Last night at around 3:00 a.m., I was fast asleep beside my husband. I’ve been running a fever for a few days, my head is exploding and clear thinking wasn’t with me when I started hearing a beeping sound. It took me a good 20-30 seconds to identify that the sound was coming from the phone I had placed in the charger on my side of the bed. Even as I was reaching for it, the sound had crashed through, clarity came in a second. Israel was under attack. Again.
I quickly reached over and silenced the app that I had installed on my phone long ago. In its first version, Tzeva Adom (Red Alert) offered few variations or options. The sound it made when there was an alert anywhere in Israel was a terrifying air raid siren clip. I stopped using it after my phone started broadcasting a siren while I was on a packed train. I was simultaneously trying to shut it off as I explained to everyone that it wasn’t an attack on Jerusalem.
The next version let us pick some other ring tone and I picked one that to anyone else was innocuous…but I knew it meant that people were running for their lives. During the wars here, when missiles were coming in sometimes dozens in a day, the app was updated again. Now you can select regions. If the attack happened within the specified zones, your phone sounds; otherwise, all is normal. Except, of course, it’s not because it may have happened outside your selected zones…but it still happened.
During the first war, I set it to my home city, my work city, where my kids learned, where my parents live. Each time it sounded in their area, I called them. Sometimes, they hadn’t heard the sirens and so I instructed them quickly to go into the safe room, the bomb shelter, built to withstand an incoming missile.
By the app’s second war, I decided that I wanted to be alerted. If someone was running somewhere in Israel, the least I could do is know about it. It’s part of our overly-developed sense of responsibility that many Jews have. After closing the beeping phone and looking over to see that my husband had gone back to sleep, I looked more carefully at the screen. A missile had been fired at Ashkelon.
Earlier in the evening, a missile had hit a residential building in the Netiv HaAsara area; the air force went into action with a response. While the Palestinian’s target was a city filled with civilians, the IDF, according to international law, targeted a military site. As the planes were flying, the Palestinians fired a missile again – that was the one that woke me in the middle of the night. This time, it appears that it landed in Gaza. Last week, a missile “mis-fired” and hit an UNRWA (United Nations pro-Palestinian group that does nothing to stop Palestinians from using their schools as arsenals and then complains when we target them) school. Another one hit a Palestinian leader’s home. Sometimes you just have to love karma.
I closed the phone and tried to go back to sleep and then I thought about my reaction. It had taken me at least 20 seconds, and probably longer, to come awake and identify the sound of this attack. Granted, it was a beep and not an air raid siren, but still think about 45 seconds. It’s taken you longer to read this post than 45 seconds. 45 seconds. That’s how long parents have to come awake, run and grab their children, and make it into a safe room before a missile could come crashing into their home.
In August, 2014, the parents of Daniel Turgeman had three children. An infant, a toddler, and Daniel, who was 4.5 years old. Daniel knew that when he heard the siren, there was no time to hesitate. He was to run as fast as he could, to the bomb shelter. Usually, he made it there before his parents. They didn’t live in Ashkelon, where parents had 45 seconds to get their children to safety. He lived in Nahal Oz…and he died there. When the siren sounded, his mother grabbed the baby; his father grabbed the toddler and when they got to the bomb shelter, Daniel wasn’t there. The house exploded around them – a direct hit. Daniel died. A few weeks later, they appeared at the United Nations. “We were a happy family. We lived in Kibbutz Nahal Oz close to Gaza, where the threat of the tunnels reached,” they told the UN Secretary General, and then they asked a question. “Why are you silent?”
Last night, as I struggled to understand what the sound was, I realized that parents in Ashkelon, home to 130,000 people, do not have the simple luxury of a night’s sleep in oblivion.
Why are you silent? The parents of young Daniel Turgeman asked. It is a question no parent should have to ask. And it is a question that hundreds of thousands of Israelis ask every day. They are firing missiles at our cities and all you ask is why we we respond. Not why they attack…why we respond. How insane is that? About as insane as waking up at 3:00 a.m. knowing that a missile has been fired yet again at a city filled with people, with parents who are grabbing their children and running for shelter.
Why are you silent?