I had some errands to run today in the neighbourhood commercial centre. It’s a ten to fifteen minute walk from there back to my home. Usually, I take my time on the way back, often stopping on the way to admire the view, or to take pictures of the birds in the trees that line the road, or the flowers that grow by the wayside, even struggling out of the cracks between the paving stones.
Today, however, was different. I was anxious to be home – where, in the event of a Code Red alert, I could quickly make my way to the relative safety of the bomb shelter. As I walked down a road which now seemed endless, instead of admiring the flora and fauna by the wayside, I found myself checking out possible places of shelter along my route, places I could reach within 90 seconds, should the sirens start their banshee wailing. Here, I could duck into an apartment block on the same side of the street – always assuming the entrance door was unlocked or that one of the residents would be home and near the intercom, and would open the door for me. Further along, I would have to drop my shopping bags, dash across the road and seek shelter in one of the buildings on the other side of the street. Would I be able to make it in 90 seconds, especially in the shoes I was wearing which were not exactly “made for walking”- or, at least, for running?
The last hundred yards before the turnoff from the main road to my own street were particularly nightmarish, as there are no buildings directly on the road. What is it they tell you to do in such circumstances? Lie down and cover your head? Or is it crouch down against a wall? I couldn’t remember.
Fortunately, before I had time to worry myself into a panic, I reached the turnoff. From there, it’s only two minutes walk to my own home, with several other possible places of relative safety on the way. As I walked into my apartment, where I was warmly greeted by my cats, I realised how lucky I was that I am still young enough and fit enough to be able to run, and that I have a whole minute and a half in which to do it. What if I were an elderly or handicapped person, or bedridden, and living in Sderot, where they have only 15 seconds to reach shelter?
We were lucky today, in Jerusalem. We have had two whole days without a Code Red alert. Much of the rest of the country was not so fortunate. Beersheba was targeted several times – and in the surrounding area, two little Bedouin girls, sisters, aged 13 and 11, were seriously wounded. The younger is in intensive care, having been wounded by a rocket fragment in her stomach. My aunt, who lives in Ashkelon, had lost count of the number of times she had had to race for cover (insofar as she is able to “race” – she is 85 years old) by the time I spoke to her on the phone early this evening.
However, now there is talk on the radio and television of a ceasefire. Yes, John Kerry and Tony Blair and all the rest are about to descend upon us. Where the hell were they in the week immediately preceding the start of Operation Protective Edge, when as many as 70 rockets were fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip in the course of a single day?
But now that Israel is defending herself – the whole world is falling over itself to broker a ceasefire.
Just like last time.
And the time before.
What is it they say?
Plus ça change and all that… ?