April 09, 2008

In Israel: sirens wail nationwide

Woman with Dead Child (1903) by Kathe Kollwitz,
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

(in the public domain in the USA)

Every war already carries within it the war that will answer it.
— Kathe Kollwitz (1867-1945), Artist and Social Activist

This morning, in the largest civil defense drill in Israel's history, an air-raid siren sounded a loud dull wail at 10 a.m. nationwide (except in Sderot, Ashkelon, and other communities along the Gaza border). five-day exercise was launched Sunday in the face of increased tensions with Syria, Iran's efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon, and possible chemical and biological attacks. Charming possibilities. 

Scenarios and simulations were enacted — among them, children carried "wounded" classmates to bomb shelters and emergency personnel rescued "injured" trapped in rubble. The public was asked to use the practice to locate the closest bomb shelter or protected room.

While Israel authorities insist the drill does
not mean that war is anticipated in the near future, hearing the siren's wail immediately brought a flow of tears and associations of pain, horror, fear, memories, anxieties. First to my mind leaped images of Noam Mayerson, my cousin — killed in the Second Lebanon War, in 2006. Next, I thought about my relatives (whom I never met) in Europe before, during, and after the reigns of terror of World War II.

my dear friend Shimon and his family in Ashkelon and fellow civilians in Sderot flash into focus. There, in Israel's southern region, within fifteen seconds of real warning sirens, real rockets land. Fifteen seconds to absorb the information, manage the terror, and seek and then find and enter a safe place.

While politicians and talking heads with jobs and leisure and 
without accountability pontificate and analyze other people’s experiences, these terse lines capture my attention:

What comes first, peace or security? Ostensibly this is the crux of the debate between the two and is like the question: whom do you love more, Mom or Dad? Peace without security is a lie. Security without peace is nonsense.
— Akiva Eldar, The lie of peace and the nonsense of security, Haaretz


Madeline said...

Your blog is so alive and real. These last two posts will haunt me and will help to keep me aware and political. Thank you Tamar.

Tamar Orvell said...

Madeline, I will plan to write a post next that does not haunt'-) And about something that is alive and real and... shall we say, light? Or lighter? Or at least less deadly serious'-) Thanks for your insightful comment.

Alecto said...

You know, it's funny, every time something like this happens in Israel I cry (and I'm stateside, having only been there twice). And then I call up or IM my friends in Tel Aviv and they tell me to settle down but maybe that's because they're young and born to it? I don't really know but I sure do understand why that sound would have such an impact.

JeSais said...

a couple of months ago I was walking in downtown San Diego and a car back fired. I jumped and was ready to hit the deck in case it was gunfire... I walked the last two blocks of my journey feeling jittery and on hyper alert. I can't imagine living on hyper alert on a regular basis... or is it like the El in Chicago-- you just get used to the sound after awhile?

Nizo said...

Very moving post ya Tamar..

Tamar Orvell said...

alecto — Thanks for sharing your responses to such reports. I'm glad your friends in Tel Aviv are OK. If they are young natives, they probably know no other life, so this state of affairs is "normal" to them. Sad, tragic, true for now. Some expression of bravado is often part of the local response to 24/7 existential threats. And, of course, they are in Tel Aviv, not in Sderot, or Ashkelon, or other parts where missiles and rockets rain down a lot.

jesais — Had we been walking together, surely I would have grabbed you and screamed and remained terrified for days. Sadly, the reality here is not like the Chicago El because the El doesn't kill and is not designed to eliminate civilians, really a nation. So, how does one adjust? Well, make the best of it and swallow lots of Prozac, speak fast, push and shove when agitated, and live on-the-edge with intense focus, imagination, and zeal for life.

Nizo — Thanks, dearest cousin, your words comfort precisely because they come from a knowing, loving heart.

littlepurplecow said...

Hoping and praying for peace. I often wish you were here, far from sirens like this and close to your kitty. May you continue to spread hope, kindness and love to all in your path.

Tamar Orvell said...

littlepurplecow — Your ways model the qualities you ascribe to me, and any resemblance is on account of your steadfast example.¯Still, the sirens teach me a lot, enriching me with experiences that help break down my barriers to compassionate understanding.