Imagine walking through Madrid’s Puerta de Sol or New York’s Times Square and suddenly all the alarms in the city go off: “Alert! Alert! We are under attack, head somewhere safe.”
Imagine you are walking with your children in Miami Beach or with your wife having a coffee in Rome; or simply enjoying any big city in the world and out of nowhere missiles from a neighboring country start falling. That happened in Tel Aviv, one of the jewels of Israel, the cosmopolitan, modern and young city that exudes prosperity.
Israel, despite being a deeply religious state, has in Tel Aviv its most liberal and bustling city, a practically Western city established in the Middle East.
Its citizens are free and prosperous, as commerce is incredibly dynamic, there are many nightclubs ideal for its young population and also for tourists. It is not for nothing that Tel Aviv, like New York, is known as the city “that never sleeps.”
Tel Aviv has also become a very important technological center, being the birthplace of several of the world’s leading startups, such as Waze (later sold to Google) or the security software Trusteer. The Israeli city is called Silicon Wadi, as it is considered the second largest center of investment and technological innovation on the planet, behind Silicon Valley.
People wear summer outfits. Sandals and comfortable clothes are the norm and, despite having a large mobilization, the atmosphere is very relaxed. Many people get around on bikes or electric scooters rented for a small fee. The sand from the beach travels through the streets and the award-winning architecture is in tune with the Tel Aviv lifestyle.
However, all this remarkable routine, where freedom to walk and enjoy the city is a mere custom, was totally disrupted by the missiles launched by Hamas.
The New York Times says “The bombardment of Tel Aviv has been a devastating turn of events for a bustling metropolis that brands itself as Israel’s nonstop party city on the Mediterranean and the financial hub of the country. Over the weekend, incoming alerts and rocket salvos sent crowds of beachgoers running for cover and closed down many of the city’s famed restaurants and bars.”
The last point is important, because when the Sabbath comes, almost everywhere in Israel there is a slowdown in activities. There is no public transportation and businesses close, but not in Tel Aviv.
However, the city that is home to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, Israel’s only stock exchange founded in 1953, was slowed down by the bombings.
Testimonials from locals and foreigners in Tel Aviv
“Four days ago, the city was normal and hopping,” Shai Asraf (29) told the Times. “There’s been a change since the rockets fell. Most people are staying at home.”
The curious thing about the testimonies collected by the Times is that all the people expressed the fear involved in being under attack. Everyone takes shelter, but some are more upset than others; just as many locals decided to stay in their homes during the days following the bombings, others went out to swim on the beaches or eat in restaurants.
Perhaps, for some Israelis, the noise of the bombs is not as deafening as it is for someone not used to it, especially foreigners.
“You have to be vigilant because they can drop again at any moment. The alarms can go off again, so you have to be prepared. Here we are advised to sleep dressed in case we have to run away”.
The reality is that it should not be easy, even though a good part of Hamas rockets do not even cross the Gaza border because they do not leave its territory, and even if you have a highly accurate anti-missile system such as the “Iron Dome,” there are always rockets that reach and overcome the defense; finally crashing in cosmopolitan Tel Aviv.
The Hamas attacks on Tel Aviv have so far left two people dead and eight wounded, in addition to the damage left by the impacts on the streets.
It is customary to say that Tel Aviv lives in a bubble in relation to the rest of the country, but that bubble was broken on this occasion, and its citizens experienced terror as protagonists.
“Normally here you don’t feel much of anything, it’s like living in a bubble relative to the rest of the country, but this time it was very strong. Very hard, very intense,” commented Ludmila to the Spanish portal 20 minutos, a Spaniard who has lived in Tel Aviv for 9 years. “I’m afraid of a missile falling close to home.”
A report in The Guardian, entitled “‘All I saw was fire’: rockets fracture sense of security in Tel Aviv,” also includes several of the testimonies of besieged citizens.
“For children under the age of seven in Tel Aviv, this week was probably the first time their parents had to wake them in a panic, rush to a bomb shelter, and try to explain what was happening,” the piece reads. The city had not been attacked since 2014, during the war with Hamas.
The case of Konstantin Kandaurov, a 48-year-old software engineer, is terrifying to even imagine. The man was watching soccer in his living room at home and suddenly “the air aid siren started blaring in Rishon Lezion, just to the south of Tel Aviv,” recounts The Guardian.
“He rushed to the basement but made it only to the stairwell when the rocket hit, shaking the ground.”
“All I saw was fire,” Kandaurov said. “A big fire.” Unfortunately, one of the rockets that overtook the Iron Dome crashed “directly in front of number 18, killing a woman who lived there and leaving an entire section of the street in ruins.”
It can’t be easy. Imagine living in Tel Aviv, a city where you normally live in harmony and where the pleasant atmosphere gives you the feeling of being in total peace, security and freedom. But one day the dream comes to an end and the tragic reality hits: you are not in a European capital or a cosmopolitan American city. You are, after all, in Israel, a country that is surrounded by historical adversaries who advocate destroying what they consider their greatest enemy: the Jewish State.
It must be terrifying.