On Thursday night, Tel Aviv was the target of rockets, launched from Gaza, for the first time since 2014. The threat passed just a mile from my apartment.
Around 7:15 p.m., the air raid sirens abruptly started going off throughout the entire city of Tel Aviv. From my apartment, my roommates and I immediately recognized the difference between this siren and the typical ambulance or police sirens we hear on a regular basis in the city. This siren was booming, loud enough to be heard over all of the city noise, and had an all-encompassing type of power. It was clear that it wasn’t an average siren.
From inside of our apartment, we didn’t hear the impact of the rocket being intercepted by the Iron Dome (Israel’s aerial defense system), but in videos, you can hear a loud boom and clap sound. After just a few minutes, updates started rolling in, and we were able to confirm that the sirens we heard were, in fact, rocket sirens. Soon after, the mayor of Tel Aviv opened the city’s bomb shelters.
Phones started lighting up left and right. The Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) Twitter account tweeted live updates, giving followers the story; two rockets had been launched from the Gaza strip (a serious zone of tension located near Egypt). The Iron Dome is able to determine the projected path of the missiles and intercept any that are heading for inhabited areas, and Thursday it was put to the test once again. One of the rockets landed in an open area slightly north of Tel Aviv but had I been standing on my balcony, I would have been able to watch and hear the interception of the other missile, as it happened over a skyscraper no more than a mile from my apartment.
Initially, when we watched the videos of the rocket being intercepted in Tel Aviv, we didn’t realize that the building it was intercepted over was so close. Eventually, one of us said what we were all thinking, which was how familiar the building looked. We went out on the balcony and spotted it immediately, one of the closest buildings to ours.
Starting out the evening with an air raid and some intercepted rockets put everybody in an uneasy mood. With no casualties and the Iron Dome seeming unstoppable, we were anxious. Other students from our building joined us in our apartment to talk about what just happened, all of us still stunned. The mood was similar to when a huge storm is coming and everybody is gearing up for it, brought together by something that’s not supposed to be exciting but in a strange way, is. Throughout the evening many of us spoke with our parents as well as friends who reached out to us as videos of the rockets made their was to Twitter and the news. We just let it all sink in.
The attack was the first on Tel Aviv in five years, but in and around the Gaza Strip, attacks take place quite frequently. Looking at the IDF’s updates the next morning, I found out that the Tel Aviv rockets were the first of many to be fired that night. The IDF responded by striking terror sites in Gaza; they successfully hit 100 Hamas (a terrorist group in Gaza) military targets by the time morning rolled around, including an underground rocket manufacturing site, the headquarters responsible for orchestrating Hamas terrorism in Judea and Samaria, and the Hamas center of unmanned aerial aircraft. Throughout the night, in southern Israel just outside of the Gaza Strip, air raid sirens continued through the early hours of the morning as the Iron Dome intercepted more rockets that were launched in that area.
Coming to Israel I knew there would be risks, but Tel Aviv is not typically where the action takes place. In my first couple of weeks here, I remember marveling at an air raid attack near the border of Syria, but I certainly didn’t expect to have one take place right outside of my apartment. The conflict here is incredibly real and complex, and though having an attack so close to home (literally) was shocking, I can’t help but think about the Israeli cities near Gaza that spent the night with a soundtrack of air raid sirens.
On another note, my parents are in Israel visiting the country for the first time, and I’ll be joining them on a trip to the south of the country, as well as on a day trip to Petra, Jordan. So, after the break, I’ll have something a bit lighter to report on. Hopefully, I won’t be hearing any more sirens between now and then.