Jameel of the Muquata blog advised his readers to take the national emergency drill seriously yesterday; today he provides a retrospective look at danger from the skies. Didn’t know if to laugh or sigh…did both.
Archive for June 2nd, 2009
Early this morning, I was out in the street. I went to the clinic for a blood test, had breakfast at a sidewalk cafe, strolled through the shuk. I put my head in the doorway of a favorite small store, bought a bottle of mineral water from the falafel stand. A normal day, getting hotter as the morning wore on. Everything as usual. But in stores with radios turned on I heard broadcasts in Hebrew and Russian instructing folks to go into shelters at 11:00 for the national emergency drill.
I looked around at sidewalks crowded with busy people, at the abundance of fresh food everywhere. Myriad shops open for business. Traffic flowing on our well-maintained streets. It seemed incredible that missiles would ever land here to crush living people and burn buildings; to destroy this normal existence. And because I’m curious, and because I wanted to blog about this, I started asking people what they intended to do when the siren sounded.
It’s a very loud, urgent, scary wail. When it resounds across the country to remind us of our dead, it does sound like crying. I suppose it’s because we ourselves are weeping then. But in a real emergency, when adrenalin is pouring through the blood and our hearts are jumping, it sounds like a wavering howl. I wonder how many ignored it today and just got on with whatever they were doing, and how many complied with the Home Front’s orders.
At the clinic, I saw signs with arrows pointing to the safe areas. Banks, supermarkets – big, organized places – and certainly schools, complied. However many individuals that I talked to today took a cynical view of the drill. My friend in the second-hand store told me that it’s just the government’s way of covering its back: “They don’t help in emergencies. They’re just doing this so they can say ‘We gave instructions and did our bit.’ ” (I don’t agree; the government does protect the population as far as possible in war.) “Anyway,” he added, “I’m not going to close shop and go to the shelter just for a drill. Who wants to look like a fool on the street?”
The owner of the falafel store, an older man, said that the nearby shelter is filthy and crammed with junk. That’s probably true: I’ve been hearing several people complain of that. My own building’s shelter has piles of old lumber in it put there by a resident who stubbornly refuses to clear it out.
“In any case, the real thing is very different from a drill,” said the falafel man.”Believe me, I know.”
In spite of the bright sun shining on us, a little chill went through me.
One blogger commented that “Anglos” are used to emergency drills in school and have no problem complying with orders. That’s probably so. But I found it discouraging that so many Israelis, so many of whom have lived through the country’s wars, shrug their shoulders and shut their minds off to the very real threat coming from Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza today.
Myself, over time I’ve come to believe that anything is possible and that she who prepares is more likely to survive. Nothing you can do about force majeur, of course (French for when G-d’s hand lies heavy on you).
I was tempted to go to the supermarket to observe how people would take the drill. On second thought, I went home to go through it there, so that if there should ever be a real missile strike, emergency procedure would be imprinted on my memory.
When the siren went off, I was typing away here. My husband is home with a cold, so together we turned off the air conditioning, took the key to the shelter from its hook in the kitchen, grabbed our bag containing flashlight, water, and radio, and headed downstairs. Since we’re on the first floor, we made it in 1 1/2 minutes. We were the only two people in the shelter. I figure that we may have been the only two people in the building, because everyone else would be at work or school.
I turned the radio on. They were broadcasting the hourly news. Not a word about the drill; no instructions. We stood in the dirty, unpleasant shelter for 10 minutes, fiddling with the radio to get a station broadcasting something related to what was supposed to be happening around the country. We got only one station giving updates. At the end of 10 minutes, we were told to leave the shelters and go about our day as usual. A little frustrating – I expected, maybe naively, that the radio and TV would uniformly interrupt normal transmissions to talk about emergency preparation, or count off the time remaining, or something. I did feel a little foolish.
But I’ve learned a few important things.
One: it takes very little time to get into the shelter if the emergency kit is by the door.
Two: I’m going to call 106 and complain to the municipality about the state of our shelter. Missiles strikes happen in the middle of the night too, not just in daylight when you’re conveniently dressed and ready for action. Imagine 20 or so scared, shaken people forced out of bed to stand together for an unpredictable length of time in a dank, dirty, closed space.
Three: lots of people are in denial over the things that threaten us.
Ignore those who would talk you out of it, take responsibility, and be prepared.
Update: November 15, 2009
We have since moved out of that apartment. Before we left, Home Front inspectors came to the building, surveyed the shelter, and said they’d slap a fine on all the tenants. The neighbor cleaned up. But he won’t talk to me anymore. Oh, well.
The new apartment has a mamad – a strong room of reinforced concrete. I use it as my office.