Life under rockets: A young man’s account from southern Israel

November 15, 2012

Israeli children run to a large concrete pipe used as a bomb shelter during a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip. (Uriel Sinai/GETTY IMAGES)

Militant groups in the Gaza Strip, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have launched 451 total mortar and rocket attacks on southern Israel from January through October, according to Israeli government figures. But they didn't kill anyone until this week, when a rocket hit the top floor of an apartment building, killing two Israeli men and a woman, as well as critically injuring an 11-month-old baby. Attacks out of Gaza appear to have increased significantly since Israel began airstrikes on Gaza on Wednesday, with 275 rockets and mortar rounds fired so far.

Although the frequency has increased, living in fear of Gaza-based rocket attacks is nothing new for many families in southern Israel, where bomb shelters are a feature of everyday life. Here, translated by Global Voices' Elizabeth Tsurkov, is one young Israeli man's realization that the cycle of attack, alert and hiding has become so ingrained in his life that he's surprised to see a friend's younger brother showing the fear he had once felt himself. The young man's Facebook comment, posted alongside a photo of a stream of recent attack alerts on his iPhone, has received over 4,000 likes.

In our family, everyone is grown up, the youngest is 15. The whole thing of alarms and missiles doesn't bother us anymore. An alarm means that you count until 15 and hope for the best. On Saturday night, I was at a good friend's house when the ‘Red Color‘ [radar system] alert went off. During the alert, they went into the bomb shelter. I'm used to not looking for it anymore, but I went in with them. I saw her little brother hugging his mother in fear, and for a moment I thought to myself why he's so afraid, and why he hasn't gotten used to it by now.

And a second later I understood that the real absurdity is not that he's afraid, but that I've gotten used to it.

Sirens in Tel Aviv sounded a rare warning earlier today over a possible attempted rocket attack on the major Israeli city. Although it now appears the rocket may have missed widely enough to land in the sea, the scare is a sign of Gazan groups' escalating campaign against Israelis. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, according to al-Jazeera.

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Olga Khazan · November 15, 2012