Who do you grab first, running to the shelter?

“When you have seven children, and you must run to the shelter, who do you grab first?” –  an American woman asked me this question a few months ago when rockets were falling on the South of Israel. The question, this unresolved dilemma, and the image came back to me in the last few days. “Who do you grab first?”

Two nights ago, I was listening to 88FM, in my apartment in Tel Aviv, when suddenly, in the middle of a Rod Stewart’s song I heard a siren from the radio. I did not hear it outside, from the street. For the moment I was paralyzed. Is there a siren or not? Should I go to the stairway? The radio speaker said in Hebrew: “A siren in Ashdod, go to the shelter in Ashdod.” And the song continued… Rockets, after rockets were breaking next songs. All I could think of was if people in Ashdod made it to the shelter.

Yesterday, I learned that my 80-year-old aunt of my friend, broke her leg running to the shelter that night.

We hear about people who were killed, but we do not hear how many were injured, and how many will develop PTSD, after running to shelters, again, and again.

Last summer, I visited the biggest indoor playground – a shelter, built by the Jewish National Found in Sderot, in the South of Israel. Many people told me, how impressive it was. To me, it was the most depressing thing I have ever seen. Depressing, because of the need to build this enormous shelter, in order to give children a chance to be children in the city, so often being attacked by rockets for Gaza.

That day, I spoke to a woman working there, a mother of three boys. She told me, that there are nights when they sleep in the shelter room, in order not to run many times at night. “My oldest boy doesn’t want to get up sometimes, and we have just seconds to save our lives” – she said.  And no, they cannot get you used to live under rocket attacks. But they have no other choice.

A few months later, on a sunny day in November 2018, I was going to meet and interview a group of 36 women of Queen of Sheba, a philanthropy program of Jewish National Fund. In the same shelter. But the sudden rain of rockets from Gaza, over 400 rockets – only in 24 hours before our meeting, demanded the quick change of the plan. Instead of Sderot, where those women were going to paint this bomb shelter, I met them in Rehovot, at the Ayalon Institute, the historical bullet factory.

The history and the present situation were unfortunately very close. In Rehovot, eight meters underground the museum guide was telling the story of the secret production of bullets that served the Independence War, at the same time rockets were falling on Israel, in the South. Children were hiding at that enormous playground – shelter. Not for fun, but to stay alive.

During last few days around 700 rockets have been fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip.  In the week between Yom HaShoah, when we remember our families murdered in the Holocaust, and Yom HaZikaron — the fallen soldiers, Israel is again under attack. People are being hurt and killed.

I repeat the question: “When you have seven children, and you must run to the shelter, who do you grab first?”

About the Author
By education, Basia Monka is a psychologist. In Poland, she has worked as a journalist, an assistant director, and a Jewish educator; In Israel, she was a travel agent and a searcher of the unknown in the future. Always, she is passionate about culture and traveling.
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