In central TA, Home Front drill siren is barely a whisper

Perhaps befitting a fake bomb drill, the mood was dismissive and nonchalant when air raid siren went off in Tel Aviv.

By
June 22, 2011 15:26
3 minute read.
Tel Aviv skyline

Tel Aviv skyline 521. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

By the time the air raid siren went off on Wednesday, Tel Aviv City Hall was humming along at a less than fevered clip. A thin crowd waited on the main floor to air their arnona grievances or change the address on their ID cards, while a clerk in a reflective vest shuffled across the floor telling visitors and employees that in only a few minutes a national emergency preparedness drill would be held, and everyone would be expected to file into the safe area for 10 minutes.

The excitement was invisible to the naked eye.

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Sure enough, when the time came, residents and city hall employees shuffled into a stairwell on the floor, where they huddled while, presumably, someone was keeping score of the country's participation in the "Turning Point 5" exercise from above.

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Perhaps befitting a fake bomb drill, the mood was dismissive and nonchalant, and no one talked about Minister for Home Front Defense Matan Vilnai's deep-throated warning that in the next war tens of thousands of long-range rockets and missiles will batter Israeli cities. Instead, four female city hall clerks discussed their pregnancies and which types of coffee are more likely to make them vomit in the morning, while two male employees of the city hall café were pinned between the expectant mothers and the exit door of the stairwell, waiting out a long ten minutes. Further up the stairs, an elderly couple scrutinized a long supermarket receipt they had on hand.

A few minutes later, a city hall worker in a reflective vest opened the door in a rush, looking flushed and concerned, and asked if any one was smoking in the stairwell.

Tel-Aviv resident Ran, 29, joked that the drill was "a moment I will remember for the rest of my life. Someday I will write a book about this," before adding in all seriousness that "no one takes this seriously, it's all pointless."

Downstairs at Rabin square a throng of Argentinean Birthright participants were touring the site of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination moments after the drill ended. When asked if the tourists took part in the drill or if they knew what it was for, two guides said they did not know that there was a drill going on.

Carpenter and Tel-Aviv native Aharon Shem-Tov, 48, was building booths for the book festival at Rabin square when the air raid siren went off, but said that the drill "doesn't really interest me, people didn't take part at all."

Shem-Tov added "I've lived in Israel for 48 years, through many wars. It used to be, when there was a drill, everyone took part, now people can't be bothered. Besides, they need to put up signs, have people telling you where you can find a shelter."

Shem-Tov said that while this is the case in Tel Aviv "in Sderot, that's where people do it well", praising the siren and bomb shelter awareness of the residents of the qassam-battered city.

Belgian tourist Frank Clovyn, 54, sat out the drill at the Café Landver on Ibn Gvirol across from City Hall on Tuesday, but admitted that he didn't budge from his seat.

"No one went anywhere, how would I know where to go anyway?"

Using colorful language, Clovyn said that the siren was barely audible and that the state "needs to warn the people more, prepare them for things like this."

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