Thursday, March 24, 2011

Being in the right place at the wrong time

Last weekend we spent Shabbat (Saturday) with friends on Kibbutz Alumim. This is a kibbutz in the Northern Negev, 5km from the border with Gaza. Since the beginning of the second intifada in 2000, they have had numerous red alerts as missiles have been launched at the towns, kibbutzim and villages of that region. The siren goes off, a loud voice announces "RED ALERT! RED ALERT!" and you are supposed to run to the nearest shelter. Some people do (mostly those with young children) and others don't bother. Whatever your reaction, it is terrifying. There have been injuries and even fatalities on other settlements but, thankfully, so far the main living area of Kibbutz Alumim has been spared a direct hit.

Before I became pregnant with DD, I was one of the more laid back customers when the missiles came. As my hosts didn't panic, neither did I and we waited where we happened to be. Then, one time I was alone in my room when the red alert sounded, and I was pregnant. And I was not in one of the new houses with reinforced rooms (a.k.a. bomb shelters). Did I say I was pregnant? It obviously made all the difference. I froze as I considered my options. Stand in the door-frame? No, that was for earthquakes. Run to my friends' house? No, too far. In the end, after almost a minute of thinking about it, I dived under the bed.

Now what? How long should I stay there? Until I heard the explosion? No, you don't always hear anything. Was there an "all clear!"? I couldn't remember. I didn't have my watch on so I counted to 300 - five minutes was surely enough time, and then came out. Even then, I wasn't sure that it was all over.

When I returned to my friends' house, they laughed at me. Apparently you only have 15 seconds to reach cover before the missile hits. By the time I was under the bed it was all over.

Last Shabbat there was no red alert but, when DD and I went for a long walk around the kibbutz after breakfast, there was a lot of helicopter activity. We own helicopters, they don't, so I wasn't alarmed. However, I knew that something must have happened for us to be so active on a Shabbat morning. DD didn't like it. "Noise!" she said, "no like it!" Then we heard the blasts as the helicopters fired and struck - I didn't know what. "Don't worry darling," I said, "it's just bombs."

Later we found out that there had been a number (reports varied between 30 and 50) of rockets fired over the border. The rockets are short distance missiles and so fast that there is no time for any warning. Subsequently two terrorists were killed close to the border, about 3km from where we were. In the light of the attack last week when a family was stabbed to death in their beds, it felt close.

Then yesterday there was a bomb in Jerusalem that injured 30 people, some of them on the #74 bus. This is a bus that I sometimes take as its route goes through my neighbourhood.

So my Thank you Thursday this week is to God, the Universe, my Guardian Angels, Fairy Godmother, whatever it was... that kept me and DD in the right places at the wrong times. I don't know what I did (or didn't do) to deserve it but please know that I am continually thankful for your protection. And thank you for protecting my friends too.