I really need to purge some emotions by writing this down.

As some back info, Michael has a swim teacher who grew up in Ashkelon, Israel. Ashkelon is a city right near the border of Gaza, and our swim teacher said he lived only about 7 kilometers away from the border. He says that for him, air-raid sirens and rockets have always just been a part of ordinary life. They face real fighting and attacks there, but he does not worry at all while living in Tel Aviv.

Up until today, I've felt rather blasé about the missiles coming at Tel Aviv. When we heard the air-raid sirens at our house on Tuesday night, for the first time during this current flare-up, Rob and I just sat on the couch. We were not in the mood to bother getting up, let alone run around grabbing children out of beds, for what we felt was just another siren in the midst of all the sirens we're always hearing - car alarms that falsely go off, home security systems getting tripped, fire alarms tripped by smoke from dinner, etc. Anyway, with the time we spent rolling our eyes at the alarm and contemplating how obnoxious it was going to be to get our kids out of bed, we realized it was probably too late to matter anyway. (For the record, we got a notice later saying that particular siren was - oh, yes - a false alarm.) After the fact, though, I did wonder if despite our nonchalance we should act more prudently. So I started asking everyone what they were doing and found that pretty much everyone I talked to was acting more cautiously, some friends even sleeping in their shelters. Rob and I decided that we would quickly get the kids and go to our safe spot if it happened in the middle of the night. (Daytime prudence was never an issue for me...only when I am trying to sleep. What? A missile directed at my city? Wake me up if it lands on our house.) I do not know exactly how big the different zones are for the sirens, but my guess is a couple miles radius. Since we are at the north end of Tel Aviv, we are at the far reach of the range of the missiles from Gaza and don't get nearly as much activity as south Tel Aviv (which is also generally not a target in the fighting with Gaza except in escalated times like this).

I talked to some Israelis about it and they said it sounded like we were acting like Israelis...but that, yeah, maybe next time we should take cover. Coming from the locals, it made me take it a little more seriously. I get the sense that Israelis have a hard outer shell when it comes to the fighting, but they take precautions seriously.

One last thing - there is about thirty to ninety seconds from the time the alarms sound to when the missile could land. So, for me, if I am on my own with my baby, two-year-old, and four-year-old, it isn't too hard if we are all awake and hanging out in the living room. But not so easy if kids are sleeping or we aren't right by a shelter.

Okay, so here's what happened today. I was at the pool with my kids. Michael was getting a swim lesson, Ella was swimming around basically dead center in the pool, and I was holding Jake when the air-raid siren sounded. I had committed to act quickly and get everyone to a shelter, but I hadn't really thought about how to do that with a baby in my arms and two kids in the pool. I looked at the swim teacher and he was not making a move to do anything, just continuing on with Michael. I asked if he knew exactly where at the Rec. Center the bomb shelter was, expecting him to take the lead with getting Michael over to it while I helped Ella and Jake. He just shook his head and said "they're crazy", and stayed put while Michael and Ella, completely unaware, kept swimming.

That is when something caught my eye and I looked up and actually saw the missile and the trail of its trajectory in the sky! I was standing there just staring at it and calculating - no, that's not going to land by us. Right? Right?!? Then I saw a second rocket. No, don't think that one will hit us either. Then I felt sick. Calculating whether a rocket is going to hit near you, while simultaneously  calculating that you are totally helpless to get all your kids to safety in time if did, is pretty bad for the nerves. Then I saw those two rockets hit each other and explode in the air. The second rocket must have been from the Iron Dome! I felt shaky and tingly, kind of in shock. The sirens were still going so then I was like, Michael, Ella, out of the pool, we're going to play the siren game. (Wheeeee! Yay! Let's go play games in a tiny enclosed space in a basement!) I don't think I mustered a very good game face. By the time we got to the steps to where I assumed the shelter might be, the sirens turned off.

I thought it was kind of funny that after all the people I talked to making me realize that I should take the sirens more seriously, then I ended up in a situation where I felt totally helpless, with someone who cared even less than I previously had. I think if the teacher had not been someone who grew up in Ashkelon, then maybe he would have gotten the kids out of the pool and I would not have just stood there watching things blow up in the air. I felt helpless and stupid and shocked. About thirty minutes later I really wanted to have a good cry. IBut since I have kids of course I didn't let myself go into that mode. On the flip side, I can't help but feel it's kind of cool that I saw a missile get intercepted by the Iron Dome. Okay, really cool. I never got to see the northern lights when we lived in Sweden, but at least I can say I saw two rockets explode in the sky in Israel!

Here is what today amounts to for me. I've heard the sirens before. I've heard booms loud enough to rattle our windows. I've seen images on the news and internet. But, those weren't really about war and real people launching real warheads this direction, were they? Not until I saw it with my own two eyes.

Another funny thing about today is that when I went to the basement of the gazebo-like structure where I figured the bomb shelter would be, I did find a heavy duty bomb door, and it was locked. Classic.*

As a last side note to anyone who may read this and feel worried about me - please don't worry. Today shook me a bit, but no one even got hurt. What I saw probably shocked me into taking things more seriously now, even though the reality is that we are all pretty safe still here in Tel Aviv. Unless I go for a drive. Drivers here are nuts!

*post note: Rob found out that the shelter is actually just supposed to be the bathrooms and that the room with the heavy duty door was locked to protect valuables. So I was not actually locked out of the safe room. Although I'd still argue that that room is actually the safest.


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