Jerusalem: ‘All Clear’ Siren Welcomes the Sabbath and then…

Every week in Jerusalem the Sabbath is welcomed by the sounding of the “All Clear” Siren so it was natural to hear it sound out in one long, even, clean and clear note at 16:04 (4:04 p.m.) this past Friday, 16 November 2012. In our household the Shabbat all clear siren sound generally brings along with it a giggling sing-song of “Shabbos Kodesh! Holy Sabbath! Shabbos Kodesh! Holy Sabbath!” This especially when part of the household isn’t 100% ready to receive the Shabbat and we are in a mad dash racing against the sun to use our remaining 36 minutes to get ready before the actual entry of the Holy Sabbath. This past Shabbat, the first one of “Operation Pillar of Defense”, was different, before we lit candles we set up one radio on the “silent wave station” 531 on the AM dial. The station was set up to maintain radio silence unless a “Tzeva Adom” (Color Red) rocket raid alert call was necessary. Then the radio would suddenly come to life calling out “Tzeva Adom” followed by the name of the city for which the alert was declared.   

This week we were running a bit later than usual when at 16:50 (10 minutes into Shabbat) the silence was broken by the radio announcer saying “Yerushalyim, Tzeva Adom, Yerushalyim” (Jerusalem, Color Red, Jerusalem) and simultaneously the rising and falling notes of the Jerusalem Air Raid Siren sounded, for the first time since March 1991, breaking through the silence of the peaceful evening. One of my young adult children still in a post shower bathrobe was at the door faster than the rest of us. The other young adult child needed to be called out of their room! Our apartment building, built in 1971, no longer has a functional fall out shelter as it was turned into a storage room 21 years ago after the First Gulf War, so along with our neighbors we walked out of our apartments and walked down to the second floor stairwell landing to wait for the all clear. 

On the landing below us, we heard some little children beginning to winch, whine and cry. We all walked down to them softly calling to the family of strangers who had taken shelter in our stairwell welcoming them with the gentle traditional Hebrew greeting: “Shabbat Shalom! We are so happy that you have come to visit us for Shabbat!” As we spoke with the children and the adults we all found that the effort of assisting in calming down the children had paid off for all of us…we were all calm and quiet when suddenly we heard a muffled and yet very clear boom. We agreed that the rocket had landed and we were even able to reasonably estimate its distance and location. Once we were sure that the rocket event was over we wished each other “Shabbat Shalom” and moved on into our ordinary Shabbat evening. Except, of course, that since the radio was on all throughout the Shabbat we could heard the words “Tzeva Adom” and the names of different cities in the Southern Region of Israel.   

After Shabbat we learned that 200 rockets had been fired into Israel in the 25 hours between Friday night and Saturday night. In Jerusalem, we were “lucky” only one of those rockets had been fired from Gaza by Hamas towards Jerusalem close enough to cause our Shabbat All Clear Siren to turn into a Shabbat Air Raid Siren…

“As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the L-rd surrounds his people both now and forevermore….Peace be on Israel.” (Tehillim/Psalm 125: 2 and 5) 

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