75 minutes: my first time in a bomb shelter
When making the decision to move our family to Israel, we took so many factors into consideration — the proximity to family, the weather, the fresh food and delicious coffee, the nature and the warmth of the social construct. But we couldn’t ignore the terror attacks and Israel’s disunity with its neighbors and some of its own citizens. We weighed the pros and cons day after day, week after week, until finally deciding that moving felt right for us.
Despite moving here in early 2015, on the heels of the 2014 Gaza War, up until two nights ago, we had yet to experience any of the true downsides of living in Israel. There are endless things that make living in Israel challenging, but it is easier to talk about the good things. Until a siren rings and breaks the silence of the night and you understand rockets have been fired in the direction of you and your family.
When the first siren rang, my youngest was asleep and my two older children had just arrived home from an acrobatics class. I had just run across the way to sit with a friend who was having a hard night and asked if we could talk. The moment I opened her door, the first siren rang out. We jumped into her mamad, the room inside her apartment that serves as a bomb shelter, and frantically started calling people and hugging and crying. After two sirens and multiple booms, my husband picked up and I decided to run home. As I ran between our buildings, the sirens continued to sound and booms exploded. I ran straight into our bomb shelter, on the ground floor of our apartment building. It was without question, the scariest 90 seconds of my life. I was less afraid of the physical danger and more heartbroken not to be next to my babies.
When I arrived, Oded, my husband, was there with our three children. Yuval, the youngest, had been woken from a deep sleep and was completely disoriented. Maya, our 8 year old, was shaking and crying and just wanted to be hugged. And Aviv, our almost 10 year old, asked an endless stream of questions that we did our best to answer. Within minutes we were joined by a neighbor and his dog and a food delivery man who jumped off his bike and ran to the closest shelter. The room itself is large and filled with moldy furniture covered in pet hair. At first, the lights didn’t work but within an hour, someone brought new light bulbs.
For 75 minutes, we huddled together in the miklat, listening as Iron Dome sent missiles into the air to defend against the missiles that were being sent our way. Close to 500 missiles were sent from Gaza towards the center of Israel. Sirens rang from Netanya all the way south to Gaza, alerting roughly two thirds of Israel’s population to take cover. Each new noise sent fear into each of us, and we hugged and talked and waited for it to end. By 10 PM, we came back upstairs and put the kids to sleep. We packed a bag full of water and snacks and sweatshirts in case we had to go back to the shelter. Next, we opened the glass portion of the windows and closed the shades so as to prevent any glass explosions in case something exploded close by. I spoke to my father, who managed the experience in the bomb shelter in his own building, and encouraged him to pack snacks and open the glass portion of his windows as well.
The kids fell asleep without issue and Oded and I lay on top of the comforter, doing our best to quiet our thoughts and get some rest. At 3 AM, the sirens rang again and we jumped from bed, grabbed the kids and our bag of supplies, flew down the stairs, and waited for the booms. We spent less than an hour in the shelter before returning to bed and trying once again to sleep. Hours later, we woke to sunshine and birds, a seemingly normal day. But it is not normal to explain sirens and missiles and defense systems to tiny children. To convince them of their safety. To miss another day of school after an already upside down year. But this is the reality.
As a citizen of Israel and a native American, as a mom, a wife, a daughter and as someone who was raised to pursue justice, this situation is incomprehensible. There is injustice all around. Sadness. Fear. Terror. Today, my heart is with every person who feels those emotions.