Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sirens, take two.

Holocaust Remembrance Day, May 2, was my first experience with a nation-wide moment of silence (sure, we have these in the U.S, but they are not nationally observed with 100% participation).

During the week between that day (more on that experience in a previous post) and the following week, it was business as usual here, except symbols of nationalism were being erected everywhere.  And we started getting formation fly-by rehearsals for the following two holidays.

On May 9th, Israeli Memorial Day was observed.  Days are confusing here, because they are observed from sundown to sundown, so when there is a holiday, it is observed over two days.  Therefore, on the evening of Sunday, May 8th, at 8pm, another siren rang out and the whole country stopped for a minute.  Just before 9pm, we walked to Rabin Square, about 15 minutes from our apartment, where the Tel Aviv city memorial ceremony was held.  There were speakers, singers, and many stories of lives lost, recorded and told by surviving family members.  It was sad.  Really sad.  There are very few Israeli's who do not have a personal connection to a life lost here - family or friends, as they have nearly all served in the military, and it is, afterall, a very small country, collectivist culture.

The next day, morning began with another siren.  People were noticably in mourning still.  But as the sun went down, schizophrenia set in.  It became Independence Day.  We took dad to a friend's home for a BBQ, a Memorial Day tradition that is shared between Israel and the U.S.  It couldn't start until 8pm however, after sundown, when the day of mourning was over. 

We arrived back home just before midnight.  As we pulled into the driveway, I said to Dan and my dad, "boy, that's loud.  I'm glad it's not in our building."  What a dummy.  As we came up the elevator, it got louder......and LOUDER.  Stepping into the hall, I could no longer hear Dan as we tried to discuss who should get their keys out. 

Although dad had the best room in the apartment, farthest wall away, surrounded by concrete, and only one small window, he still had to put on his noise canceling headphones and throw a pillow over his head to try to sleep through it.  Dan and I weren't so lucky.  We have sliding glass doors from our bedroom next to the neighbors apartment.  So, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right? 

We had been invited, "hey guys, we're having a party tomorrow, so you'll either want to leave town, or come over."  They had a DJ with speaker system, trays of sushi, and a bar staffed by two scantilly dressed young women.  A few drinks, rooftop fireworks display, and three hours later, I was ready to call it quits.  I laid out my camping mattresses, grabbed my pillows and blankets, and shut myself into our bunker to see if I could get a little shut eye.  Unfortunately, there is a window there too.  It was marginally successful, but I still woke. 

At 4am I decided it was time to try the cops, just to quiet it down a wee bit for us old folks who wanted to fall asleep before the sun came up (I was hoping to take my dad to Caesarea that same day and wanted to feel semi human for it).  After transferring me to an English speaker, they told me it's the one night of the year Israeli's can party all they want.  They don't enforce the noise ordinance until after 6am!  I crawled back in my cave, and hoped my exhaustion would overcome my ears.  Luckily, when I woke again just before 5am, I heard silence.  The DJ had gone home.  Hooray!  Back to a real bed for me.  Did I mention this was a Monday night? 

There is one more day worth mentioning in this May series of holidays here.  It's Nakba Day, May 15th, and represents the Palestinian view of Israeli independence - "the day of catastrophe."  Palestinians organized protests all over the country, and in neighboring countries.  There was a young Arab who drove his truck into a bus and pedestrians just a few miles south of where we live, in Jaffa, the Arab part of Tel Aviv.  He sent dozens to the hospital, and at least one person died.  Also, a crowd of hundreds of Syrians charged the border into Israel, breaking through.

In the U.S., most of us are fairly removed from the significance of Memorial and Independence Day.  These holidays are very personal for the vast majority of Israeli's.  The middle east is a complicated place.  I don't feel unsafe.  But I do feel more aware.   


  1. so just to clarify, you went to this party, drank their drink, ate their sushi, and then you decided you had enough, you went to your apartment and called the police on them?

  2. There is absolutely no reason for a unit in an apartment building with young children, in a residential neighborhood, to be blasting music so loud at 4am that you can hear it 2 blocks away.

    At one point the owner of the unit said he looked around and didn't recognize anyone. It was so loud that it drew a bunch of random people off the main street on the opposite side of the building, up the road. He was the one who ended up kicking out the stragglers at 4:30am.

    No I didn't eat their food, but yes, I had a drink before they ran out, and quite frankly, if you need to blast music at obscene decibles after 4am, that's why they invented bars and clubs. These venues are designed to enclose the noise more effectively than a roof top patio. I didn't care if they continued the party all night. But we do all have a responsibility to our neighbors to turn the music down after 2 or 3am, even on a special night.