Life — if you can call it that — under Israel’s Iron Dome

By Keren Blankfeld
July 21, 2014

 Israelis take cover on the side of a road as a siren sounds warning of incoming rockets outside the northern Gaza Strip

I’ve become pretty great at rocket dodging. As a New Yorker living in Tel Aviv while researching a book, I never thought I’d say that. And yet it’s true: since Hamas began firing rockets into Tel Aviv on July 8, I’ve learned to move quickly.

Out jogging when a siren blares? I have 90 seconds to find the nearest building with a bunker or drop down in a ditch, hands over my head. Driving a car? I have 90 seconds to pull over, get out and lie on the pavement, hands over my head.

Since Hamas began tossing rockets indiscriminately at Israel — hoping that the Iron Dome will miss at least one of them — I’ve started a tally.

So far, I’ve run inside a bunker or a stairwell 14 times. I’ve heard at least 20 “booms” that crackle the sky as the Iron Dome intercepts a rocket. I’ve felt the ground shake from said “boom” four times.

Last Friday evening, I witnessed a hasty Happy Birthday sung on a stairwell amid sirens and booms. There was no time for a cake or candle — just the song to assuage a toddler’s fear. On Tuesday I saw an elderly couple scramble to the cafeteria of the Tel Aviv Museum (the museum’s bunker), clutching on to each other. Those were two times the ground shook beneath us.

Israelis take cover in a stairwell as an air raid siren sounds in Tel AvivI do realize this is common fare, sadly, for Israelis. As an American citizen in town for only a few weeks, I’m witnessing just a sliver of what it’s like for Israelis trying their best to live a “normal” life in a kind of twilight zone where different rules apply. An endless supply of optimism that peace and safety are around the corner seems essential to keep society functioning.

I’m lucky my apartment has a “mamad,” or bunker, in it — a requirement for recent constructions in Israel. I go inside for the duration of the siren’s scream and rush out when it’s over to look out the window and see if any of the shrapnel landed nearby. Facing the highway, I see rows of cars pulled over to the side, the road quiet as people get up from the ground and back in their cars to resume their lives.

At a family dinner on Thursday, a siren went off while we were eating. The 8-year-old grabbed the dogs and the 3-year-old clutched on to her grandmother as her parents made sure everyone was safe in the bunker. They showed me the gas masks, now required in bunkers in case of a chemical attack.

We stayed there for a few minutes, heard two booms and the siren’s wail end.

“Hope it didn’t land in the living room,” the father said, laughing. As he walked out he looked around to make sure.

A few days ago, when I decided to begin my rocket tally, it occurred to me: We’ve become blasé about the situation, annoyed when a siren interrupts our daily routine. We joke: Where did the siren catch you this time? The shower, or were you still in bed? Where do you go if you’re in the grocery store and the siren begins? Are movie theaters fortified?

But what if there were no Iron Dome? The country would be in flames. The civilian casualties would be staggering.

I wouldn’t be here typing. All it takes is for one rocket to get through — one, out of the 20-plus rockets that have been launched at Tel Aviv in 13 days. I’m fortunate; I can run, squat and dodge — unlike those confined to beds or wheelchairs. Several people have suffered from shock. Some hospitals aren’t fortified.

Tel Aviv, in general, is privileged. We’re dealing with a fraction of the rockets launched daily at southern cities, where people are being told to go into bunkers every hour to avoid rockets. Over the radio I hear about shrapnel injuries, a civilian who died of a heart attack on the way to the bunker, a Bedouin killed from a Hamas rocket explosion.

The Iron Dome has a success rate of around 85 to 90 percent, according to the IDF. As Hamas keeps lobbing rockets, I feel myself, along with others, become more confounded by how surreal life in Tel Aviv has become.

How long will we stay lucky?

PHOTOS: Israelis take cover on the side of a road as a siren sounds warning of incoming rockets outside the northern Gaza Strip July 15, 2014. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Israelis take cover in a stairwell as an air raid siren, warning of incoming rockets, sounds in Tel Aviv July 9, 2014. REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly

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I wonder how the 500+ Palestinians feel about the rockets and missiles that the apartheid regime of Isreal has launched on them?

Oh wait, they’re dead!!!!!

Posted by No_apartheid | Report as abusive

The reasons for the “asymmetry” between Israeli and Palestinian casualties should be clear by now to anyone who is informed and has a conscience. Israel invests vast sums to protect its citizens, particularly with the Iron Dome missile-defense system; Hamas positions weapons stockpiles and command centers in and under mosques, schools, and hospitals. Israel goes to extraordinary lengths to warn Gazans of impending strikes, and encourages them to leave conflict zones; Hamas orders them to stay where they are.

