I woke up to a siren today. You know how you come to hate the sound of your alarm, the one that lets you know the night's up, it's time for work, for kids, for the day to start? So you change it every few months, and you definitely hit snooze at least twice. There's no snooze button for sirens.
I ran to the safe room in my parents' basement, because that's what life is like for me now, in Israel. That's what life is like for millions of Israelis going on their third week of war. And I'm lucky, because my concrete, bomb-proof safe room is in the house. Had I lived in an apartment complex, I wouldn't sleep in my pajamas. I would sleep with day clothes on because pajamas are no way to greet your neighbors, and you never know when the sirens are going to blast.
Before you boil over with outrage at my thoughts, tweet for my death, write #FreePalestine in the comments section or close this tab, hear me out: It is horrible in Gaza right now, where the death toll, destruction and despair is unimaginable. But one side's struggles don't negate the other's grief. Mourning for one group of civilians doesn't make the other group less miserable, less deserving of sympathy, of understanding.
It's very easy to get caught up in the media portrayal of the conflict. I should know, I work in media. It's very rare that you get a description of what daily life is like under fire. Not through numbers or charts or hollow quotes or misrepresented photos Photoshopped from other, just as horrific wars. Don't let politicians dictate the way you see this situation unfold. They're not teachers or ad directors, bodega vendors, writers, musicians , architects. They're not us. They're not you.
So how can you relate?
Imagine going to work. Imagine getting in your car to go to work, buckling your kids in their car seats and planning your escape route en route because if the sirens go off, you have 90 seconds at best to pull over, other cars be damned, get out, get your kids out, place them gently on the ground and cover them with your body while placing your arms over your head because you won't survive a direct hit, but you might mitigate the devastation caused by shrapnel.
Imagine going to work memorizing the nearest bomb shelter location, putting off important client meetings or major presentations for fear they'd be cut off by rocket fire. And then you worry. You worry if your kids made it in time for shelter at daycare, at summer camp, at grandma's. Their legs are small and there may be several of them, and your kid is docile and not pushy and unaware, and what if he lets all the other kids in before him. Or worse. What if he is aware and he's scared and he's crying and you're not there because you're in your office bomb shelter and you're not sure how life came to be this way.
A nursery in Hod Hasharon, Israel. Photo credit: Sivan Basa, YNet. pic.twitter.com/0KDpq3ZagK
— Avital Chizhik (@avitalrachel) July 16, 2014
Then there's your partner. Your rock. The man you've come to rely on for comfort, for safety. He's not there to help you right now because he's been called into the reserves, like more than 50,000 other soldiers who had to cut their daily routine because the country called and you don't transfer your country to voice mail. Imagine returning home at the end of this excruciatingly long day, prepping dinner and baths and bedtime, and he's not there. It's like a business trip, you tell yourself, only for an unset amount of time, to a war zone, where 18 soldiers have already been killed. Only he can't really call or text or send pictures.
So you worry about him, and you worry about how you'll get through the night, and you worry about your elderly parents who swear their neighbors help them get out in time but you know they can't make it to shelter, they're no longer agile, so they wait in the staircase until it's over. The staircase is safe. It's just one of those things you tell yourself to survive.
I'm not saying pick a side. There are no winners here, only losers. I just ask that you try to see life through my eyes. Try to take a walk in my shoes. You have 90 seconds.