I live on the corner of a bustling street, and from my ground floor apartment I hear every car that drives on Pinkas Street, every conversation had by the pedestrians, and the accompanying symphony that is daily urban life.
But promptly at 10:00 AM this morning all I could hear was birds chirping, a slight breeze rustling the trees and the long whine of the air raid sirens. I never knew Tel Aviv could be so peaceful. No cars, construction, or shouting in the streets. Just air and a strange scream filling it.
The sirens, sounded every Holocaust Remembrance Day, are so fitting. It allows everyone, literally the entire country, to stop and think for a few minutes about the tragedy that befell this nation. The sirens also bring life to a halt. All human activity, the day-to-day routine stops and the earth has a deathly silence as if the Holocaust is still with us at that very moment. No one moves, no one lives. Everyone, except for the birds and the trees, is dead.
It’s strange how things so quickly return to normal. As the sirens started to wind down, I could start to hear the city’s hum returning to life. The second the sirens disappeared a cell phone rang. The man standing in front of me picked up the bag he placed on the car next to him and returned to his trip. The Hungarian embassy across the street went back to work, and cars started to pass. It’s not all a coincidence of course. The person on the other end of the line of that phone ringing also heard the sirens and as they ended for him/her, they called their friend who happened to be my neighbor. The cars that started to pass had stopped at the previous intersection during the siren. A friend of mine who lives on my street two blocks down saw those cars stopped in their tracks from her balcony. Now they’ve returned to life and are on their way, passing me now.
It’s surreal how life can just stop on a dime and then resume without a second thought. Those minutes of silence were oddly quiet and dead, an abrupt end to life. What better way to commemorate the Holocaust, when European Jewry also came to a strange and abrupt end.
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