Living in Tel Aviv has its advantages: big city living, exciting night life, great restaurants, beautiful beaches, and, most importantly, protection during a conflict with the territories... Or so I thought. Today, for the first time since the Gulf War with Iraq, missiles were successfully fired into Tel Aviv raising a city wide alert for citizens to take cover in whatever nearby bomb shelter they could find.
I had woken up that morning glued to the news to keep track of what was happening with operation "Pillar of Defense". The first reason being that I wanted to keep informed on the situation with calling back reserve soldiers since my roommates were in high ranking combat units when they served. Secondly, Gaza had issued a statement the moment Jabiri was killed stating that "Tel Aviv will burn", so naturally we were all wondering how empty or full the threat was. It is no secret that Gaza has procured Fajr missiles from Iran that have a range of up to 75km (well within the 70 km between Tel Aviv and Gaza), so we were all worried and concerned. The morning and afternoon passed with news of continuing rocket fire in the Southern cities of Ashkelon, Sdeort, Kirat Melachi, and others, and the first casualties on the Israeli side were announced. 2 women and 1 man were killed when a Hamas rocket hit an apartment building in Kiray Melachi, and a baby was critically wounded. Yet Tel Aviv was still safe.
It was the late afternoon and I had decided to clean the apartment for a little while because I was expecting company over before enjoying a night on the town. The news was on in the background, one of my roommates was home in the living room, and then we heard that a missile had just landed in Rishon Letziyon. Rishon is a mere 15 minutes away from Tel Aviv. We began to joke that soon we were going to have to have a slumber party in Gary's room (his room is our bomb shelter), and then we heard it... The air raid sirens began to sound in Tel Aviv. My heart started racing. Morgan and I quickly dropped what we were doing and headed straight into the shelter to wait out the siren. It is one of the strangest feelings to have to run and hide because you don't know if a missile will fall near where you are living. I felt like I was in a movie, and as an American I have never had to experience anything like this in my life. I certainly gained more of an appreciation for what people living in the South have to go through on almost a daily basis.
I was very scared, but not in the typical sense of the word. I wasn't scared that I was going to die, and I really didn't feel like I was in danger, but the whole atmosphere was tense in a way I have never felt before. Missiles have never landed in Tel Aviv and so this marked the start of a whole new type of conflict. My first instinct was to call Stephane and Ida. I hated not being with them during a time like this, and, of course, everyone in Tel Aviv was calling people so the phone services were all down. After a few frantic minutes I finally got through and discovered that everyone was fine and had taken cover. The next hour or so Morgan and I were waiting to see if the siren would sound again, and it was mutually decided that no one would be going out at night. The biggest question became would I go to Stephane's house to be with him and his family (despite the fact that they don't have a bomb shelter in their house), or would he come to me where there is a bomb shelter if necessary. Who could have guessed that that would be the biggest decision of the day...
Finally we decided that I would come to him so that he wouldn't have to leave his mom and 10 year old little brother. I didn't care. I just wanted to get to him so that if God forbid anything happened in the night we would be together. We talked about the plan if the sirens would go off in the middle of the night (his little brother's room is the safest place in the house to be), and then we watched the news for a little while before going to bed to see if there were any new updates. Thankfully Tel Aviv had a quiet night while Israel continued their strike on Gaza from the South. 11 rockets came into Israel but they did not reach Tel Aviv.
16,000 reserve troops have been called back to duty with the possibility that 30,000 will have to go and fight should this escalate to a ground operation and full on war. These next few days will be very tense and sensitive, and I can only sit by and watch, wait, and pray that it will end soon with few casualties. I will be writing updates every day on the situation from Tel Aviv so stay tuned!
Until we meet again <3,