I arrived in The Holy Land just in time for a renewed conflict between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
In response to the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three Israeli teenagers, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) conducted "Operation Brother's Keeper" to arrest militant Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip. Hamas militants retaliated by firing increasingly more and more rockets into Israel. This kicked off a seven-week conflict in which the IDF used both air and ground forces to strike militant Hamas sites.
Rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip increased over the following two months. By the time a ceasefire was negotiated (August 26, 2014), it was estimated that 4,564 rockets had been fired from the Gaza strip into Israel. Over the course of the conflict, that averages out to about 130 rocket attacks a day. Needless to say, rocket alerts and sirens became a relatively common occurrence in Israel at this time, especially in the south.
Hamas leaders were adamant that they were capable of hitting critical targets all over Israel. One such target was a chemical plant in the very northern port-city of Haifa. I was living in Haifa at this time, and I only remember a few sirens going off throughout the summer... I slept through the first one. The real concern in the north of Israel was not an attack from the Gaza Strip, but rather attacks from rogue terrorist groups in Lebanon.
I only remember going to bomb shelters once or twice while in Haifa. I can remember a time or two that I should have done so while visiting Tel Aviv, but the alarms always seemed to sound at the most inconvenient times. Once, while in the shower I had just shampooed my hair when the shrieking of a very nearby rocket alarm sounded. In that moment I made peace with my Creator and continued shampooing my hair. I wasn't about to let the fear of a rocket ruin an otherwise perfectly good shower.
While in Tel Aviv I had downloaded an app for my phone called Red Alert. This app is essentially a personal rocket siren. It uses your GPS coordinates to determine your location, and if a rocket is inbound nearby, it sets off an alarm on the phone.
It's a very cool app. It even let's you choose what tone you want to play when an alarm is sounding (much like a ringtone). I chose the chorus of "Relax (Take it Easy)" by MIKA.
One of the final rocket alarms that sounded in Israel that summer went off while a few friends and I were enjoying a peaceful evening in the courtyard outside the University of Haifa student dorms. We were two or three glasses of wine deep into a discussion about the political situation in Iraqi Kurdistan, while simultaneously attempting to work on Arabic homework when the alarm sounded.
When Red Alert began playing "Relax (Take it Easy)" to let us know that a rocket was on its way, the response went something like this:
"Well, looks like another rocket alarm is going off somewhere..."
In the background my phone repeated Mika's chorus:
"Relax, take it easy, for there is nothing that we can do..."