Residents of Jerusalem and neighboring towns told The Times of Israel that they were shaken, but not stirred, by the air-raid siren that jarred the pre-Sabbath silence that had descended on the city late Friday afternoon.
Merav Ceren said she was at her home in central Jerusalem after taking photos of a silent skyline when the siren went off. She admitted that she was initially confused, because moments before, the traditional siren marking the beginning of the Sabbath had sounded. Within seconds, however, the prolonged and shrill blast of the air-raid warning made her realize things were not as they should be.
Earlier Friday, Hamas had warned that “surprises” were in store for its Israeli enemies. The surprise — or at least one of them — turned out to be a rocket launched toward the capital, the first ever to reach such a distance.
It was later revealed that two rockets had fallen not in Jerusalem itself, but near the settlement bloc of Gush Etzion, 14 kilometers southwest of the capital. Hamas said the two rockets were made in Gaza, a prototype the terrorists call M-75, and have a range of about 80 kilometers (50 miles). They caused no damage or injuries.
“We are sending a short and simple message: There is no security for any Zionist on any single inch of Palestine and we plan more surprises,” said Abu Obeida, spokesman for the Hamas militant wing.
The Islamist organization then released a video purporting to show a Fajr missile being launched at the Knesset, making the group’s intentions clear.
Not being accustomed to rockets and sirens, some Jerusalem residents were unsure how to react to the warning.
Alon Diamant-Cohen, a resident of Jerusalem’s Armon Hanetziv neighborhood, said that the siren’s wail caught him off guard and that he and his roommates’ “immediate reaction… was to go into the stairwell,” as his apartment does not have a safe room.
“What was special, however, was that we got a chance to meet all of the neighbors and bond with each other,” he said.
Similar reactions were reported in the city center, a short walk away from sites considered holy by adherents of the three Abrahamic religions. In the Nahlaot neighborhood, residents of an apartment building – observant and secular alike – poured out into their shared hallway, wondering if the rocket fire endured for years by their compatriots to the south had finally reached their doorstep.
“It can’t possibly fall here,” female neighbors reassured each other, finally returning each to her own apartment to continue preparations for the Sabbath. Their husbands, presumably, were attending prayers at one of the many nearby synagogues, undeterred by the siren’s shrill call.
Moshe Levine, a resident of Har Adar, a town located a few miles west of the capital, said he was shocked by the sudden wail of the siren so far from the Gaza Strip.
He told The Times of Israel that although he wasn’t sure what was going on, or what to do, “when I heard the alarm, I went into the safe room and started looking online to see if I could find out what’s going on.”
Other reactions were more tongue-in-cheek. One Facebook user jokingly gave Hamas directions to the Holyland building complex in southern Jerusalem, considered by many locals to be a blot on the face of the city.
“Dear Hamas, the Holyland complex is located near the Golomb Junction. It is very big and tall and is lit at night. Many thanks, the Jerusalemites,” she wrote.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, currently abroad, told residents of the city that the municipality was prepared for anything Hamas could throw at it.
“I would like to reassure the residents of Jerusalem, continue routine life in the city and abide by Home Front Command advisories. The Municipality has drilled all the scenarios and is prepared for them. Public shelters are ready in case we need to open them.”