I was in a dark yoga room when I heard the sirens.
I’d heard them once before, when they ran a test, because I live in a place where instead of fire drills school children have bomb drills and line up to go to the bomb shelter. This time I was in such a daze I thought it was the wind howling. We had just finished shavasana, the final resting pose of a yoga series, when a small light in the corner of the room started flashing and a siren wailed in the distance. It didn’t register until the yoga instructor said, as calmly as he had led us into down dog, “there will be bomb. In about 60 seconds. You will hear bomb.” He looked around the room. His words sank in, but only in a surreal sort of way. “Just like a few years ago. We have 60 seconds.”
At first I thought that meant 60 seconds to run, or scream, or get to a bomb shelter. But I think the yoga studio actually does double duty as a bomb shelter. In Be’er Sheva, many things do. I looked around, caught the eyes of my two friends. Some people put their heads in their hands. The room was dead silent. We waited. About a minute passed. “I guess there is no bomb.” As he said this, two muffled bangs could be heard in the distance. “We will walk out together,” he said. “In a group.” He flicked on the lights, and the brightness was abrupt. As we filed out into the common room the instructor asked, “are you alright?” to a number of people. Always keeping his cool. He offered us rides home, but we walked.
Although I have lived in Be’er Sheva, Israel – a mere 40 kilometers from Gaza – for six months now, the reality of the political situation had yet to sink in. It was the first time that it hit me that I live in Israel, in a place that is bombed, and where people are nonchalant about rockets landing a few miles away. No one was injured. The grad rockets landed on some homes in a residential area, but luckily the inhabitants had moved quickly and were in the bomb shelter. Someone once told me that 60 seconds is more time than you think.
There were a few articles in the newspaper, but those in the North feel as disconnected from it as I would in New York. It is noteworthy because this is the first time Be’er Sheva has been hit since the Gaza war in 2009. Around here, two years is a long time to go without being bombed.
Things are back to normal here. I have been sure to locate the bomb shelter in my apartment complex, and my flashlight is at the ready. The sonic booms of the army aircrafts can be heard more often, and there seems to be a constant helicopter buzz. But that was it, for now at least.
And just like that, a few days later, it’s like the rockets never landed. I’m not afraid, I think partially because it still doesn’t feel totally real. I also think I’ve just adjusted to a new normal.