This past Tuesday, as part of a Home Front Command precautionary drill, two rocket warning sirens were briefly activated throughout Israel. At the time of them both, I was walking on Yerushalaim Avenue, a main boulevard in Jaffa. The mixed Jewish-Arab population of this coastal city makes it a particularly interesting location to be in at the time of this exercise.
As the first siren sounded, I passed by a middle-aged Jewish Israeli woman waiting at a bus stop. After having made eye contact, she anxiously expressed her fear of the sirens to me. In an attempt to calm her worry, I assured the woman, who was perhaps unaware, that these sirens were merely part of a national drill. The frightened lady responded that she knew.
During the blare of the second alarm, I walked by a hijab-wearing Arab woman, whose appearance suggested that she was roughly the same age as the startled Jewish woman who I had previously encountered. She gazed at me with a facial expression of despair. This unspoken gesture spoke for itself.
Both the Jewish woman’s fear and the Arab lady’s sense of despair are not groundless. The collective anxiety is induced by the sirens’ frightening reminder of periods of conflict. For me, these sirens pierce memories of helplessly running for shelter amid rocket attacks in 2012 and 2014. Likewise, a reality agonized by perpetual warfare shatters hope and compels both peoples to remain apathetic in the interim between rounds of violence. It is my hope that these sirens’ shrill sounds may evoke the need for all parties to urgently do their utmost to prevent the next conflict. Then, maybe — just maybe — there won’t be a need for these sirens.