Living under fire: I’m in range!!

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.

The steps leading down to our bomb shelter. Until yesterday, this is all I had seen of it.

Our bomb shelter is basically an underground passageway connecting both sides of our building. It serves the six appartments on our side and the six appartments on the other side.

One of my neighbors, an old man who has been living in the building for over 50 years, told me that the last time he used the bomb shelter was in 1967 during the Six Day War, when the Jordanians, who controlled the eastern side of Jerusalem bombarded the west side. This drawing, along with a number of others was taped to the wall of the bomb shelter. It seems likely that it has been there since then.

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:

This is a (doctored, obviously) photo of an “Iron Dome” battery. “Iron Dome” is the newly developed anti-missile system, which has intercepted over 100 missiles in the past few days.

 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:

Israel and Gaza- Operation Pillar of Defense- What is it all about?

Update- November 15th

Operation Defensive Pillar- Update November 18th

Israel and Gaza, Day 6, November 19th

One game of scrabble, five rocket attacks (guest post)

Operation Defensive Pillar- Day 7- November 20th

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11 comments

  1. It must be terrible to have to go through this. My sympathy goes out to your guys. But I must also consider those who live in Palestine-Gaza Strip, who don’t really have American funded Iron Dome systems or sophisticated sirens which even detect a firework or stone been through at residence in the state of Israel, they don’t even have sirens and have spent pretty much every night in fear since 1948, where they are helpless against Israel and their mighty sophisticated military equipment.

    1. I have addressed this point. Israel is NOT targeting civilians, there is no need for sirens. Furthermore, the IDF actually warns civilians before most strikes.
      For Israel, a Palestinian civilian death is a failure. For the Palestinians, a civilian death is the height of success.

      1. NO, you have it wrong. In previous conflicts, as was witnessed by millions here in the UK, IDF used white phosphorus shells in densely populated areas in Palestine-Gaza. There were media reports where IDF warned all women and children to leave particular areas only then to shell them while they escaped, and also news in the UK reported that there was a total ban on media and red cross in getting to places where people were injured and required help – often for days on end. Don’t take my word for it, google it and find out for yourself.

        The more civilians deaths in Palestine-Gaza means more turn out in elections in the state of Israel.

      2. When you say it “was witnessed by millions here in the UK”, do you mean you were all sitting in Gaza and watching events unfold?
        A lie told over and over, even if it’s on the internet, does not make it true. Any Israeli who served in the IDF as I have, can tell you that one of the basic principles of the IDFs code of conduct is “purity of weapons”. The meaning is that unarmed civilians are not targets, and that even if an order is given to fire at innocent civilians, that order is an illegal order and it must not be obeyed.

        Israelis do not want civilian deaths in Gaza. Period. The IDF goes to great lengths to prevent civilian deaths, but mistakes are made, and these mistakes are helped along by Hamas deliberately firing from densely populated areas in order to draw IDF fire, so that they can later post photos of dead civilians. The fact that they have resorted to publishing photos of dead Syrians and dead Israelis is proof enough that civilian casualties are much lower than they claim.

      3. Here in the UK, we have various and different forms of News mediums and platforms. All of which report live (via Sky satellite) from around the world. Although, back then in the previous such conflict, when Israel was busy reducing the head count in Palestine-Gaza with the aid of white phosphorus shells, the news medium provided clear pictures, video footage of these incidents and they are on record. Let’s not forget, that at least here in the UK, where we as part of the British Empire helped you get where you are, we have the eye in distinguishing between war propaganda, dis-information and reality. And yes, ‘indirectly’ those people around the world and not just in UK who witnessed the video footage streaming in live – you could say they were there in Gaza at the time.

        If 99% of truth is told, but 1% of lie is added, it makes that 99% totally invalid. As is the case in this conflict that Israel, as part of the war strategy and dis-information, is continuously exporting multiple lies, where the world is busy trying to distinguish the truth from the lie. Let’s not forget, that Israel has the means, funds and capacity to project anything it wants – as part of the PR strategy.

        What’s worse than reporting on false images is the state of Israel attack on radio and international news stations, stationed in Palestine-Gaza. This includes Sky and BBC. As for the IDF wanting no civilian deaths – well that’s hard to stomach – after seeing recent BBC footage, and footage on other news platforms. It seems, with the aid of US tax payer money and miliary hardware – the IDF have no control over who is targeted, be it civilian or not – after all who cares (inside the state of Israel).

        I’m still waiting for a response on white phosphorus shells – and why they were used in the previous Palestine-gaza land incursion?

      4. During this current round of fighting, the BBC fell for Palestinian lies numerous times, such as showing an injured Israeli baby and claiming she had been injured by an Israeli attack on Gaza, so allow me to be sceptic of your so-called proof of Israeli use of phosphorous bombs. I might add, that Israel, as far as I know, is not a signatory of the convention which forbids them, not that that is any excuse for using them. To the best of my knowledge Israel does not use phosphorous bombs.
        The Palestinians are masters of manipulating western media. They produce “live footage” of Israeli atrocities as a way of life, and the west buys it, either because they are just too blind to see they are being sold lies, or because it is easy material to use and it sells newspapers.
        As for your high and mighty “We British got you where you are, and therefore we know how to tell truth from lies”- I find that condescending. The days of British treating the whole world as ‘natives’ are long gone. Have some modesty…

      5. You’re dodging the question again. The current conflict is not what I questioned and neither did I suggest white phosphorous bombs were used in the recent conflict. I specifically questioned the use of such weapons on innocent civilians freely without restrictions in the previous conflict, which the world saw how IDF exercised freedom to use with disproportion force. I think, you will yet again dodge the question – at which point you simply will confirm my belief in IDF and their morality and how distant they are from orthodox Jewish teachings.

        The west doesn’t buy anything, at least we don’t buy the bull you come out with. What we do is witness the show you and IDF put on in the Middle East. The world isn’t blind, and neither are they scared of telling the truth.

        What, we the British, did for you will never be repaid no matter how hard you try – so don’t you dare insult the British and the British Empire. As for modesty, we don’t need to be taught the style of modesty you wear so proudly. We ruled and we made the world a better place and gave you a place called home – which even now – with all the help in the world you still can’t keep clean and live with your neighbours. Ha modesty….

      6. What I said referred to “Cast Lead” as well as “Pillar of Defense”.
        As for the British Empire’s role in all this- Yes, we have a lot to thank the British for. That does not make the British our patrons in any way. We also have the British and the other ex-empires to thank for the ridiculous borders Israel and other countries in the region got. I may remind you that the British originally promised all of mandatory Palestine, then later they needed to pay off Abdullah from Saudi Arabia, so they gave him 60 percent, so that his descendants now rule over a Palestinian state as a minority dictatorship which will most likely crumble within a few years just like Syria. Then the British, in their policy of “appeasement” decided that the little that was left was to be divided a second time between the Palestinian Arabs remaining outside of Jordan and the Palestinian Jews, and that’s how we ended up with the basis for the conflict. So thank you very much.
        But I guess this is a discussion for another time. Shabbat Shalom!

  2. greg pavlik · · Reply

    Please, stay safe!

  3. Those are some pretty remarkable pictures. And what a shocking and traumatic experience – glad you’re okay!

  4. […] day for fallen soldiers, which will be next week, at 20:00 and at 11:00 the morning after. In 2012 and 2014 it sounded a wailing up and down siren, a sound it hadn’t made in many years, to […]

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