After more than seven years in Israel, I heard only my third rocket siren on Tuesday evening. I had just finished work and was getting a lift to the train station from a co-worker. As we walked to where he keeps his car, in the mall parking lot across the street from our office building, we heard the eerie wail begin. Our eyes met, and then we sprinted for the mall entrance.
Or rather, my co-worker sprinted, loping like a gazelle in a nature video. I jogged resolutely, glad that I had more than a minute to make it the 60 meters to safety. My mind flew to Sderot, where you have 15 seconds to find shelter, and where rockets fall like rain.
I reached the crush of people streaming into the mall, and, knowing that I had 30 seconds to spare, I let one little boy who looked all of 4 years old go in ahead of me to catch up to his mom. He eyed me disdainfully, and said “Toughen up, lady! Life is for the strong!”
Okay, he didn’t say that. But the people around me were looking at me like I was from another planet. I made a mental note that chivalry and rockets made for bad dinner companions.
I came inside and found my coworker waiting for me. “Now what?” I asked. “Do we go to some kind of shelter?” He shrugged. Once everyone was in the mall, it seemed you were on your own. In what I’d like to take as a sign of staunch resolution, the Israelis immediately began looking at merchandise. My co-worker picked up a pair of sunglasses and tried them on.
“Are you shopping?!” I hissed.
He shrugged again, and replied “they’re on sale.”
After a few minutes, people were allowed to walk back out to the parking lot. We got in the car, and drove towards the train station. I would be heading north soon, while my coworker lived in the heart of Tel Aviv. As I got out, I admonished him to stay safe. And then I ran to catch my train. I was headed out of danger, back home to Hadera.
Sure, I knew Hadera had been hit by rocket fire before. But that was during the war in the north with Lebanon in 2006. I lived more than 100 miles from the border to the South with Gaza, meaning that I would get a welcome respite each evening, although I would still need to worry a little bit about my poor husband who had just started the graveyard shift at his new job in Ramat Gan.
When I arrived home, after spending a few hours watching the news and discussing the situation with my friends as more attacks were made on Tel Aviv, and slowly the spread throughout the country (Did you hear a boom? Yes, there was a boom) towards Jerusalem, I went to sleep at 11 pm, safe and secure from all alarms. I awoke at midnight to the buzz of a Facebook message notification from my iPad. It was my husband, asking if everything was alright.
‘Five by five here,’ I typed. ‘How are you holding up? Any more sirens?’
‘You tell me. The news is saying Hadera just got hit.’
I said the “fudge” word again. I looked out the window. Nothing was moving. It looked the same as always. Had I slept through an alarm? I spent another 30 minutes looking for news, but could only find confirmation that, yes, there was a boom. I went back to sleep.
In the morning, it became clear that no siren had gone off. And Hadera isn’t even an option for the Tzeva Adom app that sounds when rockets have been fired. So, apparently, while everyone “knew” this was a possibility, no one really thought it was possible. Still, what can you do but get back out there? And thank goodness we aren’t yet facing the decisions that towns further South need to make, like closing summer camps, and having children treated for PTSD.
As reported by Times of Israel, Uzi Rubin, a former head of Israel’s missile defense program, said, “They mostly have a terrorist effect because the chances of getting hit by them are less than being hit by a car.”
And don’t I know it.
Still, it’s disconcerting to have the distinction of being both one of the places furthest south to be hit, as well as one of the places furthest north. On the other hand, maybe this will give a boost to the Nefesh B’Nefesh “Go North” program. The new slogan: Hadera, it’s not as far from the center as you’d think!