Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Turning Point 3

Today was Day 3 of a nation wide readiness drill - called "Turning Point 3" - designed to prepare army and citizens in the event of a missile attack. Soldiers were called up to miluim (reserve duty), the appropriate security and police personnel were geared to "practice" whatever it is they are taught to do. Individual citizens were to take shelter wherever they found themselves, either in a miklat (bomb shelter), or a safe room, or wherever was safest around them.

Photo Iranian missile test: SEPAH NEWS VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

I was at a local sidewalk canion (shopping mall) when the sirens went off. They were barely audible, certainly softer than the Yom haZicharon and Yom haShoah sirens. There was a simultaneous announcement on the radio and television, but quite frankly, if the hour of the drill had not been publicized, very few people would have known it even happened.

Such a stark difference between the drill this morning and our response to it, and our responses to the sirens on our Memorial days. Perhaps we are simply better at mourning our dead than preparing for our future.

Still, there was an air of excited nonchalance (NOT an oxymoron) as the "hour" approached. The "drill" was the talk of the day as we sat, drank coffee and waited. Jokes, light banter, and the familiar camaraderie that exists between us unfolded, but behind that banter I also heard and saw the "something else" that exists between us. It's an unspoken collective awareness of the possible scenarios that might lie ahead, precisely because of the collective memory of what we have already experienced, and what we live day to day. It's our reality.

Approximately 10 minutes before the "event", people started talking a bit louder, an expectation of something about to happen rising in the air. People moved a little closer together, as if together, we would be safer. Actually, that is part of our reality, we are at our best as a People when we are in crisis.

This wasn't a crisis, of course, it was just a drill. But it was a drill that reminded us that we've been through many drills - real ones. The residents of Sderot, and towns along the southern borders, as well as those in the north, have already had many and constant real life exercises to practice. I have had my own runs for shelter when in some of those towns. Sometimes a safe room was available, sometimes we stood under a doorway...like in an earthquake. You do your best.

Today, no one moved. We just continued on with whatever we were doing. There is a miklat there but most of the people in the canion didn't know that. I knew because I have been in it, and like most miklatot, it is full of other things being stored there. And it is tiny. Even if it were completely empty, there would be room for just a very few people, and the rest...would be standing outside I guess.

Most citizens did check on their safe rooms, locate the miklatot in their neighborhoods and at least have given some thoughts to actions and reactions. I finally located mine, but we can't get into it as someone in the building has jammed it full of papers and things.

It's not that we are really nonchalant or lackadaisical....it's just...well, alright already, we know the big one is coming...nuke, earthquake, bolts from heaven.... It's Israel - our minds are already stretched as far as they can go in the survival mode. We do the best we can, that's it, and the rest is up to G-d.

I told my friend Shay that I wanted to write about today, but it was so uneventful there wasn't much to say. He told me that if I was going to write about sirens and shelters I should write about this drill, because, he said, if I wait to write about the next time there was a siren....there was a long pause.... we looked at each other and understood...

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