It seemed like a dress rehearsal, one where it was fine to show up wearing your comfy clothes. The important thing was you were there.
One girl munched on a freshly pressed panini while a young man took a drag from his ever shortening cigarette. His pajama pants were colorfully decorated with images of cartoon characters, a joyous irony to the situation at hand.
Earlier in the day, Hamas vowed to launch a major strike against Tel Aviv at 9 PM. True to their word but fashionably late, the sirens went off at 9:07. The apartment building inhabitants scampered down to the second floor, an impromptu bomb shelter, waiting for the eminent boom to assure us the iron dome had been successful. It came. The sirens turned off. We all made our way back to our rooms.
“Well, maybe I’ll see you in a few minutes?” I asked. My host, Amir, and his pal Shaf smiled and nodded their heads. “Where are you from?” Shaf inquired. Being from California didn’t seem to make him think I should be a seasoned bomb shelter seeker. “You’re probably not used to this then, eh?”
Nope. Not used to it. I think my closest experience was a tornado warning while I was visiting my grandpa in Iowa as a little girl. Perhaps the occasional California shake was a little unnerving. But no, being threatened by rockets was a first.
I was right. A second round of sirens lit the sky and I did indeed see my new friends again. This time the guy with the happy pants didn’t join and the girl had eaten almost all of her panini. We waited.
While the noise of helicopters and IAF planes still echoed in the night, the sirens ended and we again made our short journeys back home. The apartment dwellers all seemed like great folks, but I hoped for all our sakes we wouldn’t have to see each other again under these circumstances.
So what’s it like to live in a world where war and violence are a real threat? I’m not quite sure yet. Tel Aviv hasn’t been a good teacher. Or at least provided the schooling I would expect.
As I explored today on the Shabbat I saw hundreds of young people lounging at the beach, families with babies meandering down the streets and couples downing their 2nd and 3rd cappuccino at the plethora of coffee shops littering the sidewalks. This is what it’s like?
I know that’s not the whole picture. I’ve viewed the awful photos coming out of Gaza. Homes destroyed. Children killed. Hundreds of injured.
But here in Tel Aviv, only 50 miles away, that’s not the case.
We’re all wide awake now. Amir and his friend are in the living room, skillfully playing beautiful songs on the piano—happy ones— and, I suppose as true Tel Aviv natives, singing along.