Stay alert? What did that mean? I followed orders and made myself a strong cup of coffee.
If I lived in northern Israel, life would be dramatic and traumatic right now. But since I live in Ra’anana, a suburb just north of Tel Aviv, it is merely uncertain and unsettling.
These were supposed to be the relaxing boring days of summer – mornings with the kids in camp, afternoons lazing by the pool or at the beach. But since the war began, the routine is far less relaxing. I wake up, turn on the news, check where the overnight bombing take place, and make sure it’s OK to send the kids to summer camp.
The shock of the war took place on the third day, when the news came that Hezbollah was in possession of long-range missiles that could reach as far as Tel Aviv. All of a sudden it wasn’t about those poor folks up north. It was about us.
And we got the strangest instructions from the IDF: residents of Tel Aviv northward were told only to ‘stay alert’.
Stay alert? What did that mean? I followed orders and immediately made myself a strong cappuccino. OK, so I was alert. Now what? The order sounded suspiciously like the government was merely trying to stay, ‘if this happens, you can’t say we didn’t warn you, but really, we don’t have a clue’.
But I wanted specific instructions, darn it! Should I let the kids go play at their friends’ house or not? Go to the movies? Could I go grocery shopping or not? Was keeping my dentist appointment a risky venture?
Soon it became clear that everyone around me was functioning normally, going about their business, albeit ALERTLY. It wasn’t clear what good this would do if we were in the dentist’s waiting room and heard a siren for a one-minute warning till a missile hits.
When the crisis began, my first thoughts were for my friends in the northern part of the country, who I immediately called and asked if they wanted to stay with me. My friend Erika, who lives in Rosh Pina, thanked me for the offer and declined. She had moved her two kids to relatives in the center of the country, signed them up for day camp there, and then headed back up north to her house. She and her husband were determined not to be driven out.
But many people are saying yes to the offers of hospitality. There’s lots of enforced family togetherness around Israel these days, with northern relatives from Haifa or Tiberias or Safed coming to take refuge with their kin in the center and south of the country. Others are staying with generous strangers. People are definitely getting on each other’s nerves a bit, but with what’s going on, they keep the big picture in sight and are just happy to be alive and safe.
As for me, I won’t be driven out of Israel, even though I’ve got plenty of friends and family who would be happy to host us. The kids are on summer vacation anyway, they point out. Why don’t you come for a visit?
But I know that being overseas when something traumatic is happening to your homeland is harder than being there. So the kids are in camp, I’m by the pool, the beach – and the computer and the television set – watching, waiting, and of course, being alert.