How to live in a party city under bomb threat

Two weeks ago, my parents, my husband, and I left hot and muggy Tel Aviv for ridiculously hot and dry Eilat. We dropped our stuff off in our hotel rooms and jumped in the pool. My parents were visiting for the week, and even my dad, who rarely goes in the water, couldn’t resist a dip. We held onto the edge, keeping our shoulders underwater while we told stories and laughed. We were in Israel’s resort city and didn’t have a care in the world. That night we walked through Eilat’s carnival, stopping at Yaniv’s Fireball, a ride which heaved people up in the air and plummeted them back down. On a big screen TV, we watched their faces contort, and we cheered.

We left Israel’s pleasure spot tan and breezy, and the next day, learned that Eilat’s airport had been shut down due to security threats from terrorists. It was so hard to fathom.

And living everyday life here, it’s even more difficult.

Tel Aviv is a party city for the young. There are palm trees and beaches. People go out for dinner at 11 and bars are packed on a Tuesday night until dawn. Women wear short shorts to work and men wear t-shirts. Everyone bikes everywhere and no one wears a helmet.

Yet, since we moved here a year ago, there’s been no end to conflict. First there were the threats from Iran. Then a war that sent rockets to my city. Then a bus bombing. And now, there are threats from Syria.

Early on, I went with my husband to retrieve our gas masks–which come complimentary for Israelis. At the pick up, we asked the guy working there how to use them. “Look on YouTube,” he said.

At least our bedroom is a bomb shelter so we can sleep safely.

Honestly, it’s hard to believe that this is my life now. That I go to work and think about what I have to complete that day and what I want to build for tomorrow when only a few hours north of me, people are getting gassed and the newscasters say that we’re in the line of fire.

Yet, I still roll my eyes at people who are too scared to come to Israel. If they could only understand that I feel safer walking the streets of Tel Aviv at 2 am than the sidewalks of New York. That when I wiped out on my bike a few months ago, about five strangers came to my rescue, picking up my bags from the ground and waiting with me until I was calm and ready to ride. That I feel a sense of community on Friday when I’m pushing through the crowds in the shuk, hoping to buy my groceries and race home to cook for Shabbat.

It’s just crazy that this is life now–that I go to work, and see friends, and keep appointments when there are these huge threats that exist. In some ways, I keep thinking, maybe nothing matters. Maybe we should all just drink up a storm and that’s it. But then I remember that I hate waking up with a headache and that anyway, it’s not going to make the problems go away.

It’s a crazy existence. But I guess that’s just life on steroids, which is what life in Israel is like. There’s always other stuff going on in people’s lives, but you just have to stay focused and keep moving ahead. And talk it out. And party.

This article was originally published on Pink Pangea, the magazine for women who love to travel.

About the Author
Rachel Sales is co-founder of Pink Pangea (, the magazine for women who love to travel. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. She currently lives in Israel.
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