Wednesday, November 21, 2012


As a kid growing up in the Southern United States, I heard my share of civil defense sirens when tornadoes threatened.  There was the fear of dangerous weather, and the comfort of knowing that you would be safe when the weather front passed.

As I write this post, minutes after the Israel - Gaza cease fire, our family has spent the week in Israel celebrating a long planned family reunion and celebration.  We left JFK as tensions were rising, but before large scale rocket attacks had begun.   We've been quite fortunate so far, as our home base of Jerusalem has only been the target of rocket fire from Gaza on two occasions.  The first last Friday right after we arrived, the second time later in the week as we traveled in the West Bank. There's been no damage.

At the first siren, our family was getting settled in our rental unit after a long flight from the US.  It took time to realize exactly what was happening.   We took shelter in our apartment's safe-room (after I pulled my son off the balcony as he searched for rockets!).   The only thing more eerie than the wailing sirens throughout the Holy Land, was the dead silence that followed.  Nobody was around to announce "It's OK to come out".  A rocket fired by Hamas fell short, outside of Jerusalem.

As the days have passed, and literally hundreds of rockets have been fired toward Israel, I have witnessed an amazing culture.  Israelis move forward, going to work, going to school (when possible) and carrying on life as normal, despite being the target of terror.  I ONLY HEARD ONE SIREN, but now think twice when an ambulance passes.  And have difficulty going to sleep thinking about what I'll do if a siren sounds in the middle of the night.  Or think where I would shelter my family as we walk down a crowded city street.  I can't image the horror that many Israel residents have endured over 8 days, with dozens if not hundreds of rocket warnings.

 I've gained a new appreciation for social media as a public service tool for Emergency Communications, adding @push321 @MDais @IDFSpokesperson to my Twitter feed to follow the rocket threat in real-time.  I understand there is an iPhone app on the Israel iTunes Store that announces rocket threats by your location.  I think we could learn from their experience here in the United States, particularly in light of wordy, repetitive statements issued by our National Weather Service when a storm approaches.  And to my knowledge, we have no real "functional, contemporary" public warning system for IMMEDIATE threats, whether natural or man-made in the United States.   Correct me if I'm wrong...

I ONLY HEARD ONE SIREN, but it changed me in many ways forever.  Unlike tornadoes of the Deep South, the terrorist threat remains even after a cease-fire has been singed.  I strongly support the right of all nations to defend their citizens, especially Israel that seems to be the never ending target of aggression from extremist groups.  (What would the US do if another country launched over 500 bombs into of our our States?  I think the answer is obvious.)  I want my kids to understand the complex, and sometimes dangerous world we live in.  I hope they'll be better Americans and World Citizens in the process.  I'm going to increase my personal knowledge of emergency communications, and I'm ready to embrace internet technologies that complement traditional radio (echolink, IRL, D-star)  And finally, I'm going to be more thankful for the security and comfort I have as an American.

This morning a Jerusalem taxi driver gave me an interesting insight not provided by the talking heads of cable news services: "Hamas is ready for a cease fire....they've just about exhausted their rockets...they need time to replace their stockpile."
photo - aged tower on top of Mount Herzl, Jerusalem....warning siren?

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