Siren – Test

Twice a year, air raid sirens sound in Israel to schedule a moment or two to remember, to honor. The first is for Holocaust Remembrance Day and the second is for Israel’s Memorial Day. And then sometimes, as happened during the Cast Lead Operation/Gaza War – there’s a mistake and a siren goes off suddenly, leading to fear and panic – especially among children.

And then, there are the sirens that the army uses to test the system. That’s what happened today – a 90 second reminder that we live in a country that could, quite easily, be attacked by anyone of several enemies. Almost daily, Gaza launches rockets against us. Lebanon fired rockets a few weeks ago and Hezbollah has increased its rhetoric. Syria mobilized some troops last week near the border. Egypt is making noises about the peace treaty we signed over 30 years ago.

Today was just a test – a reminder that we need to make sure our emergency alert system is always functional.  It was a test of the system, not a drill, so I assume the children in the schools were not required to move to bomb shelters – but they would have heard the siren anyway, as I did in my home.

I’ve got my grandson with me today – he slept through the siren. In my mother’s generation, they had air raid siren drills in America and the children were told to get under the desks. Here, they are quickly taken to bomb shelters. A few months ago, I saw a news clip. Israel is a center of innovation – amazing inventions.

This one won’t make the international news, but we’ve discovered how to make reinforced children’s desks. They dropped a 500 kilogram weight on a standard table, which was crushed beyond recognition. Then, they showed the same 500 kilogram weight being dropped on the reinforced table. For a second, the table held the weight and then it tipped over to the side.

The news clip then showed how two children could hide under each desk. Of course, if the weight were to explode upon impact, the children would not survive, even under the table. That wasn’t mentioned in the news clip – I only thought of it later. The point was that if a missile hit a school building and the roof collapsed, the children under the table would be alive and hopefully unhurt.

It’s silly to let my mind wander on a beautiful day in Israel, with clouds just beginning to roll in and my relatively new grandson sleeping peacefully in his carriage near me. In all the years of my schooling, I don’t remember a single air raid siren sounding, or even any testing other than fire drills.

It’s sobering to think not of the siren, but of why they are testing and what would be the reason for their sounding a real alarm. Too much to consider now, too much to think about.

5 Comments on Siren – Test

  1. This is unbearably sad. There are tears in my eyes.

    My son came to Israel as a volunteer. The very first weekend, he and the other young people went to Tiberias and a rocket was fired from Lebanon and exploded about a mile from where they were staying. And then over the next month or so, 3000 more rockets were fired from Lebanon all over northern Israel, just for the sake of this unrelenting, psychopathic hatred of Jews. They decided Tiberias, supposedly out of rocket range, was a bad idea and managed to get a mini-bus to take them all the way to Tel Aviv. Every one of them then went straight to the airport, leaving their luggage behind, all except for my son who faithfully reported back for work on Sunday, at an army base in northern Israel, where he had no helmet, no kevlar vest, no bomb shelter, and slept in a tent. Before the war was over, he had decided to stay in Israel and he actually made aliyah from Israel, not from America. A year and a half after the start of the Second Lebanon War, my son was a combat soldier in the IDF.

    I told this story about the rocket attack at lunch one day later that summer. I wanted my co-workers to understand my son’s commitment to Israel and his bravery and why I supported him. One of them (a NYT reader, need I say more?), could not believe that the other volunteers rushed to leave Israel, he was fixated on that part of the story. He could not grasp, for all that he saw himself as the smartest person in the room, why they were so scared of the rocket attack, one rocket. My son heard the explosion and it was frightening from a mile away. He called me later in summer from Netivot, a city in the south, and I could hear the booms in the background, a rocket launched from Gaza, boom, the explosion when it landed in Israel, boom, over and over. He described what it looked like in the night sky and I was scared listening to it from 6000 miles away. These rockets are filled with metal, nails and screws and ball bearings, that rip through the doors of a car and the walls of a house, and think what they do to fragile human bodies, blown apart, arms and legs ending up in trees. What kind of person thinks this is no big deal? What kind of person makes light of the fear and the devastation and the loss of life and the emotional scarring of a rocket attack? This is what I can’t grasp. Maybe it shows the degrees of humanity and compassion, some of us have a lot and some have intellectualized evil to the point where they have little or none.

  2. Kol HaKvod to Barbara’s kid. ANyway, this:

    >>> I’ve got my grandson with me today – he slept through the siren

    should be explored further. The kids ears may a problem, or the siren may have a problem. Galei Tzahal transmissions get repeater-ed as necessary by auxiliary transmitters so that everyone in the the country has reception……It is not impossible to have a siren repeated into bedrooms. Don’t wait for my eventual arrival to do it.

    IDF doesn’t let kravi’im carry weapons unless they actually pass the qualification-test. No reason to be less strict in warning systems that are meant to preserve the lives of children.

  3. Hi Alan,

    The siren sound is supposed to be heard. It isn’t deafening and young babies have an amazing capacity to sleep through many/most noises. His hearing was checked immediately at birth and beyond. Also, it’s winter, so the house is sealed well – further lessening the sound.

    The whole point of the test was to determine areas where more attention is needed. We were fine actually.

    By the way, when you and Barbara were having your discussion of the nationalist camp – I realized you were talking about in the US…which seems to be very different than that nationalist camp in Israel.

  4. Thank you, Alan. I appreciate that.

    Paula, we have nothing in the US called a nationalist camp or nationalists or nationalism and sometimes a commentator might use this term in a snide remark, but not in reference to an actual political party. Here it would be a totally derogatory term like for a little underground militia more on the lines of the neo-Nazis in Europe. I guess the closest you might come in the US to Israeli style nationalists would be the patriotism and the anti-immigration stance (although this is economic in origin) of the Conservative wing of the Republican Party and the new Tea Party, but this is hardly their entire reason for existence or the sole reason people are recruited to their ideas, and it is still nothing like the national-religious sector in Israel. Alan was talking about Israel and he used this term as a euphemism for settlers and for the right-wing and he didn’t mean anything derogatory by it, and that was not what I was objecting to anyway. And he’s the one who brought the Fogels into the conversation (I just had to add that in).

    Check your internet listings for the new Alan and Barbara show …

  5. I haven’t seen any USA political wing using the term “nationalist camp”. Maybe the war of 1812 settled that issue.

    barbara is correct, and I “learned” this term from the self-references of those folks. I certainly agree with them if Shiloh wasn’t being argued about, Tel Aviv and Ashkelon would still being argued about. Well, depening upon which Gazan you ask, they still are.

    I tried to carry on this discussion over at Shilohmusings, rather than thread-jack mommyhood discussion, but here at sea over a VERY SLOW satellite internet hookup, I actually can barely read her blog. It takes forever to load. I interpret the IE messages (during loading) to mean that she’s rented out lots and lots and lots of her blog to GoogleAds, Facebook, and all these other folks who will pay a blogger for an advertising opportunity. That’s fine – I’m a hardcore Ayn-Rand-nik capitalist – but it pretty much precludes me from reading Batya Medad.

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