When the Siren Went Off in Tel Aviv

When the Siren Went Off in Tel Aviv

Today I visited Tel Aviv for the first time since the War began.

The last time I visited Tel Aviv this summer, religious-secular, right-left tensions were at an all time high, worse than anything I’d experienced during my 30 years in Israel, except maybe for the months of mass demonstrations and mutual right-left recriminations leading up to the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin. Walking around Tel Aviv this summer, as an obviously Orthodox Jew, I could see the suspicion in people’s eyes. I was in enemy territory. But the enemy was ME.

This morning walking down a main Tel Aviv shopping street, I was moved to see that this summer’s fury of protest signs had been replaced with signs in almost every store window reading “כחינו באחדותינו,” Our Strength is in Our Unity.

While on a bus back to the train station this afternoon, my heart jumped when I heard the ominous rise and fall of a siren. I followed the other passengers off the bus towards a small bomb shelter in an apartment building. So there I was along with around 30 secular Israelis crowded together. Mostly young professionals, students, but there was also a young girl with her mother, and an older woman with her dog. A young woman to my right was crying. On the other side of the shelter a man quipped, “I didn’t hear a boom, I think Hamas is finally running out of warheads!”

In the minutes that stood there together I thought about how I clearly stood out as different. But at the same time, no sane person could possibly mistake any other person in that bomb shelter for his or her enemy. Sadly, it took a war, it seems, to make peace.


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