The first time I heard it was this past summer soon after we made aliyah in July, when its wail jolted me out of bed and I scrambled to wake my children and rush them to the hollow room while fear and confusion echoed off the cold tile floor.
And then, tonight: The second time. We stood in our living room with our kids, waiting, a hint of American uncertainty peeking through their new Israeli faces. We were still away on our Passover travels on Yom Hashoah so we missed it then, but we waited for it now.
And it began, the plaintive cry sounding more confident than last time. This one was expected, anticipated — but still oh so jarring. Loud. Powerful. The cry filled the darkness in the Judean hills out our window.
And the tears came.
I remembered the brave soldier Yuval whose shiva I went to the day after we landed and could feel his mother’s mournful embrace.
I remembered the lone soldier Max whose shiva I went to just two days later, where I waited on the endless line with a rainbow of Jews who joined together to show their respect and gratitude.
I remembered Shoshana, my utterly kind old friend from high school, her parents’ only child pregnant with her first child, murdered in the Sbarro Pizzera bombing.
I remembered Dalya, stabbed waiting for a ride, whose cousins had her over for dinner up the street not long before she was murdered.
And I remembered the boys I never met, boys who changed everything. The boys we didn’t have to remember last year. Ghosts who at times haunt my beautiful new life here. I especially pictured Naftali, whose aunt lives across the street, whose family we now call friends, a boy who must have played in front of my house with his cousins. And I remembered his mother, Racheli, who reassured me when I met her on my first Shabbat at home that she knows living here is still worth it, no matter the cost.
And then I remembered that my oldest son will join the army in a year’s time.
And I really, truly, felt Israeli.