Even though this isn’t the first time it’s happened, rockets flying over Tel Aviv isn’t something we’re exactly used to—or so we tell ourselves. The sound of the first siren brings with it a feeling of surprise, confusion, and slight embarrassment. This is, after all, the time when neighbors you hardly say hello to in the elevator suddenly see you in your pajamas.
The sound of the first siren in Tel Aviv, which went off Tuesday evening, was especially confusing. Truthfully, it sounded more like howling wind than an actual siren. After a few moments of “Is it?/Isn’t it?”we decided that it probably is, meaning we’d better round everyone up and at least go to the stairwell (we live on the top floor of our building, to expect to actually get to the bomb shelter on time is pretty naïve), which is supposed to be the safest place in an apartment building.
After a few moments of hesitation and confusion, and a lot of running back and forth—should we turn off the A/C? Does the kid need his sandals? Where is his pacifier? Where are my keys?—we’re finally out the door. We’re immediately greeted by neighbors, as unkempt and confused as we are. Everyone tries to play it cool, making jokes and small talk.
We hear the first boom, and then the second one. We assume this means that Iron Dome intercepted the rocket, so we head back to the apartment. The kid, who was all excited about going to the bomb shelter, is utterly crushed that we didn’t get there. Telling him that there was no need doesn’t make him feel any better: “But I wanted to!”
The next few hours are spent in mild shock, disguised by attempting to adopt a business-as-usual mode. We finally decide to watch a movie, to distract us so we don’t have to think about or discuss what’s going on, but as soon as we turn the DVD on we hear a boom. And then another one. What was that? How come we didn’t hear a siren?
We try to check what’s going on. These days the number one source of information isn’t the television–it’s Facebook and WhatsApp, the most popular smartphone messaging service in Israel. One friend on WhatsApp informs everyone that her mother, who lives in the north of the city, heard the siren that the rest of us hadn’t. The first response is rage at the system’s apparent malfunction. On the other hand, since this rocket was obviously intercepted as well, isn’t it better that we didn’t wake the kid up for nothing?
It’s clear we’re not going to watch a movie tonight, so we start channel-surfing, searching for the least irritating news broadcast. After a while the newscasters finally address the issue of the non-audible siren: they say we didn’t hear it because we weren’t supposed to, the rocket wasn’t heading to our area of Tel Aviv. Friends on Whatsapp seem skeptical. Someone tells us about a smartphone app called Red Alert, which is supposed to inform users of rockets in your area.
At 11 p.m. last night, many people in Tel Aviv tuned out the rockets and what’s going on in Gaza, opting instead to watch the World Cup semifinals and cling to normality and sanity for a little while. But 85 minutes later Tel Aviv was even more in shock—we might not be entirely used to rockets flying over Tel Aviv, but even that isn’t as rare and unbelievable an occurrence as Germany trouncing Brazil 7-1 in the semifinals.