These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Sirens and Rockets

Posted on November 19, 2012 by Ari Abelman

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Originally posted on my blog:

On Friday evening, an air-raid siren went off in Jerusalem.  This was not supposed to happen.  We were supposed to be out of range, in a city too holy to Muslims, with too large a Palestinian population.  It appeared that we were wrong.  Hamas had fired a rocket towards Jerusalem, but it had fallen somewhat short.

What is it like to hear an air-raid siren?

It’s scary, but less scary than you might think.  You know what you have to do.  In Jerusalem, you have a minute an a half to get to shelter (the further you are from gaza, the more time you have).  Then you wait a few minutes, or until you hear an explosion.  And anyway, most of the rockets don’t hit.

The scary part is afterwards, waiting for it to happen again, realizing that Jerusalem might not be immune.  Every footstep upstairs starts to sound like an explosion, and a car revving up sounds a lot like the beginning of another air-raid siren.

That was half of my reality on Friday night.  The other half was that it was Shabbat, and life went on.  If anything, it was all more powerful than usual.  Phrases from the liturgy like בואי בשלום took on new meaning (ה’ עז לעמו יתן, ה’ יברך את עמו בשלום is another example)[1].

Then, life continued going on, and memory of the siren faded.  It takes surprisingly little time for this to happen.  Twenty-four hours later, things felt almost completely normal again.  Hamas continued firing on Tel-Aviv, but not on Jerusalem.  It now appears that Hamas may not be able to quite reach Jerusalem after all, and that they may not have meant to try in the first place.  It may have been a misfire.

There is a feeling of invincibility in the place, a sense that its citizens are protected from the turmoil engulfing areas nearby.  It is ironic but unsurprising that the main sources of this feeling are the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock.  In any event, it seems entirely possible that I will never hear another Siren.  If only the rest of Israel could be so lucky.

[1] Translation:  The first Hebrew phrase means “come in peace,” in reference to Shabbat.  The second means “May God give His people strength, may God bless his people with peace.”