Thousands of people heard the alarm. It is a voice suddenly announcing “Tzeva Adom, Tzeva Adom, Tzeva Adom” (Color Red, Color Red, Color Red – or Red Alert, Red Alert, Red Alert). The voice is calm but insistent. I’ve heard it a few times.
In some places, it can be a siren. It wails loud and clear and your heart begins to race and your brain kicks in as soon as recognition is made. Run. Grab your children and run. Get to safety. A safe room and close the door. A staircase away from windows. Against a wall and bend down. Out in the open – lay down and cover your head. Run. You have 60 seconds. You have 30 seconds. You have 20 seconds. Even an Olympic runner wouldn’t make it.
Listen for the boom. Wait for it. And when you hear it. You gasp in shock. Which is silly because you were waiting for it, anticipating it, right? And still you gasp in shock. And in the silence, the follows the boom, you think. Where is she? Where is he?
A friend who lives very close to Sderot wrote that she was caught outside during the latest attack. She had no choice but to lie on the ground. She felt it shake when the missile landed – inside a city, close to a school.
Another friend wrote that she could feel her house shake.
In my little country today, we were hit by a missile. The siren sounded; the red alert was announced. Children, panicked and frightened, were hurried into bomb shelters. There is no time to explain, no time to deal with their fears. When Aliza was nine years old, in third grade, in the middle of a war where her oldest brother was fighting, an alarm was sounded. It was 2009 and the Gaza war had yet to hit Jerusalem – that would happen in 2012 and 2014, but in 2009, we still believed we were out of range. And then, the siren sounded.
I was in Jerusalem and I heard it. Somehow I knew it was a mistake but I watched from the shelter of my office as others stopped, looked up, and then continued on their way. In the schools, it was a different story. They couldn’t afford to ignore the siren and so they correctly treated it as an attack and rushed the children to shelter.
There was no time to worry about a third grader, or in this case three third grade girls who were frightened and had been separated from their class. Teachers correctly grabbed them and corraled them with their own classes into bomb shelters. But when the doors closed, they had their hands full with terrified first and second graders and no one had time to deal with three crying third graders.
And so she came home and told me about the alarm. Today, more children were terrified, parents worried. The missile came barreling in – this time, they didn’t miss. They hit a city with tens of thousands of people…not far from a school.
Imagine if the same thing happened in your country. Imagine if it was your child’s school. Imagine if you were caught in the open with nowhere to go and 20 seconds to react and find a way to save your life.
My little country is angry tonight; angry for the people in the south who are starting this new year as they have started and ended so many others – under the constant threat of an enemy who believes it is holy and right to attack innocent people while much of the world simply ignores this latest crime.Paula Stern