My Israeli husband and I, along with our kids, made aliyah two months ago. Our new neighborhood, a sleepy suburb of Tel Aviv, has been disrupted several times a day by the sound of a long piercing siren. Our 3-year-old twins, born and raised in New York, refer to the sirens as “a big fire truck,” but this time was different.
I was caught outside alone with the twins and our 6-month-old baby on our way to the playground after school. We had stopped to feed the baby and they sat next to me on a city bench chatting away and undoing their sandals to busy themselves. Suddenly, my worst nightmare came true and the sirens started piercing.
I started visualizing horrors as I ran to the nearest building holding my baby, leaving everything behind including my purse and stroller. I called for the twins to come with me and walk up the stairs to a nearby apartment building, but they wouldn’t.
I begged and screamed, “Please come!” and the sirens kept going and getting louder. From the corner of my eye I could see mothers scampering about in the nearby playground yelling at their kids to gather under the slides, lean down on the floor, and cover their heads. Little did I know it was the second siren and we had passed the first 90-second grace period to find shelter. My boys cried and looked at me in confusion, saying, “Can’t go, our feet are too hot,” but I couldn’t stop and put their shoes on. I had no time. I grabbed them sternly and explained we needed to hide from the noise quickly. A big boom sounded in the sky and a small one right after. The siren kept blaring.
I pressed all buzzers at the building three times and finally someone opened the door. We ran up the stairs in a frenzy, my boys still crying and barefoot, not knowing what was going on. At the top of the stairs our savior was there. A nice old man asked how he could help. I brought the boys into his home and explained I needed to run get my stuff from outside. I was crying and speaking Hebrew fast and I guess my accent was apparent.
“English?” he asked. “Yes!” I exclaimed, and explained we were not used to this, having just arrived from New York. He held the baby and smiled at my toddlers and I ran to grab my bag and their shoes. Everything was still there, of course—even my iPhone that fell on the floor.
My heart was racing as I came back to get my kids from a complete stranger, hoping he hadn’t dropped the baby. But everybody was fine.
It was over for now, and we were safe, thank God!
Later that night I couldn’t help but imagine taking my boys to get drafted in the IDF, standing and waving with all the other proud and distraught parents. I could see myself collapsing to the ground as their bus drove away. I could feel the pit of my stomach aching.
I know they’re only 3 years old, but, no doubt, that day will come.
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