The loud booms echoed as passengers disembarked from the bus to Rishon Lezion.
An interception near Israel’s fourth largest city.
The entire way, the word on everyone’s lips was “rockets.”
The Aharoni family said they were supposed to be meeting their family in the city and going to the beach, but those plans were put on hold.
People wondered out loud whether there would be a war.
“Maybe this time, they [the security cabinet] will show more strength with [Naftali] Bennett as defense minister,” one commuter said.
It was like a communal discussion on the bus, with the driver even chiming in.
Rishon Lezion’s Central Bus Station was deathly silent. Most stores inside, except the pharmacy, a bakery and grocery store, were closed.
A woman pushing a stroller and holding her daughter’s hand walked quickly through the station, a large sports bag over her shoulder.
“I’m heading to Jerusalem with my kids; we’re going to the zoo and to visit some family,” Yael Fein told The Jerusalem Post. “There’s no kindergarten today, and I don’t want them to be traumatized by the sirens.”
In the main part of the city, most malls and stores were closed. On Rothschild Street, which is usually loud and bustling, there were few people walking around.
Several elderly women sat at a small cafe chatting and having a bite to eat.
“Scared?” asked Esther Green. “I’m not scared. We are strong in the face of these rockets. There is nothing like the people of Rishon Lezion.”
Geulah, who asked to not be identified by her last name, said that although the situation is tense, “everything will be okay. We have a strong army and they will do what is necessary to stop the Islamic Jihad.”
When asked how they would like Bennett and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to handle the situation, both made it clear that they don’t want war, but the leaders must do what they have to.
“This country needs to defend itself,” Green said.
Geulah added that she hopes Netanyahu stays in power as prime minister. “We can’t have [Benny] Gantz,” she said. “He won’t be good for the country.”
During the conversation, a mother and her infant son walked past and started yelling in Geulah’s direction, asking her, “Why are you outside with him? You should be at home by a shelter – it’s dangerous to be out here!” But she ignored them.
Despite the tense calm, several cafés on Herzl and Rothschild streets were open, but quiet.
“It’s usually bustling with people at this time; today, it is so quiet,” said Anat Cohen, who works at one the cafés. “My five-year-old is at home because there is no school today – and every time there is a siren, he phones me. I’m afraid, he’s afraid, but we have no choice: we need to keep going. Stay in routine. It’s not easy, especially that he’s at home and I’m here, but I need to work.”
She said that during the sirens she has had to crawl under a table at the store, as she’s unsure where the closest shelter is.
“I just want peace,” she said. “The army and the government must do what they need to, but it has to bring quiet. We need peace and we need quiet.”
As the day went on and the quiet remained, stores on Herzl Street started to open and normalcy began to return, after a difficult start to the morning.