Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tel Aviv Journal: Life with Air Raids

video

My super short video of air raid sirens in
Tel Aviv on July 12, 2014


I've been home in Chicago now for a while but I kept a journal of daily life in Tel Aviv once the air raids started, and I want to share that here, mainly for myself so that I don't forget. The main after-effect for me of that experience is that each time an ambulance siren wails here in Chicago, I jump. See my last entry for July 16.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Email instructions arrive from our landlord:

"In the event of a siren, please follow these instructions:
The threat is a CONVENTIONAL threat, not biological or chemical.
Our building, like most in downtown Tel Aviv, is an older one without a bomb shelter. 
There is a bomb shelter across the street at the school.
The stairwell, away from the windows, on the 1st floor (2 flights down from the penthouse, one flight up from street level) is also secure. 
Tel Aviv residents have 90 seconds in the event of a siren to react.
This is time enough to find shelter and to avoid windows etc."

More info at IDF's Home Front Command.

I think to myself: Good thing it's only "conventional" and we don't have to find a sealed room and don gas masks.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

7:04 p.m. Code Red sounded in Tel Aviv for the first time since Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. Iron Dome intercepted the rocket south of Tel Aviv. (Jerusalem Post  Live Blog)

Wow, this is actually happening! As the sirens wail, I grab key and phone, and text my husband in Chicago, “Sirens over Tel Aviv.” My daughter yanks the stubborn apartment door and we run down the stairs. Neighbors are gathering on the 2nd floor landing, our building's official secure spot. Some speak English and we chat. Everybody is tapping a phone. Boom! People look up. Does this mean the Iron Dome held? Eventually everybody disperses. As we climb up, my daughter says, “Well, at least we met the neighbors.” 

At 11 p.m. we watch the World Cup semi-final game between Germany and Brazil and what a distraction that proves to be! 7:1 for Germany. Phew, how much extra-ordinariness can you pack into one day, one evening?


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

8:43 a.m. In Tel Aviv, explosions were heard immediately after the sirens. The Iron Dome system intercepted five missiles over the metropolitan Tel Aviv area. (Jerusalem Post  Live Blog)

When the sirens howl again at 8:30 in the morning, I’m in my bra, my mouth full of toothpaste, rushing to make another 9:00 a.m. appointment with the Israeli bureaucracy. I struggle into a t-shirt, and we gather on the landing with our neighbors. Everybody is in PJs, lounge wear, or bath robes. One guy brings his coffee; another is wrapped in a bed sheet.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

8:04 a.m. The Iron Dome anti-rocket battery intercepted four missiles over Tel Aviv, Channel 2 is reporting. Residents of the city rushed into shelters as warning sirens wailed. The sirens were immediately followed by explosions, most likely the sound of the rockets being intercepted. (Jerusalem Post  Live Blog)

While I review the draft for my Tablet article on this situation, sirens interrupt. The irony! This morning the booms sound closer than before. One neighbor jokes, “This is to make sure we get up in the morning.” As my daughter leaves for the visa office, I ask, “Do you know what to do when sirens sound again?” She nods and is off.

11:31 a.m.  A Code red rocket alert siren sounds in the Greater Tel Aviv area. At least two audible explosions were heard following the alarm. (Jerusalem Post  Live Blog)

I'm home alone as the sirens go off, but at least I know from texting with my daughter just a few minutes earlier that she is in a government building.


Friday, July 11, 2014

8:53 p.m.    Two rockets fired by Palestinians in Gaza intercepted over Tel Aviv (Jerusalem Post  Live Blog)

I have just toweled off after taking a shower. I struggle into a big t-shirt; my hair is still in a turban. Off we go down the stairs. One neighbor is in a bathrobe and her hair is wet; she says that she’d been thinking, “Please, just let me finish this shower.” She invites us to come by tomorrow because our A/C is acting up and they keep Shabbat and are bored anyway.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

9:21 p.m.     After Hamas advance notice, rockets intercepted over Tel Aviv area (Jerusalem Post  Live Blog)

It's been quiet all day, oddly quiet actually, but then as we are chatting on the rooftop terrace after dinner, the sirens go off. I grab my phone and quickly make video of the dark night over Tel Aviv to capture the howling, then stumble down the staircase. Some of the stairwell lights aren’t working (mental note: dig flashlight out of my purse). This is the first time we are doing this after it's really dark outside. The landing is empty! Apparently all neighbors have gone out, which makes sense as it’s after Shabbat, the main time to go out in Tel Aviv. We were supposed to go out, too, but our friend got sick and so we stayed home and had a lazy dinner on the deck.  We’re just about settled back into apartment life when the sirens wail again, two alarms on top of each other, which is a first. I still haven’t taken out the flashlight, so we tumble down the dark stairs without it. One thing about living with air raids: you live in the moment, in the here and now!


