Surreal? Unimaginable? Inexplicable?
How do you describe the feeling of living under terror, in fear of what the next day, the next hour, or even the next minute will bring? I didn’t know this feeling; I still don’t quite know it. Not as well as others in this country. Not as well as people living in in the south. And certainly not as well as people who have lived here their whole lives. I’ve only been here three months, so what do I know? And to boot, I’ve been living in Tel Aviv, the perennial “bubble” reality has no real means of bursting when cafes are full, bars are hopping, and restaurants are packed.
It has been three months of fun, friends, and good spirits. It seemed the only real issues we had, the only real problems we faced were delays in public transportation and the turning weather. It was the rain. The rain that started to put things into perspective. As rain poured on our heads, so too did rockets and missiles pour on the heads of men, women and children in Be’er Sheva, Sderot, and Ashkelon. But when the rain stopped, the rockets did not.
And then one beautiful afternoon the innocence of our ignorance, the silence of our naiveté, and the purity of our tranquility were shattered by the shrieks of the first air raid sirens to blare in this city in 21 years. Tel Aviv, a population center of nearly half a million people was now reachable by the arbiters of hatred, fear and terror in the Gaza Strip. And it is at that very moment that reality checks in and hits you like waves of an angry and unrelenting ocean.
Reality checks in when you are sitting in class and your friends are sitting in bomb shelters. Reality checks in when you notice there are many more homes with bomb shelters than without in this country. Reality checks in when you see those who have no shelter run for cover in stairwells, under tables, and behind bus stops. Reality checks in when you are no longer offering shelter, but are being offered shelter.
Reality checks in when you get a call from your parents, who 6000 miles away just want to know you are safe and sound, and the soldier next to you on the train is getting a call from their commander informing them they have only hours to report directly to base. Reality checks in when your inbox, phone and Facebook are filled with questions of “Are you safe?” or “Are you OK?”
And reality checks in, when those sirens start blaring again, and your heart starts beating again, and your body starts shaking again, because you don’t know where this one will land…and when the next one will be coming.