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Steven Winston Headshot

The Sound of Sirens

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Recently every time I have heard a bike engine revving or a plane fly over I have hesitated for a moment. The red alert sirens in Tel Aviv, five in the last four days, were certainly not what I expected when I moved to Israel almost eight months ago

I had just returned from a cycle around Park Hayarkon, Tel Aviv, last week and was about to shower when the air was filled with a deep, lingering tone.

Nobody was in my flat, and having never discussed what to do upon hearing a siren I found myself contemplating taking refuge under my bed.

Immediately remembering that it had cost me 200 shekels (about $50) I quickly reconsidered as I would have more likely been injured by a nasty splinter or its collapse. I went out into the stairwell and on hearing all the neighbours clambering downstairs I joined the procession to the bottom where we all waited for a person with a key to open up a communal bunker.

The awkward, unsure chat that followed, in my best broken Hebrew, seemed to last an eternity until, in a very casual Israeli manner, the key-holder showed up.

Then our building joined the hundreds of others in Tel Aviv in discussing who should have a shelter key.

People although clearly a bit shaken were calm, friendly and helpful and I appreciated very much the hugs from the girls who emerged from the flat on the 1st floor (sadly never to be seen during any other alerts).

That night my sleep was broken, to say the least, I spent most of the night replying to the concerns and kind messages of family and friends.

The next day for lunch, I arranged to meet with friends at a nearby café. Upon ordering we were greeted with a thank you from our waitress and a bomb siren.

We joined staff members other customers indoors, behind the deli counter. I noted a fine 15yo malt but before I got around to requesting a few drams for everyone there was a thunderous explosion.

The siren was silenced and we remained huddled for another few seconds before all simultaneously checking our phones (we discovered that intensity of the explosion was the result of an interception by the Iron Dome missile defence system).

We went back to our tables glad that all was OK and hungry in the knowledge that behind the counter everything had looked very fresh, clean and tidy!

The siren has sounded a further three times since then, and I have to expect at least one alert a day now. With this unfortunate pattern, life in Tel Aviv has started to return to normal. I think I relate slightly better to Israelis now: the reason they lead there lives in such a rushed and passionate manner.

Their doggedness is visible and national spirit is through the roof. I don't believe that many here prefer to be involved in a war, but we are certainly united together in defence of our homeland.

I am grateful to be protected by the IDF and the "Iron Dome" and that I am in Tel Aviv not further south where rocket attacks are far more regular occurrence.

I don't plan on returning home; I plan on going on as usual by learning more Hebrew, drinking more coffee and continuing on my mission to find the best way to chat up an Israeli girl.