1:52am: Hearing Sirens, Live and Phantom

by Leah Solomon

Sat. night, 1:52am:  Jerusalem

I was shaking a bit when the siren went off early this evening but I am shaking much more now.

When we heard the siren, we were all standing in our living room just a few feet outside the reinforced safe room. Siren went off, all five of us walked more or less calmly inside, closed the heavy metal shutters. Sat on the floor, heard a quiet, muffled boom. Waited ten minutes per instructions, came out and continued with our evening. The kids seemed a little agitated but mostly fine.

Bedtime was delayed a bit. All asleep by 9:00. Around 12:00, out of the quiet night, I hear my eight year old yelling, confusedly, from his top bunk: “we have to — we have to go to the…” I get out of bed and run to him. He is sitting up with a bloody nose. I reassure him that he doesn’t need to run anywhere, get him more tissues, go back to bed.

An hour later, 1:00 am, I’m awoken again, this time by 4.5 year old footsteps racing through the hallway and down the stairs. I jump out of bed again and race down to him. Before I reach him he cries out, “Abba, where are you?!” I catch up to him – “why are you here sweetie?” “There’s an azaka [siren]! We have to go to the office [our safe room]!” He takes a moment to understand when I tell him everything’s fine, there’s no siren. I walk him to his room, tuck him back in, kiss his forehead, and get back into bed myself.

And now I’m lying here, shaking with worry and the adrenaline of running to my children to protect them from their own overactive childish imaginations, which should never have had such material to work with. Unable to fall back asleep after two rude awakenings and continuous worries that I will have to run again, this time to race all three of them downstairs in less than 90 seconds. And wondering whether to majorly disappoint my son by canceling or postponing his 8th birthday party later this week.

So worried about the subconscious fears that are beginning to eat away at them, every time they hear another siren, no matter how many times we tell and retell the story about the special good rockets that keep us safe.

And so worried about those children in areas closer to Gaza who have not 90 seconds but sixty, thirty, a whopping 15 to run for cover.

And so worried about those hundreds of thousands of children in Gaza who have no shelters to run to – yes, of course because their “government” doesn’t care enough to build them shelters (though they also don’t have much to build with these days), but also, yes, because our side has much bigger, stronger rockets and we’re using them every 4.5 minutes or so. And whether we mean to or not, we’re killing an awful lot of those children.

Someone asked me the other day why we should spend our energy on mourning children whose parents glorify their own children’s deaths. Putting aside the extraordinary dehumanizing assumption, yet again, about an entire people – do we really want to be the kind of people who are less compassionate toward children whose parents don’t care about them than we are toward those with loving parents?

I am not a prayerful person. But as I, like my boys, lie here hearing phantom sirens every few minutes, I am hoping and praying with everything I’ve got that those men out there shooting rockets and dropping bombs will find their way to a ceasefire, and from there to a lasting peace. I know, I have no good answers to how to get there (well, I have some). But I do know this is not the way.

2 Responses to “1:52am: Hearing Sirens, Live and Phantom”

  1. Like small children. Each wants the other to stop first.


    joan wohlner · July 13th, 2014 at 8:33 am
  2. Thank you for this writing. (I got here because Menachem Creditor posted it.) It is so moving to me that in the midst of needing to make safety for your own family you can feel compassion and care for the children who live among those who are sending rockets to your neighborhood. I think that in this writing, in this thinking, is an example of the true possibility of humanity. Thank you! Physically I am far away in California, but my heart feels as though it is broken open and spilled all over Israel and Gaza. May there come a time when no one is needing to run to safety. Sending prayers of peace and love.


    Serena Heaslip · July 15th, 2014 at 3:22 am

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik