Foreign Dispatch: The Sirens Call in Israel

By FOX News Radio’s Emily Wither

There’s nothing like the wail of an air raid siren to get you out of bed in the morning.

As I’m laying on the cold floor of my bathroom in Tel Aviv I can’t believe this in happening here. The city hasn’t been in the firing line since the Gulf War.  Israel’s largest city is often called “the bubble” because it feels like another planet, a place where one of your biggest concerns is whether you’ll get a good spot on the beach.  That bubble just burst.

My friend and I had wondered if it was such a good idea to spend the weekend in Tel Aviv.  As we were driving in on the motorway, all of the cars started pulling over to the hard shoulder.  We couldn’t understand the Hebrew on the radio, so we did the same.  Another siren.  After a brief debate about whether we should turn back, we proceed. The lady on the front desk of our hotel was brimming with enthusiasm when we arrived, “Welcome to our hotel, bomb shelters are located on the following floors, oh and you’ve been given an upgrade, we had a few cancellations…”

The evening could have been like any other.  People spilled on to the pavement outside the cafés and bars, but I couldn’t relax.  I was constantly glued to my phone and secretly wished I was watching the 24-hour news channels back at the hotel.   It had become an addiction.  I once had an argument with an Israeli that I found it unbelievable the houses here didn’t have fire alarms.  She responded that they all had bomb shelters instead.  Things were starting to make sense.

The day before there had been an air raid siren in Jerusalem just as dusk was falling over the city.  At first we thought it was Shabbat sirens but they had been and gone.  Rocket fire heading for Jerusalem?  It was hard to believe that was even possible.  Rockets from Gaza had never made it this far.  Shortly afterwards an Israeli work colleague of mine just dropped everything he was doing and announced he was leaving that minute.  “What, why!?” I called after him as he legged it out the door.  “I’ve been called up…reserve duty.”  Not hard to believe when you live in a country where everyone under 45 is a reservist, but it was still unsettling.  He’d just been telling me the night before that he’d gotten engaged.

Down in the south of Israel, near the Gaza border, I drive fast with the windows down so I can hear the air raid sirens.  Everyone I meet has a story to tell about life under the constant threat of rocket fire.  Often our conversations are cut short by a siren; we dive in to the nearest stairwell or flatten ourselves against the wall of a building, only for the conversation to be picked up again like nothing had happened.  The daily rhythm of life is rarely disrupted.  It reminds me of my time spent growing up in Northern Ireland in the early 90’s.  We’d carry on playing minutes after a bomb scare and armored vehicles rolling down the street passed us by like buses.  But just like in Northern Ireland then, ceasefires don’t hold forever until there is a lasting agreement.

With no long lasting solution to the conflict here, I fear I could be writing this blog in another four years time.

LISTEN to some of FOX News Radio’s Emily Wither’s reporting during the Israel-Gaza exchange:

Follow FOX News Radio’s Emily Wither on Twitter: @ewither