Posted by BillyGates | Report as abusive

“I wonder how the 500+ Palestinians…” The sad thing is that all that could have been avoided if Hamas didn’t start this fight…

Posted by Teshuvah | Report as abusive

Really? You have the nerve to write this article while your army is killing hundreds of children in Gaza. Can you imagine what life is like for them? Do you understand now why the world hates Israel?

Posted by yng22 | Report as abusive

“I wonder how the 500+ Palestinians feel about the rockets and missiles that the apartheid regime of Isreal has launched on them?

Oh wait, they’re dead!!!!!”

They’re dead because Hamas uses their people to protect missiles. Israel uses missiles to protect their people.

Posted by Nagant | Report as abusive

Dead is dead. Stop the madness!

Posted by euro-yank | Report as abusive

what about the life of Palestinians and what about the massacre in ghaza, one Israeli were killed but what about hundreds of kids and women and old people killed in ghaza, israel life could be difficult because of the rockets, but in ghaza life is a hell

Posted by kasparoov | Report as abusive

@Nagant, how can you not feel shame of repeating the two-weeek tired talking-point phrase coined by the barbarian apartheid regime that has created a “country” on stolen land and by forced depopulation of Palestinians and colonization by European jews?

Posted by mcanterel | Report as abusive

Stop the encroaching on Palestinian lands, send home the halve a million – and growing – illegal Jewish squatters there, make peace, and I mean don’t take another piece of plot from Palestine that’s not yours. You are not the victim here, stop whining.

Posted by boreal | Report as abusive

If I think I understand some of the commenters, the only way for this all to stop is if the Jews pack up and leave and move back to some other country. Is there anything other solution? Ball is in your court.

Posted by HankReardon | Report as abusive

Sure. Pack up and leave. Obama will take you in just like that! You just won’t be able to grab other peoples’ lands.

Posted by MonitorLizard | Report as abusive

HankReardon: I don’t think you understand any of the commenters or very much of the actual conflict. The only way to stop civilians in Gaza from being killed by israeli fire is for Israel to stop firing on civilians. That means that the IDF needs to reevaluate their offensive and move forward in a way that does not involve indiscriminately firing on one of the most densely populated regions on earth. After they’ve done that, they need to take responsibility for the lives of the civilians for whom they are responsible (as Gaza is an occupied territory) and start providing Palestinians with access to things like clean water and healthcare.

Posted by j.alexie | Report as abusive

And frankly this article is repulsive. Keren Blankfeld, whoever you are, how do you justify complaining about the inconvenience and vaguely detached fear that you’ve learned to cope with when you live so close to an entire population of people who are constantly having to mourn the deaths of their loved ones and the losses of entire families, groups of CIVILIANS who are killed in one blow? How can you, having access to even the paltry media coverage of what’s going on in Gaza, think that you are justified in your complaining?

Posted by j.alexie | Report as abusive

If there were a group in Mexico firing hundreds of missiles into the US, what would American citizens expect their government to do?

Posted by SayHey | Report as abusive

I hope that American citizens would expect their government to address the militants who were firing missiles, but that comparison is not at all applicable @SayHey, since Mexico is not a tiny, densely populated strip of land, and that situation would be all kinds of different.

Posted by j.alexie | Report as abusive

Although this is a ‘blog’ (and more like something that belongs to a social media page), I expect a little more from someone who calls herself a journalist (especially a little critical distance and reflection, not to mention some analysis -historical, political, economic). In this case, perhaps the word ‘surreal’ already applies.

Posted by Seamusic | Report as abusive

U are lucky that any rocket hit u …not like Palestinians, sadly they received all the Israeli rockets…

Posted by NoemiQ | Report as abusive

@SayHey If the UN imposed a group of people from foreign lands on the US and they took away over 60% of US land and completely crippled your economy, what would American citizens expect their government to do?

Posted by Bayz | Report as abusive

@SayHey, well if we went into Mexico and claimed that God intended for us to have this land, and we move white settlers into Mexico to take over the land, then you should expect Mexico to respond with rocket fire.

Isreal brought this situation upon itself. It has an apartheid government.

Posted by No_apartheid | Report as abusive

“Their People”

“Our People”


Am i the only who sees dead children with nothing but “we’re afraid” to justify their murder?

Posted by FlowIrrational | Report as abusive

@No_apartheid – Israel vacated Gaza – the opposite of moving in – is that how “Israel brought this situation on itself?”. Perhaps.

