Tonight I heard a rocket land

Tonight I heard a rocket land a few kilometres from where I live. I was walking through a park by the sea with my friend, enjoying the cool night air and chatting about work and life, when the air-raid siren sounded. We are both from overseas but we’ve lived in Tel Aviv for a few years now, so we know the loud wailing sound of the sirens from drills and remembrance days, when they play it during the minute of silence.

Living in Tel Aviv is like living in a bubble. The Israelis living near Gaza are used to sirens and going to bomb shelters, but we don’t even know where our local shelter is. The Hamas might fire rockets from Gaza but they never reach Tel Aviv, everyone knows that. Until now. In an instant we realised that our Tel Avivian bubble had burst.

When the siren went off we didn’t know what to do. I became very calm and started walking towards buildings. I looked around me, to see what other people were doing, but there was no one around us. I looked to the southern sky, towards Gaza, expecting to see something, but of course there was nothing. There was a group of people doing yoga on the grass up ahead. They had been doing yoga, but now half of them were sitting still, looking confused, and half were hurrying somewhere, and I thought maybe they were going to a shelter. We got closer and saw that actually they were just crouching a low wall. We decided to head towards the hotel in front of us which would have a shelter. But then the siren stopped. So we decided to walk home.

My husband called me a few moments later, once he got through on the jammed networks. I said I was fine, but of course I was in shock. He said he’d met the neighbours, that it was nice to finally meet the people that live around us after 3 years in the building. My Israeli husband seemed to be reacting to rockets just like he did in 1991, the last time rockets fell on Tel Aviv, during the gulf war. He’s 13 again, and for him air-raid sirens are exciting, filled with new opportunities to meet the neighbours and who knows what else.

For me, these rockets make me realise that living in Tel Aviv has got a very sharp, real edge to it – we are living next to desperate people, and some fanatics, and the governments are not trying to make peace. And the worse thing for me is to think about my friends and family who aren’t here and who are worrying about us. Because being here, where it is happening, we know things are ok because an hour after we’ve heard a rocket fall we can go and sit with dozens of other people in a local restaurant and eat delicious sushi. Life goes on.

My husband and I are people who want a peace treaty with the Palestinians, we wish for peace in the Middle East, we think the Israeli government is not doing enough to work towards peace, and neither is Hamas, and that makes us sad. But we love living in Tel Aviv, it’s a vibrant city filled with fabulous people, great food and nice beaches. I get around the city on my bicycle. I study Hebrew and work as a freelancer. I know that Gaza is only 80km away from where I live. I know that regular people there live with little hope for the future and it makes me very sad. It makes me sad that people in Israel and Gaza are dying in rocket attacks. There is a lot to be sad about in this region.

If a rocket fell a few kilometres from your house, what would you do? Leave the area? Leave the country? Move to Australia like we could? Or go home and keep on doing the work that you’re getting paid for, go out with friends, and try to live. No one tells you what to do, you just keep going until you don’t feel safe any more. And I’m hoping like hell that I don’t ever feel that way in Tel Aviv.

 

Jo Savill is a writer, science communicator and entrepreneur. Originally from Australia, Jo now lives in Tel Aviv with her Israeli husband. Stay up to date with Jo’s writing by signing up to her newsletter
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