It is May 4, 2019. I am at my desk. It’s early Saturday. I’m catching up on some work. Morning sound in the background. Israeli-style. Siren in the distance. Kind of a weird sound. The way chirping birds and wispy winds comprise morning sound elsewhere.
I didn’t really connect with the siren’s eeriness. Was too deep into Excel and emails. Then my daughter darted from her room. Smartphone in hand. (Do they sleep with these things?) “Don’t you hear it? There’s a siren. But my newsfeed says it’s elsewhere.”
“OK, let’s go to the protected room,” I said. Somewhat controlled. Somewhat alarmed.
We woke everyone up. My wife. My son and his girlfriend – banging on his bedroom door, “Move it!”
Last siren heard in Rehovot was during Protective Shield in 2014. My son just 16. And sleeping alone. So much has changed. And so much has stayed the same. This Gaza quagmire, to whit.
We congregated in our den-cum-protective room. Shut the re-enforced glass window – a heavy screech. Closed the too-heavy steel door – a loud bang. Turned on the TV – 90 missiles slamming into Israel’s south. Our hearts and mouths dropping. The bang of our Iron Dome hitting the missiles overhead. All clear. We can come out. Morning sound.
Singing about Bobby McGee, Janis Joplin crooned, “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.” And the Gazans have nothin’ to lose. They live in worse than miserable circumstances. Another war. Another round of missile exchanges. It really has no impact on their miserable living standards.
In Israel. We have too much to lose. The upcoming Eurovision – in two weeks – comes to mind. If we go to war now, or launch a massive retaliatory strike leading to counter-strikes, it risks the wonderful success of Israel hosting this international event. Ten thousand visitors. Ten million dollars in revenue. Excellent public relations. Fun. Lightness. Celebration. In Israel, it’s never a good time for war. Always something to lose.
But I think Janis was singing more about drugs, sex and rock ’n’ roll. Here in wonderful Israel the reality – like our morning sound – is a bit harsher.
Sunday, May 5
A restless night. Even for those lucky enough to live far from the Gaza periphery. Distance is so relative here in tiny Israel.
Woke up several times to check my smartphone – news updates. (Even we adults sleep with those things.) More than 300 missiles fired. One Israeli casualty after a missile struck his house.
Schools canceled within a 40-kilometre radius of Gaza. We live 45 kilometres away; missed the limit by five kilometres. Before Roni went to school, I grilled her on the basics of dodging missiles. She passed. Although there was some ambiguity about when to leave the protective room. “What if there’s no boom, Dad?” (i.e. The missile is shot out of the sky by the Iron Dome.) “Improvise, kid,” was my best answer.
Another 200 or so missiles fired at Israel today. They aimed for my place again. And missed. Bastards! Dor called me at work from our protected room. Roni texted me from school. Everyone OK. It’s hard being far away. Again, distance is relative.
A factory hit in Ashkelon. Two killed. WTF! And a moving car hit by an anti-tank missile. Driver killed. Again, WTF!
As I write this, lots of booms in the background. Wife and kids looking out the window. Watching the missiles. And the anti-missiles. A sound-and-light show. Happening in the neighbouring cities. Far away.
Some shock here. I must admit.
Monday, May 6
Ceasefire. Gaza has Ramadan. Israel has the Eurovision. A temporary respite for both sides.
We certainly wreaked havoc in Gaza. Two hundred and sixty high-value targets destroyed. But looking for something a bit more definite. Like victory in six days. Like a spectacular comeback. Like Entebbe. Like knocking through walls. Like encircling the Mukata. Of late, just too many broken ceasefires.
To paraphrase Golda Meir – until the Palestinian leadership loves their children more than they hate ours, only a decisive military victory will create peace and quiet. Or at least quiet.
Celebrating 71 on Thursday. Will raise our flag high and eat lots of hummus and kabab.
Regards from Israel, Bruce.
Bruce Brown, from Winnipeg, lives and works in Israel. His first Israeli home-front diary of life in times of national stress and war, “The draft: a dad reflects,” which was published in the Jewish Independent last year, placed first in the personal essay category of the 2019 American Jewish Press Association Simon Rockower Awards for excellence in Jewish journalism.