TEL AVIV - Of all the things to be concerned about in Santa Barbara, finding shelter in less than 90 seconds is not one of them. As the ceasefire goes into effect, a temporary lull has descended over Israel and the Gaza Strip, but the looming threat of rocket attacks and bombings casts a shadow over the lives of Santa Barbarans who have experienced the past week and previous outbreaks of violence.
"I definitely feel more jumpy and am on guard all of the time," said Paulina King, 20, a Santa Barbara native (San Marcos High School) who is currently in a pre-med program at Tel Aviv University.
"The first time I heard the sirens, I was really confused, they didn't really prepare us for it. After I knew what was going on, I was excited, but not in a happy way, just that I was paying close attention to everything," said King.
"Another time, I heard it, but was outside and had to sprint back to my dorm. That time, I heard the boom."
Arya Donay, 26, (UCSB) was at home when the first siren went off. "Everyone was pretty shocked," he said. "It's normal for people in the south, but it's crossing a red line it reaches Tel Aviv, where so many people live."
For Yoav Schafer, 24, (Dos Pueblos), who served in an Israeli military combat unit and is now studying at Harvard University, the effect of the constant threat of violence in Israel is "terrible".
"I remember hearing stories of parents who would not leave the house at the same time, in case of them got killed in a terrorist attack," Schafer recalled.
Jason Raede, 24 (Dos Publos), served in the Israeli military from 2010 until 2012 and was stationed in a unit near the Gaza border. He related that people who live in towns near the Gaza border live in a constant state of uneasiness. "Even just walking to the grocery store, they have to be mindful of where the nearest bomb shelter is," he said.
Other actions that Israelis have undertaken in response to the attacks include driving with a window down, so as to better hear the sirens and carefully considering walking, which offers increased flexibility to find shelter, versus the convenience of driving.
The past week has also seen schools throughout Israel cancel classes and parents pick their children up at 1 PM, nap time, since some schools do not have proper shelter and do not want to face the risk of having to quickly wake up and move 20-30 small children.
Still, as Donay related, "While there is definitely a feeling of somberness, life continues."
King said that, "Israelis are calm about the situation, so it makes it easier for me to be calm. I am still going to take buses when I go out with my friends, go to classes, and play volleyball."
Schaefer believes that this pervasive threat of attack, and the larger political context, has lead to a constant push and pull in Israeli society between optimism and anxiety, "This constant vigilance is embedded in the Israeli ethos, and the impact can been seen everywhere, from security checks at malls to every house having a bomb shelter….the real tragedy is the acceptance of the situation."
Still, Schafer thinks that, while the realities of the security situation are firmly rooted in society, it is not completely hopeless.
"Israelis have a common saying, 'It will be okay,' even if it is not okay now. There is a feeling of hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst," he said.
Raede also commented on the difficulty of the situation, "…Everyone is human, even enemies…even someone shooting at you. It is not black and white, there is a lot of grey."
Schafer added, "Unfortunately, they (Israel) directly face the challenge of 'how does a liberal, democratic state respond to terrorism committed by an enemy that does not play by the same rules?'
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Posted by Noah Smith · November 25, 2012 05:29