|Across the fields is Gaza|
On the way down last week, I asked my hosts, who had picked us up in Jerusalem on their way home, what the policy was now regarding Red Alerts. "We go into the shelter now," was the reply. "What about in the middle of the night?"
"If we hear it we get up. If you're lucky you don't wake up and you miss the whole thing."
All was quiet for the first couple of days. Then, last Thursday, two buses and a family car were fired at by terrorists on the road near Eilat. Eight people died and many more were injured. Families returning from their holidays, soldiers going home for the weekend, men, women and children. We knew that the calm was over.
That evening my friend had to go and prepare rooms for a group of 30 tourists who were coming for the weekend. DD and I went with her and we found that the rooms needed a 'going -over' to make them fit for guests. They weren't dirty but this is the desert and sandy dust is our constant challenge. We each grabbed a wet cloth and, while DD played, we got to work. Almost finished and my friend called me over. "Take DD home, I just got a text warning that we're expecting qassams. I'll catch you up."
I took DD by the hand and started to walk with her back to the house. It was a good five minute walk for an adult walking briskly. DD tried her best to keep up. I just wanted to get her home before the Red Alert. "I know, I'll give you a piggy-back!" I stood her on a bench and hoisted her onto my back. This was her first piggy-back ever. I jogged (sort of) along whilst composing a blog post in my mind: My First Piggy-Back. After a short distance she wasn't comfortable and neither was I. "Walk DD!" She cried. "We'll soon be home," I replied as I tried to go faster. But I couldn't make it all the way and I ended up dragging her along by the hand, her little legs working furiously to keep up with me.
We made it home without incident. Apparently it had been a general warning for the coming hours rather than an immediate warning. That night there was a Red Alert at about 1.30am. I lay in bed and considered scooping a sleeping DD up and running to the shelter. You only have about 20 seconds to get there and by the time I'd finished weighing up the pros and cons of waking her up, it was all over. There was another one, so I'm told, at 5.30am but we slept through it.
The next day the pool was closed in the morning - too traumatic to think of hurrying 50 people out of the water and into the pool shelter within 20 seconds. The group of 30 tourists cancelled. We could have come home but I didn't even consider it. I asked if we could still walk to the dining room for lunch or if we should stay indoors. "You can go but if you're outside during a Red Alert, make yourselves as small as possible and stay away from trees and buildings." No problem.
On Saturday afternoon we were having tea in my friends' house when the Red Alert sounded. "Red Alert," said a few people calmly - as if we couldn't all hear it. We all got up, I picked up DD and carried her, and we walked purposefully to the shelter. The man of the house shut the door and kept a firm hand on the handle. This was absurdly comforting, as if he were taking charge and had some control over the situation - which of course he didn't. It was standing room only and so we stood and discussed how long we should wait. After about a minute and a half we all went back to our tea.