My Tel Aviv Bubble, Burst

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Nov. 19 2012 1:29 PM

My Tel Aviv Bubble, Burst

Family dinner, now with air-raid sirens. This isn’t what I moved here for.

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I’ve lied before. In 2004, I came too close to the blood. I lived in Jerusalem during a time when suicide bombings were frequent. I was walking my dog one morning, a bus drove past, and then, less than a minute later, I heard a blast. “That’s really loud construction,” I thought, lying to myself. When my neighbor stepped out of her doorway to ask about the noise, I lied to her, too. “It has to be construction,” I said. The sound of police and ambulance sirens coming close told the truth. I leaned my arm against a wall to steady myself, and I vomited.   

On Friday, I lied again. I was out on an errand when a siren sounded. I ran for cover with a stranger who had been walking alongside me. We entered a building with a bomb shelter and went down. The stranger and I waited out the siren together without making small talk. When we heard a boom, he said, “Did you hear that? I think it landed.” 

“No,” I said. “That was just someone upstairs slamming a door.”

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I can’t lie to my older sons. They know what’s going on here and give me updates from their own computer. They watch the news, too. What I can do is remind them that the fear Palestinian boys in Gaza feel is just as real as theirs and that the way to make all lives better is to pursue peace. That’s a hard message to instill, though, in the middle of a war. Last night during our family dinner a siren sounded. I told Tom and Guy to run. I picked up my 3-year-old son, Adam, and carried him down the three flights of stairs to the bomb shelter in my socks. The race to shelter already felt disturbingly routine.  

Adam, wearing nothing but a T-shirt and a diaper, said, “Why are we going down again?”    

“Remember I told you that every time we hear a siren, we have to hide?” I said, telling the truth, but only as much as I had to. 

Hide-and-seek is one of Adam’s favorite games, and he has accepted that answer each time I’ve offered it. By the time we reach the shelter and he sees the other children around him, he forgets that we haven’t done the “seek” part of the game. We’re just hiding.

Jessica Apple, a writer in Tel Aviv, is a co-founder and editor in chief of the diabetes magazine ASweetLife.org.  She recently edited Surprised by Strength: Diabetes Diagnosis Stories.