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Timeline of a 'situation' in Israel

The word 'situation' has a special meaning in Israel. It is usually used when talking about the security situation in Israel but actually compass quite a wide range of things. Such as the situation that Israel is surrounded by not too friendly neighbours. Or the situation that there are a network of sirens throughout the country to warn us about incoming missiles.

Two weeks ago another type of situation unfolded in Israel and this blogpost describes my own personal experience.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019 - on my way to work

I must have realized that something was up when I got a seat this Tuesday on the express train to Tel Aviv.

This train is always packed by the time it arrives at my home station. I am usually grateful if I just get a place to sit on the floor. Believe me, this is MUCH better than standing packed like a sardine with my fellow travelers.

As I was enjoying sitting on a real seat for a change, a work colleague unexpectedly phoned me. (Is it also true in your lives that an unexpected real voice phone call is a sign of importance?)

She told me that her daughter, who also work in the diamond exchange, got a message that their offices are closed for the day and that maybe I should not even bother to come in. I was taken 100% by surprise, so my colleague filled me in on what I have missed. It turned out to be quite a lot.

Monday, 11 November 2019 - the previous evening

The Israeli defense force killed an Islamist Jihadist Abu al-Ata in Gaza who was responsible for recent rocket attacks Israel. Targeted killings such as these are controversial these days and are often debated in the Knesset (Israeli parliament). We are also still between governments at the moment, so if this killing was authorized by the interim government, it was with good reason

The Islamic Jihadists have however sworn revenge and have started to pepper southern Israel with missiles. Some missiles have even reached the cities just south of Tel Aviv such as Holon and Bat Yam.

Back to Tuesday on the train

Schools and workplaces were closed for the day, including the city of Tel Aviv where I work. The Homefront was concerned that public transport will be targeted. Since I was already on the train, and the only choice was forward, I decided to continue to work and check if our building was closed or not.

By this time, more and more people on the train started to get calls and messages that Tel Aviv might be closed when we arrive there. A group of students seemed happy that their classes might be cancelled, while other people started to confirm or postpone meetings and check in with loved ones.

There is free wi-fi on trains in Israel but it is a bit dodgy as we move from one area to the other. Between the glimpses of on and off, I finally learnt about my fellow countrymen in the south of Israel. Yet once again they were spending their lives in bomb shelters as missiles from the Gaza strip rain on them.

Tuesday 8.30 am - Tel Aviv

Our train finally pulls into the train station and there are no-one else there. It is one of the larger stations with six platforms that are usually packed with people. Especially during the rush hour. Now it felt like a scene from one of those apocalyptic movies where you wondered what happened to all the people.

A few minutes later

My building turned out to be open, though the security guard warned me that everything else will be closed. The diamond exchange is like a small contained (and bustling) city with banks, offices, synagogues, restaurants, travel agencies and a post office. I have even heard that there is a church too but I have never seen it.  And of course there are the packed diamond halls where diamonds are bought and sold every minute. Now everything was closed because of the 'situation'.

Once again I got that apocalyptic feeling as I entered an elevator by myself. But then a tough life-hardened diamond dealer joined me and of course we talked about the 'situation'. He told me that our building is quite safe but to rather stay away from the windows. I was not sure if I should freak out or feel reassured.

I often complain that I feel as though I work in a jail, but was grateful for all the re-inforced concrete today.

In the office I chatted with my mom, husband and manager about the 'situation' and then did the only thing I could. I started to work.

Continuously during the day

The management of the diamond exchange kept announcing over the PA system on what to do in case of a missile attack. And that they recommend that offices should not open today.(Not everyone is an early starter like me….)

Notice in an elevator with instructions on what to do in a 'situation'.

Check the news for updates and pray for the families in the bomb shelters.

Check the train app to see if I will be able to make it home that evening. (There were trains but only north-bound ones.)

Follow the news obsessively that evening while worrying about the families in the bomb shelters.

Wednesday, 13 November 7 am

Got a message from the diamond exchange that the Homefront said it is okay for them to be open.

Wednesday, 13 November 9.30 am

Discuss the 'situation' with my work colleagues who left me all by myself the previous day. 

The office admin informs us what to do in case the alarms sound. (We basically just go and stand in the stairwell for 10 minutes.)

Feel guilty about being more less safe while so many people are still living in bomb shelters.

Keep an eye on the news. Praying that the Islamic Jihadists will finally run out of missiles. Or will be discouraged to continue as the IDF carries out airstrikes against more suspected Islamic Jihadists.

Hoping that the families on the bomb shelters are doing okay even though they are in the forefront of the current 'situation'. Send a quick prayer for their safety and sanity.

A notice in the lobby of our building. It says "To the shelter".

Thursday, 14 November 8:40 am 

The news reports that a cease-fire was reached and life in Israel went back to default mode. Which translates into "Go back to living your normal lives but listen for sirens and be prepared to run to the shelters."

This morning, walking from the train station to the building that I work in, I noticed that the coffee shops are open and filled with people again. And the buskers and beggars are back to doing their thing.

As I passed one of the regular buskers, a John Denver fan with a Labrador companion, a snippet of his song caught my ear:

"Lord, help us all…."

*Remember that this is only my personal account of a security situation in Israel. Innocent bystanders, on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, have had a much worse experience than me.

**I am posting this blog on December 1, 2019 two weeks after the situation described above unfolded. I am sad to say that the ceasefire did not hold. Israeli's in the south are sporadiacally being fired on with missiles from Gaza and the people who live in the are are constantly returning to the bomb shelters.

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