Sunday, July 13, 2014

4:30 p.m.    The Iron Dome rocket defense system intercepted rockets over the greater Tel Aviv area on Sunday afternoon as Israel came under a wide-ranging attack from Gaza. (Jerusalem Post article)

In the afternoon I take a cab to one of the eastern suburbs to meet a friend and worry the entire ride that I might have to scramble for cover with the cab driver (what an odd bonding experience that would be!), but sirens actually go off for the first time today as I am paying at the café. So my friend and I get the extra bonding experience of filing into an underground parking garage with a bunch of other mall goers. One elderly lady is having a hard time making it down the steps and I wonder how many old people struggle with this.


Monday, July 14, 2014

4:59 p.m.    Several blasts were heard as air raid sirens were sounded in the greater Tel Aviv area, warning of a rocket attack. (Jerusalem Post  Live Blog)

Sirens blare as my daughter and I are both home but about to go out on an errand. On the landing we meet our American neighbor and her three kids, who all stand about smiling and in good spirits. The mother looks sleepy; the sirens woke her up from a nap. She jokes that clearly Hamas does not want her to nap because yesterday the sirens also went off when she was trying to nap. We stand about for a few minutes after the boom because now we've learned that you're supposed to wait a few minutes as shrapnel can fall from the explosion.

PS: This entire week in Tel Aviv, I was worried that the sirens would go off while I was in the shower. Turns out the attack on my shower was closer to home: This evening a giant cockroach was twirling its antennas on my shampoo bottle, which of course I didn't see until I was all wet and soapy and about to wash my hair. The ensuing battle had my eyes stinging with soap, the shower flooding the bathroom and me groping about to find my slipper to clobber the thing. I did, and what a satisfying whack it was!


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I'm scheduled to fly back to Chicago today. At the airport I notice "Shelter" signs close to all emergency exits. The entire time at the airport I wonder what would happen if the sirens went off while checking in (we just leave the luggage, right?), or worse, while already on the plane, waiting to taxi? Thankfully, it remains quiet and my flight takes off without interruption.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I'm in my kitchen at home, the porch door is open. A siren wails and I jump up, groping for my phone, ready to make for the stairwell. But then I realize it's just a Chicago ambulance whose wail sounds remarkably like an Israeli air raid siren, except its pitch is a little higher. I exhale, sit down and text my daughter back in Tel Aviv that now Chicago ambulance sirens send me into a tizzy, and she texts back, "You've been retrained."


Friday, July 25, 2014

Writer-in-Residence at the Hemingway Foundation


My big news since returning from Tel Aviv: I will be the 2014-15 writer-in-residence at the Hemingway Foundation! This entails having a studio up under the roof of Hemingway's birthplace home in Oak Park, Illinois. What could be cooler than writing from Hemingway's attic? It's just a tad intimidating, actually...

My responsibilities also include offering community programming, and my head is already churning with ideas. I haven't even seen the space yet, but before the cocktail party announcing my residency last weekend, I walked by the house and took this shot. More to follow on this once I've "moved in!"


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sirens over Tel Aviv




This is the Tel Aviv building where we are currently staying on the top floor - the penthouse is set back so you can't see it from the street, plus it's rather small. As an architecture aficionado, I thought it would be cool to live in a Bauhaus building, but that also means as an older building it has no bomb shelter. When sirens sound, we huddle in the stairwell with our neighbors, a stairwell that, as you can see, features a column of class windowswhich is not exactly explosion-friendly either.

I was going to continue with my Manaus journal, but alas, with air raid sirens howling on a daily basis while I am in Tel Aviv, life has become absorbing in other ways!

In fact, Tablet Magazine has just published my eye witness report: An American Mother Visits Israel on a Mission. Mosey on over there because this Tel Aviv visit is a mighty odd convergence of choice and purpose for me.