On the large flat screen TV, I need a break from the news, finding refuge instead at the far end of the channel universe. That’s where the music plays. I alternate between the classical music station and the one that fills the airwaves every Sabbath with a lengthy playlist consisting of many of my favorite Israeli folksongs.
Here’s where I feel safe from news bulletins, images of people fleeing cars, cowering in shelters, carrying away the dead and injured from scenes of devastation. Here is where I believe that music can protect me from the conflict that appears to be escalating ever more towards a full-fledged military incursion, a heightening of assault from both sides. Here, where the voices are soothing, the music uplifting, is where I believe, that I can switch off – even temporarily – the screaming headlines, the fatalists and false prophets.
But clearly I’m mistaken: Every so often, a man’s voice enters the audio-sphere. In tones more monotone than mournful , he reads out one alert or more (in Hebrew): Siren in Yavne. The music continues unabated. Then, Siren in Oranim. Siren in Gush Dan. A new song plays. Siren in Ein Hashlosha. Siren in Beer Sheva. An hour or so passes. Siren in Segev Shalom. Siren in Nevatim. Siren in Ezor Meitar. Siren in Ezor Dimona and Yeruham. Tel Aviv. Ramat Gan. Herzliya. And on and on it goes.
Places I’ve never heard of, mere dots on a map, intermingle with towns and cities more heavily populated. Songs play without interruption. Siren warnings are a secondary soundtrack, merely superimposed onto the main songline. It’s an odd juxtaposition, beautiful tunes about joy, peace, hope, friendship, family and travel broken up with red-code alerts. Lyrics of one jarringly woven into and through those of the other.
Further south, Israelis, Arabs, Palestinians and tourists (on both sides) are bombarded by the wailing sounds of siren warning, by the sounds of explosions, falling rockets or Iron Dome missiles cutting them off at the pass. There is talk of cancelling the upcoming concert of a long-awaited legend, Neil Young. And then, amidst the threat of uncertainty and missiles, a long awaited but sudden burst of good news: my cousin L gives birth to her firstborn, a son. A baby’s birth in hospital is the right kind of wailing.
Meanwhile, up here, the only sounds under a blue or full-mooned sky, are those of birdsong, chimes, rustling leaves, and dogs barking. The only objects falling, leaves, acorns and pine cones blown off trees by a light breeze.