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Wartime Ramblings

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Fine, it’s not a “war.” It’s an “operation.” There’s a difference, probably. Maybe it has to do with uniforms. I visited the War Museum in Paris two months ago, and according to the French, war = spiffy matching uniforms. So maybe it becomes a war when everyone suits up in matching red jackets with gold trim and buttons and a feathery hat on top.
 
… Anyway, Modi’in finally—FINALLY—hit the big time on Saturday night. Or maybe the big time hit us. After being siren-free during the last two “warperations,” we got our very first siren after Shabbat. We dutifully ran to our safe rooms (“mamad”) and closed the door, so so quickly, I mean, it only took 45 of our 90 pre-explosion seconds to close, during which my husband yanked it four or five times and finally, with a massive BANG that was louder than the siren, managed to get it shut. First thing I learned about war: Mamad doors are heavy.
 
And then, the Facebook exploded, no pun intended. It seemed many Modi’inites were approximately 10% scared and 90% excited to finally join the big leagues and take selfies in the safe room. I think our mayor, Haim Bibas, was actually breathing a sigh of relief, because he totally gets fun of at mayor parties. “Oh Haim’ele, is it tough being the mayor of Modi’in? Where you have a 95% approval rating, where no one even ran against you in the last election, where your biggest problem is that occasionally in the winter, when it rains, your mall floods? Where everyone in the city basically gets along? Where your big political fight is whether or not planes should be able to fly overhead? Gee, it must be so hard!” So now, at least he gets to be all mayor-y and put out solemn statements about safety during warperations and act all calm and reassuring to his people.
 
Of course, after the excitement of siren #1, numbers 2-4 lost their appeal somewhat. Never mind, Hamas, can you go back to ignoring us, like the rest of Israel does? At least, the sirens brought out some empathy for our southern neighbors, who have to deal with sirens for most of their day and night (and have a fraction of the time we do to get to their safe rooms). “How do they do this all the time?” my daughter wondered. And then, with the logic only a pre-teen could concoct, “Well, at least since all their camps are canceled, if they are up all night because of sirens they can just sleep the next day!” Um, sure.
 
Also, it’s amazing how quickly you enter warperation-time mode. Before, I would leave to pick up my youngest from his gan with a shout to the older ones, “Going out be back soon!” This week, I made sure they understood what to do just in case the siren goes off while I’m out of the house. Luckily, my husband and older son had a mamad-door-closing training session, so he felt prepared. And I find myself carefully planning outings, balancing risk-benefit to every little errand I need to do. Is there a miklat (public safety room) where I’m going? Should I take the kids? Should I wait till later? When is later? 4 p.m.? August? 2015? Anyway, I remember the words of Giuliani in the post-9/11 days. It was something like, “Go shopping or the terrorists will have won.” So should I continue about my day? Should we go to the pool so Hamas won’t win? Or does the possibility of hanging out in a cold miklat with 3 dripping kids mean I sort of lost? (Update: We did go to the pool. No sirens, thank God, and a fairly empty pool, because of the “situation.”)
 
Also, every noise start to sound like a siren. Wind or siren? TV or siren? Car engine or siren? Police or siren? Daughter humming or siren? As my 4-year-old pointed out, “The siren sounds like, “Wee-wooo! Wee-wooo!” Doesn’t it, though?  
 
Luckily for us, as Mayor Bibas calmly reassures me in a very mayorly sort of way, life in Modi’in is more or less business as usual. They’ve canceled some of the big outdoor activities, but camps and gans are running, and most importantly, the mall is still open.
 
We have a one-floor apartment—spacious as apartments go, but still, one floor. Which can be frustrating at times but man, are we reaping the benefits now. Because all of our rooms are so close to each other, with no stairs to climb, we could do a slow waltz from the furthest end of our apartment to the mamad and still have enough time to slam the door 4 or 5 times till it closes correctly. BANG! My older son, a bit freaked by the sirens, has expressed his deep desire to live in a stair-free environment for the rest of his life.
 
There are lots of opportunities to do chessed, both for the deployed soldiers, families of deployed soldiers and residents of the south. It truly is amazing, how within 30 seconds of announcing a warperation, people jump into action organizing and donating. You can send underwear (hot days + can’t leave base = a fresh pair is always welcome), deodorant and toothpaste, drinks and snacks, pizza and coke. You can volunteer to host families from the south, or donate art supplies to kids in rocket range who’ve had camps canceled and need something to do. You can make a meal for a family whose father was called up, or offer babysitting services.
 
Sometimes though, the messages are conflicting. In one hour yesterday, I got one email that said, “The officers stationed at the Iron Dome in Modi’in [that’s right, people, we have our own Iron Dome] need underwear [official motto of warperations: Underwear: You can Never Have Enough] and hygiene products.” A few minutes later, a post on Facebook say, “The officers at the Modi’in Iron Dome have enough stuff! They are overwhelmed with your generosity but have a surplus and are giving away donations to other bases! Stop by and visit but please don’t bring food or other items!”
 
Then there’s the Bamba/Bissli/cookie controversy. “Our soldiers need treats! Please drop off  cake/cookies, Bissli/Bamba, etc. for them to snack on! The days are hot and the food is bad. Please give! You can drop things off at [these gazillion collection points throughout the city.]” But then, “STOP SENDING JUNK FOOD! SEND UNDERWEAR!”
 
What to do, what to do.
 
And also? So hard to get any work done! The internet has made me ADD on the best of days. (“Oooh, pictures of Jessica Simpson’s wedding dress … hey, these two are fighting again on Facebook … let’s see if any of my favorite blogs have new posts …). Now, with a war to keep track of? Times of Israel is liveblogging every moment of the war. Don’t miss a single rocket! I mean, who can concentrate on actual work? (Note to my boss: Asking for a friend. Because, me? I totally can.)
 
Well, as of right this minute there is a ceasefire proposal, which Israel has accepted and Hamas has not. Unclear what that means. Stay tuned to someone other than me for actual updates and news.
 
As the current send-off in Israel goes: “Yom shaket/A quiet day” to everyone. 

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