Saturday, July 12, 2014

Code Red sirens: the counting

We are safe.

The news, I understand, creates a heightened sense of anxiety. Repeated images of explosions in the air and people dying rightfully cause worry. Let me share the counting I've experienced so far around air raids.

My first air raid happened in the Tel Aviv restaurant Suzannah Dalal. Shellie, Evie, Evie's friend and I were seated in an outdoor restaurant. We had ordered delicious drinks with flavors of fruit and cucumber
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A loud siren, that could only mean, rockets blared.  I saw our young waitress, an Israeli who had gone to school at Lower Merion, run. I had bread in my head and took it with me in a crazy thoughtless way. Evie and her friend ran one way. Her friend, an Israeli, knew were to go. Shellie and I followed our waitress into a parking garage.

With bread in hand, we ran with another 30 people into the garage. Tova, an Israeli on the trip, assured everyone it would be fine. She explained the times in her life that this kind of warning would be sounded a few times a day for months. As the week has gone on, I've heard repeated stories fro Israelis about how this is something they experienced so many times before and seem, at least outwardly to take it in stride. "When I was a child," said a waiter who also tracks military action in the evenings, "the war was my favorite time," he told me. "We were moved to kibbutzim in the center of the country. So instead of going to school, we played and swam." I've learned it is common practice for kibbutzim to house one another, depending in the threat is in the south or north or..

In less than ten minutes (now they are saying Stay put for a full time minutes after the sirens) we returned to the outdoor restaurant and were served our dinner. Humus and salad and fish were the menu under the night sky with a cool breeze. I thought of the World War II air raids in London (everyone knows I watch a lot of old movies).

We then went to hear a concert. Just like that. A rocket overhead intercepted by the Iron dome and then we return to listen to music. One woman started to tear. "It isn't for us, it is for my Israeli friends whose children are going to fight."

On the bus back to Jerusalem came the second air raid siren, but we didn't hear it. When we arrived at the hotel a guard told us to "hurry hurry into the hotel." The lobby was filled with high school students on a trip. They had just arrived in Jerusalem from Spain. A wonderful trip was planned. Now they would stay in the hotel all day.

My hotel room was on the 17th floor. The calculation of imagination didn't seem to add up. I'm not experienced in how to manage this state of being but the thought of walking down 17 flights didn't sound great. "You don't need to go the shelter, just stay in the stairwell." (not sure about that) So I moved into a smaller room with my friend Lynnda. The best luxury we could have would be a night without sounds. Tova had told me to "leave your shoes and most important belongings by your side. We used to sleep in our sweat suits, so if you have to run, you've got what you need." Every floor has a stairwell, go to the stairwell if the sirens go off.

90 seconds from a shelter was the advice the next day. Make sure you can get to a shelter in that aount of time. And if not? A woman from the south of Israel told us "you lay down on the ground flat. Put your hands behind your head with your elbows out. It has something to do with physics."

Thursday, I think, the days are melding, Evie and I were walking on Emek Refayim, a a street with lots of restaurants and tourists. Another siren. First I looked at the sidewalk. Do we lay down with our hands behind our heads? I saw a woman running ahead and we followed her. We running along the sidewalk. It didn't make sense to me for a split second where are we running. The woman turned into a building. Ok, she must know. We followed her down the steps and down. Down I think was a good place to go. We walked into an avant guard theatre that unbelievably was putting on a one man show, called "Shelter."

Again the chat, where are you from, and what do you do?
The author of the play, an Iraqi Jew, explained he'd like to bring the play to the US. The woman we had run after was from England. And there is the basement was a young girl who had come from Westchester New York.

"Three I heard three" said Evie. She heard three booms. The iron dome had hit them. The news said there were five rockets over Jerusalem.

I try not to check Ynet news too often. But there is the real accounting. How many dead. How many injured. How many rockets. How much damage. How many days.

I appreciate the kind notes from folks wondering how we are doing. As you can see we go to the cafe, walk on the street and now know where to go when the siren blares.
I've never been good at math.
And now just writing I can see I can't add this up. I'm able to order cafe afuch and there are sirens.
I barely believe this....

I've just washed my feet off. We heard the sirens now, no time for shoes, 90 seconds to the shelter, down five flights of stairs, Evie, me and three young people, three booms, wait ten minutes, up the steps. Till next time.