The ominous sound erupted outside our home in the middle of the night — terrifying even my daughter, a former Israeli boot-camp officer.
My family and I were sleeping in our apartment in Tel Aviv when long-range rockets fired by the terror group Hamas began making their way Monday toward the city, where I had moved to from Washington, DC, 25 years ago.
The chilling drone of a wailing Israeli siren in the pitch blackness sent us all immediately scrambling for safety.
We ran to the internal stairwell that separates the two floors of our home — the safest place to be since my building, unlike some others in the area, doesn’t have a bomb shelter.
The grim feeling was all too familiar: I remember sitting in the same stairwell in 2019 and previously five years before that to dodge Hamas rockets.
In 1991, I was forced to even take refuge in a sealed room in my house wearing a gas mask when Saddam Hussein launched SCUD missiles believed to be carrying chemical warheads toward Tel Aviv. One of the rockets landed in my neighborhood.
This time around, my 26-year-old daughter Gabriella and her boyfriend were already on the lowest landing of the stairwell by the time my partner and I got there.
“This is so awful,’’ Gabriella said, her eyes red and wet from crying.
She had served three years in the Israeli Defense Forces, while her boyfriend, also shaken and exhausted, was a combat vet.
Both of them understood instinctively that this was just the beginning of something bigger — and they weren’t wrong.
We huddled in the narrow and cramped space until we heard a pounding followed by a loud reverberation that sent the apartment’s many windows rattling.
The noise was actually a reassuring one. It was the sound of our country’s Iron Dome, its defense-weapons system, hitting one of the long-range rockets to intercept it.
That boom was what stood between us and possible death.
We waited a few more seconds after the detonation, just to make sure there were no additional blasts.
Then we headed back to bed, although the quiet lasted all of 30 minutes before the sirens started going again and we back scrambled to the stairs. There was another loud boom and reverberation, fortunately, both signs that Israel’s defense system was still in action.
There would be many more warning sirens throughout the city that night, along with two more the next.
I continued to be on edge through the week, my pulse sent racing by the sound of a car alarm or even a child crying. It’s not just the rockets themselves but the utter uncertainty of when they’ll strike that puts one on edge, the feeling that they could come anytime, anywhere.
And whenever this round of violence finally stops, I know from experience that it will likely return at some point.