A playground in Jerusalem
We had been on the slide, ate some snacks, people watched, and ran up and down a wall jumping over bushes. My two-year-old and I were having a great time and just about to hang from some of the gymnastic bars in the park when suddenly around seven in the evening the warning siren wailed through the city -and the playground.
It’s Saturday afternoon when the parks in places with heavily populated religious neighborhoods like Jerusalem are filled not just with kids and one parent or a babysitter but entire families. It’s a magical time when unlike the rest of the week there’s few cell phones (if any) and the only distractions are waiting for the swing or see-saw to be available.
And then the alarm was sounded and of the hundred or so people men, woman, and children looked up, grabbed each other, and ran for the nearest shelter. For most of us it turned out to be Sephardi synagogue just at the end of the park. Any old building entrance would have done the job but that was what was in sight and that’s where everyone ran.
I picked up my daughter as she grasped a small piece of bark she was playing with and darted like everyone else up the stairs outside the synagogue and into it’s confines.
1 Minute, 30 Seconds Till Impact
In Jerusalem the time allotted to finding a safe place from rockets fired from Gaza is about a minute and a half, eons compared to the fifteen seconds some communities in Israel’s south have.
Still, whenever the clock starts ticking if you’re outside in the open you feel greater urgency to take cover than when being in a building only a few steps from a stairwell or true bomb shelter.
That being the case, we piled into the synagogue just as the congregation was finishing the afternoon prayers.
Some of us park dwellers seemed nervous, others were just being precautionary, and the regulars at the synagogue looked around as they tried to finish the final prayer. No one flinched.
At least that’s what one person said they heard.
As it had done several times this past week the Iron Dome missile shield intercepted several rockets in the capital’s vicinity prior to their having a chance to land in population centers.
Personally, I didn’t hear anything but stayed in a secure corner for a few extra seconds. And then we were back in the playground climbing on the bars in no time.
When do the gloves come off?
Luckily Jerusalem isn’t a major target area for Hamas but more like a ‘let’s see what we can hit’ approach and sometimes they surprise themselves. They surprise us too because we’re not expecting such events here.
Probably the most surprised people are in Arab towns which end up being the address for most of the rockets launched in this direction. One even landed by some bedouin near the Dead Sea last week.
In any case, a week into this conflict and my big question remains: when do the gloves come off?
They didn’t come off when the first mortars and missiles hit us after the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, they didn’t come off when the Gaza border town of Sderot was pummeled on numerous occasions, they didn’t come off when rockets originally hit Ashkelon and Ashdod several years back, and with rockets hitting as far north as Zichron Yaacov they still have not come off.
Even if those heavyweight gloves come off in the days to come why, why did it take so long?
Why have we been letting parents and children run from playgrounds to shelters for so long?