“Are you scared?” my grandma asked as I secured the heavy door and sat down on the cool floor of the bomb shelter. I looked up at her. She was seated on a small purple stool, nervously cleaning her glasses with the fabric of her white dress. For moment I hesitated, mumbled something in response about having had to run downstairs.
Outside, barely audible through the thick walls of the shelter, the siren blared boldly and persistently. I pressed my palms to the floor, relishing in its coolness. My pulse was rapid and I felt a little lightheaded. Was it fear? Or was it the violent transition from restful sleep to finding safety?
I was napping upstairs when the siren first began its wailing. In a moment I was up and dashing out the bedroom, screeching to a halt when I realized I was wearing nothing but boxers. Have to be decent, I thought, and turned around to the sound of my name being shouted from downstairs.
And after all, I told myself, a minute and thirty seconds is a long time. That’s how long it took for a rocket, fired from the Gaza Strip, to strike Jerusalem. That’s infinity in comparison with the 15 second warning given in southern communities, like Sderot and Ashkelon. After a brief return to the room, I was dashing down the stairs, awkwardly throwing on my clothes mid-step.
Now in the bomb shelter, I turn on the national news and we — my grandma, grandpa and his Philipinno helper – listen to the breaking news. “Reports of rockets fired at Jerusalem and southern communities.” The shelter is small and narrow, with cream-colored walls which absorb sound immediately. “No confirmed strikes as of yet.” My grandpa, in late stages of Alzheimer’s, taps his knees, smiles and let out a small laugh. “Rockets fired at Tel Aviv…” Our hearts are heavy, and my grandma’s face is in her hands, praying to G-d for help. “At the moment we are awaiting further reports…” We all turn to look at grandpa and in an instant his smile disarms us.
We laugh, curse the situation, and bless G-d for being alive.
I pray that the situation will subside, and that, above all, we uphold the sanctity of human life. Israel, with its incredible Iron Dome missile defense system, punctual sirens and emergency procedures, is doing astonishing well at preserving civilian life. Hamas is unfortunately putting the lives of innocent civilians at risk by firing from within civilian populations and encouraging civilians to crowd roofs that have been targeted – and warned – by the Israeli Air Force. Hamas needs to be held accountable for using civilians as a tactical advantage, and the world must understand that Israel must, and will, defend itself.