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Sunday 13th July, 2014
Last night my children lost their air-raid siren virginity - sounds crass, I know, but there is nothing warm and fuzzy and innocent about your children hearing their first air-raid siren. They hurried to the mamad (a reinforced room, equivalent of a bomb shelter in newer homes and apartments, ours doubles as our guest room) - they walked, they did not run, they have been drilled. Mia (7) played with her cousins, Gili (5) immediately recited two chapters of Psalms (he's just that kind of kid) and Elli (2.5) played obliviously on the iPad. There were no booms, no scary sounds, no dramas. The ten mandatory minutes of residing in the mamad from the commencement of the siren passed, everyone returned to the usual bed-time routine. Shortly after - a second round - same routine, once again, there were no booms, no scary sounds, no dramas. Bedtime.
Since this all started nearly a week ago, Mia & Gilli have been sleeping in the mamad - two less children to collect in the middle of the night if a siren goes off, the naïve hope that we'll spare them trauma - that if there's a siren, maybe they won't even wake up if we don't have to move them.
I lay in bed, floating between sleep and wake-fullness, terrified that I might sleep through a siren. Exhausted body, restless mind. I toss and turn, my restlessness disturbing Moshi, he heads off to one of the kids empty beds to try and sleep what remains of the night.
5:30am. Awake. Hopes of any sleep long-gone, the night is over. I hear the pitter patter of Gili's feet climbing the stairs - he finds Moshi in his bed and lays down next to him.
5:59am I hear an unfamiliar sound in the distance, almost like a hiss, the sound is foreign, unidentified. A split second later, wailing sirens - I dash to Elli's room, I hear Moshi call my name, I sense his movements, a deafening whistling sound overhead. Sirens wailing. I feel around for Elli's blanky. I can't find her favourite bunny. No time. I hug her close, trying not to wake her. I have no recollection of how I got from her room upstairs to the entry of the mamad. I only remember thinking that I'm watching a woman in a movie running with her sleeping toddler, sirens, the deafening whistle overhead of a missile - this is not me, not my life. Bang. Moshi slams the mamad door behind me. I hold Elli close, her sweet breath on my neck, she cuddles me and continues to sleep. Mia turns in her sleep. Gilli lays there, eyes wide-open, no Psalm recitals this time. Boom. Boom. Boom. BOOM. Windows rattle. Too close. BOOM. Windows rattle. Too close. Silence. We wait. Five more minutes pass. Moshi thinks we can open the room. They say to wait ten minutes. I motion him to sit. Boom. Boom.
I'm not sending my kids to school and kinder today. I'm not. I don't care if the Home-front says I can. I'll stay with them until my babysitter arrives. I picture Mia's school - I cannot picture them gathering the children in 90 seconds to the bomb shelter. And that's if there is 90 seconds. We only had 30 seconds in the morning. The kids are happy to stay home with me, maybe not as happy as they would normally be to have a fun day with Mummy.
Moshi recites to me what Gili said to him just before the siren hit - they lay in bed, and Gili turns and says to him: "Daddy, I can hear a missile coming". Moshi retells that he looked at him in wonder and then the siren hit. He had heard the same distant hiss, the foreign sound that I could not identify, and he named it. My children have not watched even one TV or news report since this crisis started, they know what we have told them and what they have heard from their friends in the playground. Why at 5 years of age could my son identify the sound of something that I could not identify at 38 years of age?
I speak to my neighbor, he was watering his garden when the siren hit. Of course the whistle of the missile was deafening. He saw the iron dome missile pass above us, overhead, between our homes.
I call the hospital, delay my clinic to the afternoon, cancel some meetings.
I wanted to have a normal, fun day. No, they cannot go to the pool. No, they cannot go to the trampoline. We will have a normal, fun day - indoors. Playtime, pancakes, drawing, movies, popcorn, more movies. I'm not counting their screen-time today.
2:00pm. The babysitter arrives, Mia and Elli play, I cuddle and kiss them. Gili has fallen asleep in the mamad. Exhausted. I gaze at him, I don't want to disturb his sleep.
I leave for the hospital - if I drive at a legal speed it'll take me 35 minutes, if I drive faster I can do it in less. I drive faster. I should have kissed Gili. I feel my body tense. Please no air-raid sirens while I'm on the highway. I know what I have to do if it happens. I don't want to do it. Please no sirens. I don't want to stop my car, lay down on the hot asphalt and cover my head with my hands. My hands were not made to protect my head. I pass a truck carrying domestic size gas canisters. Please no siren. Not now. Really bad time for a siren. No siren.
I arrive at the clinic, I apologize to the new patient for delaying the appointment from the morning. We had a siren, my children are young, I didn't want to send them to school/kinder. The patient and her husband smile knowingly, their eyes full of compassion and understanding. I look down at the patient file, she is from Kibbutz Nitsanim. I cringe. Kibbutz Nitsanim borders on Gaza - what I experienced this morning has been their daily reality for the past many years, and since the crisis started last week they have had up to 70 rocket missiles a day shot to their area. I apologize. I shift in my chair. We had one siren today. They reassure me.
I start her intake. She has come to us in order to participate in a clinical trial. She has three children. She wants to live. She will be randomized to a standard treatment or a new biological agent that may further improve her chances for cure. I explain to her what randomization means. It's like the role of a dice. She could explain to me what randomization means, their day-to-day reality is like the role of a dice. Yes, yes, it's true for all of us - but it's not.
The clinic ends. A siren. It's twice as long as usual. It doesn't seem to end. Boom - distant. BOOM - closer. BOOOOM - too close. I should have kissed Gili.
I call home - no sirens there.
I keep working. I work on my laptop. Occasionally my eyes dart to the PC screen on my desk, to the news page - sirens over my home. I call home - everyone is fine, no booms.
11pm. I arrive home. I kiss sleeping Gili.
Bed. Exhausted. Heavy heart. Heavy mind. Please sleep - arrive! I will wake up if there's a siren.
I think of our children. I think of theirs.
I want to sleep.
I want to awake in the morning to the pitter-patter of feet, to long cuddles. To quiet skies.
I want to wake up to mundane routine.