That chilling siren sound came on this morning. We all quieted down immediately, stopping what we were doing. My eldest turned to me, saying hurriedly, ‘Let’s go to the shelter!’ My youngest, who is rarely roused from her play by anything, stopped what she was doing and came to me anxiously, ‘Mommy hear it? Mommy hear it?’ She looked around for a source of the sound.
My heart dropped in my chest. Just a minute before they’d been scampering around, playing and arguing and enjoying a summer morning in the stillness of our home, but they know, everything stops when they hear this sound.
Last year when we experienced regular sirens during the Gaza war, my youngest was too small to be aware of why we awakened her quickly in the night to go to the shelter. Now she is aware; now she knows; and this knowledge is a burden that carries responsibility.
Fortunately, this siren was part of a nationally scheduled test. Nothing bad was happening, no boom of a falling rocket followed, no slight tremors shook our windows, but this sound is etched in my mind, particularly because of last summer.
We walked to the shelter as part of the practice drill. I turned to my eldest, ‘Do you remember why we have a siren?’ She shook her head, indicating she didn’t. Part of me felt comforted that she could forget it meant that something potentially dangerous was headed our way. Part of me felt sad, because her childish features are maturing, and with her maturity comes more awareness of this sad, conflict-ridden reality we face.
As I stared into their faces, soft round cheeks, and bright, alert little eyes, I wondered, ‘How can I instill in these little people in my care hearts soft enough to feel compassion for those around them, yet strong enough to withstand the pain and harshness of the conflict?’ These moments shape their identities as privileged people who live in a country that has these warnings. At the same time, our government and people seek no end to the conflict, leaving us less privileged since we do not live in peace, and there is no peace in sight.