Things are changing quickly here on the border.
It’s May 7th, the time is 00:27.
My phone rings.
I awake with a start, surprised because my phone is always on “silent” from 22:00 – 06:00. My family know that in case of emergency, they call the house phone. So what’s my mobile doing invading my dreams with a vaguely familiar — yet not my usual — phone ring?
It’s the Red Alert app announcing an incoming rocket attack on one of the communities in the Gaza Perimeter. My hood. That’s why the ring is familiar. It’s the same dreaded sound that would scream out, too frequently, from my computer through the Ynet site during Operation Protective Edge. Surfacing quickly with a start, my heart racing and my hands shaking, I took a screenshot and forwarded it on to the Facebook group I monitor “Life on the Border”.
It’s silly, in a way. I am not a journalist. I am a high school English teacher and a teacher trainer. But I am also a border resident and have somehow gotten it into my head that I need to inform the world of what is happening here; of what it is like living in the shadow of rocket fire and with the apprehension of tunnel digging.under our feet. The digging that some of us can even hear. So in the same way that your foot hits the brake when something moves in front of your car; and how five heads turn in unison in the playground when a child calls out “Mommy!”, so my instincts have been fine-tuned to document and send updates (only what is allowed, details that wouldn’t endanger us or the soldiers that are protecting us, of course, but I feel are important for the world to be aware of). Even when it’s half past midnight.
It wasn’t easy getting back to sleep, and the thought has passed my mind that I really can remove the Red Alert app. After all, if it’s in MY community, I will sure as hell hear it! The “Red Alert” will boom over the loudspeakers and there’s a beeper next to my bed that could wake the dead when there is an incoming rocket. But the app and the beeper and the loudspeakers have been so blissfully quiet for the past 21 months, that the app has just remained there, dormant. As does the beeper with the little green light which guards me like a sentinel, ever-alert in the dark. I’m so used to it being there that I don’t even notice it any more. Visible white noise. Until Saturday at ungodly 00:27.
When I woke up again in the morning, I wasn’t quite sure if it had been a dream. My weariness told me it wasn’t. It’s not the same tiredness that one feels when one wakes to feed the baby, or when a dog barks outside. When the alarm rings, it triggers the flight mode (from the fight or flight). When it’s YOUR alarm, in YOUR community, you literally run for your life. I didn’t have to run this time but the toll remains dear.
When I woke, I remembered that it was the day of my granddaughter’s birthday party, celebrating her first turn round the sun. The same baby whose parents took their vows in an unplanned venue, as the rockets rained down on their home. The baby who was conceived towards the end of the war. I suddenly wondered if my daughter would stick to her plans of her afternoon birthday party. A sense of déjà vu hit me, since this wouldn’t be the first time a significant occasion would be question-marked.
My daughter got married on July 4th, 2014. The wedding had been planned out meticulously (as weddings are) during the preceding months. My sweet, sensitive daughter, who was born here yet has been afraid of living here since she was a child, recalling her grandfather going to the Passover Seder armed with a rifle in light of warnings of possible unrest. The daughter whose fears I used to be able to quell when she was 9 and concerned about infiltration, by assuring her that the army was always nearby, and the fence protected us, and anyway we live in the middle of the community…. That same young woman who would rather live anyplace but here, was marrying the strappingly handsome young man who was also born on this kibbutz, and wanted to live no place BUT here. So they set the venue, on the lawn beside the pool in which they both learned to swim.
They planned the homemade, kibbutz-style wedding of which she had been dreaming since she was small. For weeks she collected bottles of all shapes and sizes, then invited her friends over for an evening of decorating the bottles with ribbons and lace for the table centerpieces. She had bought candles. The men of the family had built a fence to circumvent the pool, ensuring that the wedding site met the requirements of the insurance for a poolside wedding.
When the rockets started raining down only days before the wedding, they understood that no fence could safeguard them or their loved ones from the threats of the metal rain, and that it would be irresponsible to bring 300 guests to a wedding with exploding projectiles flying and no place to take cover. So they changed the venue — three days before the wedding.
Thus, when I woke this past Saturday morning, the first thing I thought was: she’s going to call me any minute to announce the party’s new location: away from home, away from the threat of the whistle of the rockets.
This isn’t the way we should be living. A person should be able to plan a wedding, a first birthday party, a community celebration, without worrying that their setting could suddenly erupt into a war zone. Our world is shaking beneath our feet.
This week we are celebrating Israel’s 68th Independence Day — an occasion which we traditionally celebrate by a torch run from the site where the kibbutz first built its communal dining room to the modern day site, 18 kilometers north. However the original site is also next to the border, not far from a recently discovered tunnel. Not far from where the army is actively looking for more tunnels; where mortars have again flown this past week.
Will we have to change that, as well? Time will tell. So many question marks in our lives now. More than usual. More than there should be.
Post-script: the birthday party took place as planned. My awe-inspiring daughter, with her clear head on her shoulders, her feet solidly on this not-so-solid ground, (and the baby car-seat attachment strapped into my car so that in a click, we can leave) has honed her instincts well, as she learns how mothers need to dance to the music as it changes here on the border: sometimes of the birds, sometimes the bombs.
If you are interested in keeping up to date on the situation on the Israel-Gaza border, you can join the FB group I moderate, Life on the Border, and “like” The Movement for the Future of the Western Negev.
I am also happy to be in contact via Twitter @AdeleRaemer