Daria, a young Russian from Moscow, realized she’d picked a hell of a time to visit Israel. When a large hunk of rocket shrapnel crashed through the roof of a synagogue next door to the apartment she’s subletting on Thursday morning, things became bizarre.
“”It’s all a bit strange and unrealistic. I leave Israel on Sunday morning, hopefully, but I was told that they closed the airport,” Daria said, before Labor Party MK Shelly Yacimovich rolled up on her bicycle, stopping to speak to people next to the synagogue in Tel Aviv that was hit.
The fragment hit the synagogue as long-range Gazan rockets targeted Tel Aviv for the fourth straight day. Other large chunks hit in the neighborhood in this peaceful corner of the city near a beach popular with tourists.
It was the first Friday afternoon in Tel Aviv since the rocket fire began, and the city seemed to be moving a little bit slower than usual on what is typically the busiest time of the week for cafés and bars.
In a small house in front of the synagogue sat Ayala McKown, an Israeli married to an Irishman. She has lived in India for the past 17 years and arrived last week for a month’s vacation with her two children, aged seven and 12.
Her kids were a bit afraid during the Color Red alarm, she said. ”They aren’t Israeli kids, they aren’t used to it. But I gave them shoko [chocolate milk] and they relaxed,” McKown said, adding that they didn’t run for shelter because they had nowhere to go.
Parents Troy and Robert from New York were visiting with their four children and staying at a hotel just a couple blocks from the synagogue.
The kids joked with one another about how they acted when the siren went off, the mom saying that one of them soiled herself, the teenage daughter saying her older brother threw up.
The youngest, a boy who looked to be about five, jumped in and shouted, “I wasn’t scared!” In the end they said they weren’t planning to end their trip ahead of time, though Troy said the situation is harder when you have kids.
“I think its time to stop it, to send in the troops and to clean up shop with all these terrorists,” he said.
A couple of blocks away, a small group of customers sat at a café where earlier in the day a piece of rocket shrapnel hit the sidewalk out front. The manager said that earlier in the day when the siren went off, he and the staff stayed put and that with the patrons it was about 50:50, including with the tourists.
“Some of them ran next door, but the rest were like us, they stayed put,” he said.