It was one of those evenings when the biggest problems you face with your kids is whether there should be seconds on strawberry ice cream (there were), whether we had time to play one more round of Go Fish before bed (we did) and whether we would read King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub or Where the Wild Things Are (we went with both.)
Their hair was still wet from the shower, their eyes starting to droop when the siren wailed.
No. This is not a test. This is not a test. This is not a test.
We live in Israel, and our country is at war with a terrorist organization just an hour’s drive away; a terrorist organization committed to destroying Israel, a terrorist organization hurdling rockets at us for the last 10 years. And anyone living in this country – Muslim, Christian, or Jew – is a target.
And you know what’s crazy? Just like I learned STOP DROP AND ROLL as a kid growing up in LA smack dab in earthquake country, my kids knew exactly what to do when the sirens screech through the night. They ran to their flip flops lined up by the door – thank GOD for cheap slip-on shoe. My daughter struggled with hers, so I swooped her up in my arms while my son and I fled our home, past the purple scarecrow my children built “to keep the rockets away, Mama, so they don’t hurt us when we sleep,” over rough and rocky ground to a public bomb shelter.
Um, can I get a WTF? We have a public bomb shelter.
Like everyone else in Israel. Bomb shelters are all over this country.
Air raid sirens, Iron Dome – a system to take down rockets mid-air before they land on families like us – bomb shelters and safe rooms, they’re part of the rhythm of this place. And thank God for them, because just before we reached the shelter, the ground moved. Like literally moved.
STOP. DROP. AND ROLL.
No, keep running until we’re safe inside.
“Red Alert, Red Alert” my children sang. “Hurry hurry hurry because now it’s dangerous. Hurry hurry hurry, to a safe area.”
So basically, while I grew up on “The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round,” my kids know a song about what to do during a rocket attack.
“Breathe deep, it’s ok to laugh!” they sang as we reached the inside of the shelter with several other families.
We shook with the blast and my daughter screamed – the kind of horror movie scream you hear when the monster slithers out from under the bed, or a deranged clown crawls through the sewer – because these are our monsters, these rockets hurdling towards us, seeking to make a direct hit.
Inside the shelter, what can we do?
We ate Pringles and chocolate milk. We played Go Fish with our neighbors, and prayed.
In Judaism, we have an expression: When shit gets real, first you cry. Then you get angry. And finally you laugh. With your mouth wide open and all teeth showing, you laugh as your body reels.
And as the news broke on Whatsapp that the rocket landed less than a five minute walk from where we were eating strawberry ice cream only minutes before, we skipped the tears, hopped past the anger and went straight to laughing.
Really, there is no other choice.