Working in journalism can make a person a bit desensitized.
I admit that as I was hearing the reports about the Color Red sirens in the South all this week, my thoughts turned more to how I would cover the news for my weekly news roundup rather than to the suffering of the southern residents. As long as there was no noticeable escalation, I thought, I would relegate this piece of news to a single, business- as-usual rocket-fire-in-the-South news brief.
Tuesday night at around 10 p.m. in my neighborhood near Jerusalem. I was in the middle of folding laundry, while my two pre-teen sons got ready for bed. Suddenly we heard an ear-splitting boom, then another one. The walls of the house shook. I felt confused in the first second. What was going on? Then it hit me (metaphorically speaking), but I was still confused.
What was I supposed to do? All thoughts of our safe room escaped me. I ran to the kids’ room and found the boys.
Then we all ran to the living room, where we found my husband staring silently out the window. In horror, we watched a thin column of rising black smoke that stood out in all its malevolence against the night sky. It couldn’t have been more than 500 meters away.
“Ein od milvado – there is nothing besides Hashem,” my older son intoned quietly.
My younger son was agitated.
“I’m shaking and I can’t stop! Ima, look at my legs! Feel my heart, Ima!” At this point, I didn’t know what to expect. Would there be more missiles? Should we go into the safe room? I turned on the radio, but could only get Arab stations. Within minutes, we saw a security vehicle with flashing blue lights near the spot where the missile had fallen. Frustrated, we watched the flashlights of the security personnel moving in the wrong direction. My husband tried to alert the authorities, but we had no cellphone reception. Only then did it occur to me that there had been no warning siren.
My mind started to race with different thoughts, some completely irrational. Gratitude that the missile had fallen in what looked like an empty field, that we were all together, that we had made our daughter’s wedding some two weeks earlier. Worry about the rest of the family scattered all over Israel – and, yes, about the weekly news roundup that would have to be completely rewritten.
Meanwhile, my younger son found solace in action. He fixed up four beds in the safe room and equipped it with basic supplies that he had found in the house: a couple of cartons of seltzer, crackers, a flashlight, lots of books and Bamba.
In the morning, after a night of waking up every little while, straining my ears to hear – what, a siren? A missile falling? – understanding dawned. Now I knew what my brothers and sisters in the South were experiencing – and not once, but several times a day all week. And before that, and before that, for more than a decade.
During the week, I had heard the mayor of Ashkelon complain about the government’s inaction, saying that the Home Front Command was advocating “emergency routine mode.”
“Either emergency or routine!” he demanded. “We are willing to wait out the emergency mode if the government goes into Gaza to clean up, but this is not routine!” I felt overcome with sympathy for this man and all those he represents. I realize the complexity of the situation and don’t purport to know the answers, but surely we can’t go on complacently with our lives while a million people in the South suffer like this.
That’s right, we can’t. And Hamas made sure of that.