Posted by SayHey | Report as abusive

They vacated Gaza ? They still control all access to and from for people, goods,water, electricity all essentials for life they tightly control.
They built illegal settlements on disputed lands ( The UN says they are illegal not jsut me ) and then dump their sewage onto Palestinian lands. They throw garbage at and mock Palestinians from their illegal fence under the cover of rifles from their soldiers. I could go on and on about the atrocities committed in the occupied territories (again thats UN terminology not mine )
Please do yourself a favor and learn about the origins of the current state of Israel. Most specifically the Irgun and how they are the very basis of today Likud party.

Posted by silverb5 | Report as abusive

Read the whole arguments above. I found one thing for sure from my experience, We let death shout in our ears.

Posted by soumen1998 | Report as abusive

Here is how Gaza is not occupied–Israel withdrew from 100% of Gaza territory and left in place business and housing infrastructure. HAMAS destroyed the infrastructure. THERE WAS NO EMBARGO UNTIL HAMAS SENT ROCKETS INTO ISRAEL. Have you guys got that. The embargo is a result of the rocket fire, not the other way around. And, just for the record, when HAMAS speaks of occupied territory they are talking about Tel Aviv, Ashdod and Haifa. So if you accept the HAMAS argument, you are calling for the destruction of Israel. Now this is your privilege, but don’t call the Gaza rockets self defense when in reality they are an offensive weapon. Within this framework, Israel is very self-restrained. Let’s look at WW2, 107,000 Americans died and Japan had between 3.4 and 4.7 million deaths, many civilians from US bombing of Japanese cities. So does that lop sided statistic make Japan the innocent and the US the aggressor?

Posted by Ashdodi | Report as abusive


What, exactly, is the point of #’s shared? Care to explain the toll during Gaza war? Estimated 1,166-1,417 Palestinians and 13 Israelis died in that conflict, what should we deduce and discern from such ”statistics”?

As we weigh atrocities…

Posted by satori23 | Report as abusive

Why can’t the UN post a peace keeping mission at Gaza? Then, surely the world will know who is doing what.

Posted by SKM1978 | Report as abusive

Both the sides have weapons to take life. Both are unleashing them on each other daily. One has defense system to intercept incoming missile while the other doesn’t have that intelligence.
However, only one side is accused of killing 1000 people while other side is victimized, why ?
If Israel too didn’t had this technology to intercept incoming missiles and conceded 1000 casualties, only then we’ll be able to accuse Hamas as well ?

why double standards ?

Posted by SuhasShelke | Report as abusive

After Israel’s withdrawal, the Palestinians were given control over the Gaza Strip, except for the borders, the airspace and the territorial waters.

Following the withdrawal, Hamas was elected as the Palestinian government.

If Israel was to lift the siege of Gaza, maybe Hamas would stop firing missiles at Israel?

I`ve talked to Jewish people and they tell me that Israel can not `lift` the siege of Gaza, in case weapons are brought in.

Using this argument, there will `never` be peace, for Israel or Gaza.

This `war` will still be going on in 100 years plus.

Someone has to step back and try something different.

Posted by ch1ldofthemoon | Report as abusive

What should we deduce and discern from such statistics? That has already been asked and answered. We should deduce that Israel prioritizes people’s safety over missiles, and Gaza prioritizes missiles over people’s safety. Alternatively, we should deduce that the strategy of Hamas is to allow the death of as many of its people as possible so as to garner support and sympathy from the international community (which appears to be working).

Posted by datch | Report as abusive

Guys, just a little thinking here: don’t you think that if Israel’s purpose was to kill civilians, after 15 days since this started, with massive air force, naval and ground forces wouldn’t they have killed much more than 600 people? Think a little…
Israel is the most moral army in the world. Ridiculous to defend terrorists that throw rockets indiscriminately into civilian centers, dig massive tunnels into Israel, instead of investing this money into the betterment of their own people – while their leaders are comfortably flying private jets, living in luxury hotels and hiding themselves underground like rats.
Terrorism is not just a problem of Israel, but a world problem. Until the likes of Hamas, Hizbollah, Al Qaeda, ISIL, Boko Haram are exterminated, the world will not have peace.
All power to Israel!

Posted by corecapital11 | Report as abusive

Israelis are Palestinian too. the Arabs and Iranians attacking from Gaza use human shields. They do not treasure their children. and that is a big difference that the world ignores.

Posted by rikfre | Report as abusive

I wonder how the 500+ Palestinians feel about the rockets and missiles that the apartheid regime of Isreal has launched on them

Posted by shop111 | Report as abusive

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