just showered after cleaning the bomb shelter. After my previous shower ended badly, I decided to try a new trick: Shampoo, rinse, soap half my body, rinse, soap the other half of my body, rinse. I wouldn’t want to have to go down to the bomb shelter still soapy. The neighbors might look at me funny. Israelis living in the south have probably figured this one out ages ago. They’ve been living like this for 12 years.
The last time I heard a real siren was 21 years ago, during the first Gulf War. Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and the US decided to intervene. In return, Hussein didn’t attack the US. He attacked Israel. He threatened to fire missiles with biological and chemical warheads. Every Israeli had to be outfitted with a gas mask. Infants got special incubator-like boxes.
Every night, the siren would sound and missiles would fall. We would get up, bleary eyed, and go into our pre-prepared sealed room (a sealed room means a room with a nylon sheet taped to the window, tape all over the glass to avoid shattering and a wet rag under the door). My parents helped me and my sister put our gas masks on (I was 7, she was 5) and then put their own masks on. Later on, we went to stay with my grandfather in Jerusalem, because most of the missiles were being aimed at the Tel-Aviv metropolis area. The four of us slept in his spare room which also served as the sealed room.
The siren yesterday rattled me. I never expected Hamas’s rockets to reach us here in Jerusalem. Imagine what it’s like having to go through all that every day for 12 years. Imagine what it’s like having to go through all that several times a day for 12 years. This is what Israel is dealing with.
I have seen a number of people claiming that we should negotiate with Hamas instead of adding more violence. This is ridiculous. Hamas’s sole purpose of existence is the destruction of Israel. They will not rest until they have achieved their goal. This is not Israeli propaganda. This is not Israeli paranoia. This is written black on white in Hamas’s charter. Go look it up.
Hamas views a cease fire as a temporary break in the fighting in order to regroup, gain more strength and attack again when they are stronger. This is based on the teachings of the Quran and the actions of Muhammad in his wars. The only way to end the violence is to cripple Hamas.
Through all of this, Israelis cope by using humor. Here’s one that gave me a laugh:
And if you’ve just joined us now and have no idea what this is all about- here is a link to my initial post, explaining “Operation Defensive Pillar” (also known as “Operation Cloud Pillar”).
Read all the updates on Operation Defensive Pillar:
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