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    Posted November 17, 2012 by
    Tel Aviv, Israel
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Your stories

    2 Days. 2 Explosions. 2 Americans in Tel Aviv.

    Having visited Israel on a teen tour in 1999, I left with a sense of longing to go back. A sense of attachment to a place so far away from home. I made it my goal over a decade ago, to take my mother to Israel before it was too late. She needed to experience what I experienced. She needed to feel what I felt in the holy land.

    Only now am I regretting this decision. On our first day in Tel Aviv, while shopping in a local artisan market, a siren sounded. We thought nothing of it, maybe an ambulance or fire truck. But then terror ensued. Craftsmen left their booths with their jewelry lying out, people fled their coffees and beers and ran. Anywhere they could go but where they were at that moment. And my mother and I followed.

    Seeing our jewelry salesman running into an apartment building doorway, we followed. Shaking. Terrified. Then silence. I saw outside the door. The streets that were once bustling with locals and tourist alike were empty. More silence. And then we heard it - an explosion like nothing you ever want to hear. And we all took a collective deep breath out. And the day went on as if nothing had happened. Kind of.

    Today, Saturday November 17th, we went on a short walking tour of Tel Aviv. Went to the art museum which had many exhibits closed due to insurance concerns with the escalating conflict. Calm.

    Walked back to the hotel and watched the most gorgeous, peaceful sunset over the Mediterranean Sea. Children playing happily in the water. Dogs fetching balls along the beach.

    While checking my email/Facebook at the hotel's lounge on its top floor, I heard a familiar, haunting, terrifying noise. Praying it was just an ambulance, I ran over to the window. Everyone else up here was unaware - they heard nothing. But I saw hundreds of people all down the beach - running as fast as they could for shelter.

    I tried to explain to the people here what was going on. Oddly enough, no one spoke English in this lounge. Siren! No response. Safe room? No response. Air Raid! No response. BOMB! Then the lounge manager's face went pale. And we ran. And everyone followed. Into the stairwell of the hotel on the 14th floor. And again, we waited. And waited. Seconds seemed like hours when your life is at stake. And then we heard it. Louder than the day before.

    Sad how hearing a bomb explode is when you can relax. You know there isn't another one coming as they don't have the ammunition (yet) to fire off more than one at a time to Tel Aviv.

    We all walked back to the lounge together. And watched the rest of one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen.

    Peace again.

    If only for that one moment.

    Visiting your people's homeland as a teenager drew me closer to my religion, to my people and to this amazing place. But hiding from a rocket with your people, huddled together in a stairwell, binds you together in an indescribable way.

    However, time will only tell if this was the right decision. To come back to our homeland. To take my mother here. I won't know until the trip is over next week. But I pray. I pray for peace. I don't want to run into another stairwell again to seek cover. And I don't want to see that fear again in my brethren's faces. And especially my mother's.
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