We were fighting the bed battle. The “why do you always have to hog the blanket” – “why do you take up so much space” – the “take your elbow off my pillow” one. We were tired and dawn was just breaking, so it was a battle fought in silence. I reclaimed my pillow under his elbow. He kneed me closer to the edge of the bed. The race for territorial control over the mattress left us both more alert than we otherwise would have been at 5.25 am.
At 5.30 the Tzeva Adom (Color Red) alert sounded. Two-toned sirens began to wail. I had always wondered whether I would hear them at night, given that I am a heavy sleeper.
There is no missing these sirens. This type of alert indicates there is an incoming missile. I reached for my pink slippers, remembering what a former boss said was the Number One Rule of Conflict Zones: Always wear shoes. The neighbors were making their way down the stairs to the bomb shelter. Until a week ago, a closet blocked the entrance to it. The space has now been cleared and we all file in. Elijah stands near the door as the siren goes quiet.
Seconds later, we hear the rocket hit the ground. A muffled boom, followed by another. In Walking Israel, former NBC News Tel Aviv Bureau Chief Martin Fletcher narrates his passage through coastal and southern Israel as such:
An elderly man sitting alone calmly informed me, as the stranger in town, while we waited for the rocket to hit. “If it’s a quiet thud, it means it fell in a field. If it’s a sharp crack, it fell in the street. And if it’s a whine and a whoosh, you’re dead!” We all laughed and cocked our ears like terriers. I hadn’t learned this from walking down the coast, and I wondered which was closer to the true nature of life in Israel – lazing on the beach with a book or running to the bomb shelter with a baby? And if it’s a bit of both, then truly, this place must drive you crazy – like a serial bungee jumper guessing when the rope will break.
Like anyone who has experienced that Israel, I too surrender to its beauty. This weekend, an old friend of Elijah’s came to town and made it his business to bring the beauty to us, or us to the beauty. We drove and drove: from the sandy hills of the Negev Desert to the Mitzpe Ramon crater, to the southernmost tip of the country, to the lowest point on Earth, to the beaches of Yafo. We touched the Dead Sea, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean in 24 hours. We saw a pink, full moon rising behind the Jordanian mountains and over the Dead Sea. We bobbed happily in saltwater.It was magic – and it is magic that feeds my faith in humanity when the sirens rouse me from the bed.