When the first missiles were fired into central Israel on Tuesday, my family and I were coming to the end of a short trip to Toronto for a family wedding. News from home, which first came in via What’s App messages to my daughter telling her that in our small town there had been an unprecedented air raid, was gut wrenching. We had just short of 24 hours to digest the awful news that no area of the country was immune to the rockets being launched from Gaza. The thought of flying into Israel, particularly into a Tel Aviv that was being targeted rather effectively for the first time, made me more than a little nervous. An online message from a friend slightly eased my fears – “You know the news is always darker from far”.
So true. In fact, the closer I got, ironically the less I feared what we were returning to. At the El Al check in counter at Toronto airport, I asked the attendant if there were a lot of cancellations. Her answer, in a heavy Russian accent: “No-one has cancelled. Very brave people.” That already made me feel better. Then I spotted a family of 6 who were clearly making aliyah, given away by a massive pile of baggage, punctuated by a large Mac computer box (no-one goes on vacation with such a piece of hardware). All I could think was this is the best and the worst time to make aliyah – the worst, well that’s obvious… missiles aren’t the greatest first impression; the best…things can only get better.
The mood on the plane did little to bring me down again. One tourist, about to spend three weeks in Israel, smiled broadly when he told a fellow passenger that the situation didn’t deter him because he likes a little action in his life. All around me, Canadian tourists were looking forward to spending time in Israel, undeterred by the less than sympathetic welcome they were surely going to get in Tel Aviv. Canadians, ey?
We landed, and Ben Gurion Airport was decorated with signs pointing the way to the air raid shelters. This was the only clue that something was amiss. Everything else was plain old normal – just the way we like to keep things as best as we can when the going gets tough. The nasty traffic on the way home was caused by our “normal” traffic accidents – five of them in total. And while the news stream was confirming many of my fears, and detailing the truly horrendous situations facing almost all residents of the South, life all around was going ahead as usual.
This morning, when the sirens went off while my son’s baseball team (that I manage) was in the middle of a pre-tournament practice game, we all quickly obeyed Homeland Security instructions and trooped off the field into the shelters. The experience of being in a small stuffy room with a team of very sweaty baseball players was far more unpalatable than the thought of missiles (no offense guys). We waited for the required 10 minutes, by which I mean an abbreviated 2 minutes, and returned to the field under the clear blue summer sky. The only hint of chaos was three tiny white puffy clouds in the distance – the last vestiges of the three missiles that had been intercepted by the Iron Dome minutes before.
One player commented that this was probably the first baseball inning ever to be ended by a missile attack. But I’m sure there were other moments in history that involved baseball and missiles. Either way, this was one moment that made me realize that hearing about an air raid from across the ocean is far more terrifying than being in one. In the midst of the chaos, I felt so much calmer. It really is less dark here than there. Still, I’ll be very happy when it’s all over and the only booms we hear at baseball are the sound of the ball cracking on the bat.