IDF soldier napping on the bus this morning
Monday morning I woke up to go to school, heavy with anxiety. It was the first morning I traveled to school by bus since the operations started last week. Sitting on the bus, I found myself looking at my watch; it was 10:40, the same hour in which the sirens went off the day before. I don’t know why, but I was more on edge than I had been in the previous days. I was startled by a woman slamming a window, and an elderly man across from me asked me in Hebrew if I was ok. “Ha-kol beseder, toda” I smiled. I appreciated his concern for me, and was a bit embarrassed that my emotions were so transparent. My exhaustion was getting the better of me.
The hours ticked by. In class, we discussed various scenarios and perspective actors who could be drawn into the current conflict between Israel and Gaza. I found myself distracted. The news reported of cease-fire talks in Egypt, and the hopes of getting something reconciled between Israel and Gaza by the evening. Cease-fire reports seemed so abstract in contrast to the recent photos and accounts spewing from Israel, and Gaza. Could they really come to an agreement?
After class, a few of us met up with our Masters program director for coffee. She offered to hold a roundtable for any discussion and questions, and assured us that there was no need for any of us to evacuate until our embassies instructed us to do so. Some students asked about gas masks, and we were reassured that we really did not need them. The Iron Dome had intercepted most rockets since it’s installation in Tel Aviv, and for the upcoming days, we need only exercise caution, and to make sure that wherever we are, we can move to a place of safety quickly in case any further alarms sound. It was calming to sit with everyone. To know that we all have different anxieties around our current situation, and that we are supported by the staff at Tel Aviv University.
The sun was high and there was a soft breeze moving through the campus, and I really did feel better being there. I went to the library to get some work done and to wait for Felipe and Elisa to finish classes, so we could all go home together. Sitting in the library, I found myself feeling secure, but still waiting. The airspace was filled with the sound of helicopters and planes. It was approaching 24 hours since any sirens had gone off, and I couldn’t believe there would not be any coming.
But no sirens rang out in Tel Aviv, and they didn’t today either. We have been keeping an eye on the news, watching various sources carefully, hoping for a cease-fire agreement. During class today, our professor made it clear that he is here for us if we need anything. In the middle of our lecture, we received word that a rocket landed in a nearby city. Our professor quickly ran out of the room upon hearing the news, wanting to make sure his family members were all accounted for. At one point, a few of my classmates hushed everyone in the room, thinking they heard an alarm. It was only a truck backing up. It is amazing how our ears search for that sound at all hours.
While rockets were launched over other areas of Israel today, Tel Aviv remained in the shadows. In contrast, the wreckage in Gaza is unbelievable. I cannot fathom how civilians will ever be able to rebuild their lives with nowhere else to go. How will people in the south of Israel pick up the pieces and remain there? What can all of these people, on both sides, say to their children? How do they explain this? I fear that these explanations are the very words that perpetuate hate from one generation to another. I hope I am wrong. How can we instill the value of life in young souls who have seen so much destruction?
Sitting at my kitchen table, I feel the earth shake and a hear a noise in the distance. I am sure it is my imagination, until Mira tells me she felt the same thing. I pull up the news on my computer, and open a new tab for Haaretz, an Israeli news publication, right next to my flurry of news sources about today’s cease-fire talks. Haaretz noted breaking news of another rocket to the south of us. So we did feel it. I am hopeful that a cease-fire can be reached, but not sure what it would really mean. Violence here is cyclic, and until resolutions validating the existence and rights of both sides are created, it will remain so.