Someone has been testing us; pushing our panic buttons and trying our limits of how much is too much. At least those of us who live on the border. Of course, the obvious answer to that would be that ANY rocket fire is TOO much rocket fire, and we don’t really care if those shooting are Hamas, or Jihad, or ISIS or my neighbor’s disgruntled uncle once removed. I live in a Kibbutz just under two kilometers. from the border with the Gaza Strip, in the Western Negev desert. After Operation Protective Edge we had over half a year of calm, but the sporadic rocket fire has been increasing more and more over the past two months.
Those of us who live on the border, do, on occasion, leave our sometimes-uncomfortable comfort zones. The other night I went out with friends for an enjoyable afternoon-evening out in Old Jaffa to see a moving performance by my friend’s daughter-in-law, a budding actress headed, no doubt, for great adventures.
The evening of friends, good food and culture was marred by the sound of the Red Alert application* on a phone in our car while on our late drive back south, just as we were passing northern Ashdod. When I am caught out by an incoming rocket alert in my kibbutz I know the drill. After last summer’s war, responding to Red Alerts, where we in our community have less than 10 seconds to react, had become second nature to me. But last night, on a high speed freeway, late at night and NOT during wartime, I was caught unawares.
A suspiciously high number of cars had pulled over suddenly to the side of the road. Enjoying a Cat Stevens disc rather than the arbitrary songs chosen by the radio DJ, we had not heard the announcement on the radio, hence did not realize that the rockets were headed for the region through which we were driving at that very moment. But those other drivers were**. So, as did most of the flow on the high-speed roadway, we continued driving — not really in “alert mode” for incoming rockets.
By the time we saw the floating ball of lights that were the Iron Dome tracking and then downing the rockets in the sky, we didn’t bother pulling over… it would have been moot by then, but we DID switch from CD to radio, to hear updates and be tuned in, in case of more rockets.
If I was starting to nod off before that, this certainly gave me the adrenaline rush needed to keep me awake for the rest of the tense ride home, which necessitates driving through areas where Iron Dome does not protect us, and the reaction time we are afforded is a fraction of what it would have been in Ashdod.
As we were driving, my friend said: “What does it say about our lives, this situation of driving home on any random evening, during a period which is considered to be the ordinary pace of life, and to see a rocket being shot down over our heads?!”
I say, it means that the drivers of our government really need to find a different strategy, one that will prevent the next war, rather than accelerate us towards it. And they need to do it SOONER rather than later. Because lack of such a plan is driving us all to distraction, derailing us all onto yet again another collision course, that can do no one any good.
A few explanations in case you do not live in Israel
*The Red Alert App – like any other app, it can be installed for free on your phone, and is connected to the Home Guard. You can set it up for alerting you to incoming rocket attack warnings for all of Israel, or different, specific regions of your choosing within Israel. I have always refrained from installing it, since my feeling was that things were tense enough as it was without all of the alerts that could go off in different areas (including northern Israel) which really, I do NOT need know about immediately for my immediate personal safety. When there is an alert for an incoming rocket in my village, I don’t need an app to warn me. The nearby loudspeakers or beepers in our homes, are immediate and effective. However last night, in the car, the only one with the app on her phone, was the woman driving, and she couldn’t really read the screen and see exactly all the areas being alerted, which is why our response was slower than other motorists who had been listening to the radio, or had their phones with the Red Alert apps clearly visible. Those no doubt, were the ones who pulled over to the side of the road.
** The instructions for recommended reaction when you hear an alert in the area while you are driving are to pull over to the side of the road, move away from the car, lie down and protect your head. But doing that on a busy highway can be more treacherous than the rocket, itself. Confusion can cause accidents — one of which we DID see a bit further along the way.