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Today I heard my fourth ever siren and I believe the experience may have fully integrated me into Israeli society after 10 years living here. (That and the fact that I have at least one genuine Israeli friend with whom I text in Hebrew).

For those of you living under a rock (and somehow managing to see this blog post anyway), Israel is once again under attack from Hamas. Hamas terrorists like to bombard Israeli civilians with rockets every once in a while while hiding behind civilian homes in Gaza. Those living close to the border have 15 seconds to get to shelter. We live far enough away that rockets make it out this direction quite infrequently and we have a full 90 seconds to get to shelter, which happens to be quite a long time. Protocol is that when we hear the siren we must get to a place of shelter as quickly as possible, and we have familiarized ourselves with the rules of what to do. We listen for the “boom” and then wait ten minutes for the debris to fall. Fortunately, where we live the “boom” is not a rocket hitting something, but rather the Iron Dome shooting down the rocket. The “boom” means we’ll be safe. While we wait out the ten minutes, we text and whatsapp our loved ones to let them know all is well and we joke around with our neighbors sharing our shelter.

Generally in a time of crisis I am extremely calm. I find panicking or freaking out really just counterproductive, and the same is true of the case of sirens. Yesterday I had a new experience which was far scarier than the actual siren. I only heard the “boom”. I felt a moment of fear that Israel had somehow not sounded the siren or I didn’t hear it. While I allowed myself to feel scared, I went online to check what my friends had heard. I learned that it’s possible to hear the explosion of the Iron Dome intercepting the rocket without being in the range of the rocket or debris. This greatly comforted me, but at least with a siren there is a warning that you are about to hear an explosion.

I was planning on going grocery shopping last night, but a friend pointed out to me that waiting until morning would be a better idea since the rockets had only been at night in our area so far. Accepting her advice, I headed out to the store quite early this morning so as to be able to return from shopping in time to start work. I arrived at Shufersol Deal in Yachin Center, along with a few other early birds, several minutes before the store opened. As we milled about outside the store waiting for opening, a siren began to wail. Being unfamiliar with the area, we didn’t know where another shelter was so we began banging on the door and calling (in Hebrew) “There is a siren! Open the door and let us in!” but the people inside only watched us. I realized that I was the calmest of everyone there. The man with a baby was franticly banging and yelling, which made more sense to me, but everyone else seemed more panicky than I believed necessary. That was when I felt super Israeli- to stay calm while being denied shelter during a siren and after the booms. To continue living our lives. Being outside during a siren and hearing the booms, knowing that these people would not allow us shelter, was truly terrifying. But life goes on. The siren ended after 90 seconds, we heard several booms, and a few moments later the store opened its doors. We breathed a sigh of relief, took a moment to yell at the store workers for not opening the door, and then went about our shopping.

When I got home it occurred to me how potentially dangerous that whole thing could have been. I called the Petach Tikva City (Iriya) and the man who answered basically laughed at me. He told me that there was no siren where we were, we were hearing a neighboring siren and were not in any real danger. He also informed me that if the store wouldn’t let us in we should have looked for a different place to take shelter and we should check online (in the 90 seconds we had) where there was another place of refuge nearby. At first I felt like an idiot, but then I realized that I was not the only one there. It wasn’t just me, the stupid American Immigrant, who ran for safety at the sound of the siren. It was the Israelis as well. It was the Israeli woman next to me who was screaming, not me. And now that I am fully integrated, I will do the proper Israeli thing and report this incident to every possible outlet in the hopes that something will be done to prevent something like this ever happening again.

Stay safe, everyone. We should only hear good news.

July 2014
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