Trying to write something, but it is all fuddled in my mind.
The Husband and I read the news this morning that the soldier they thought was kidnapped is declared dead. Very sad, but better than kidnapped. Really, what we go through. It seemed quiet but we still felt that we wanted to try to get away from it all for a while, so TH, youngest son and I squished into the car (we are all large people, youngest son is the largest, and the car isn’t what a sedan used to be) and headed north towards Tel Aviv.
Our destination was supposed to be the Safari park in Ramat Gan. So here’s a little bit of a travel blog in the middle of the war, because it was a true adventure.The Husband had looked up the Safari park online, and though the link to the page that should have had the map and directions was broken, he copied down the address, and using an old fashioned paper map (book) planned a route for us which, well, was a complete disaster. Okay, not a complete disaster, the car didn’t blow up.
To cut a long and unpleasant story short, we asked for help, we studied the map. I got the Safari park web page on my iPhone, and we tried to figure out from the roughly two-square-inch map how we were to get from where we were to where we wanted to be. We sat in traffic. We sat in traffic some more.
Now I am not comfortable in cities. They are too large, too loud, to hectic, too crowded. Driving in cities makes me crazy at the best of times. Driving somewhat blindly (Israel doesn’t believe in posting street signs you can see) and being stressed about not knowing how to get to where we wanted to be, it was a real exercise in staying in the moment and keeping my mouth shut. Somehow I did it. I only lost it at TH once, when he said something rather bone-headed driving.
No matter, we eventually were out of the city again, got on highway four and managed to find the correct exit for the park. No signs. Not a single sign to tell us we were at the right exit, or where to go from the exit. We circled a national park, looking for a way in. We found a way in, but ended up in a little residential neighbourhood. We asked for help and directions and finally found someone who told us where to go/how to get there. There wasn’t a single sign for the Safari park until we were practically in shouting distance of it.
Forgetting about all of that, once we got there it was really very nice. The park was giving reduced admission to those of us from the war-affected areas in the south which is really what made the trip possible.
The Safari park is not a zoo, but it has a zoo in the middle of it. You drive through, staying in your car and for the most part keeping your windows closed, and you drive through herds of zebra, wildebeest, groups of hippos and rhinoceros. There is a highly secure area which you can drive through where the lions live. Lots of big warning signs DO NOT OPEN YOUR WINDOWS! DO NOT LEAVE THE CAR!. It makes me kind of sad about the human race that there are people who need to be told this. I mean, lions. 😉
There were also giraffes, eland, impalas (I think), a host of other four-footed herbivores some of which I could identify, some I could not. We got to see a giraffe nibbling from the top of a tree, and another chowing down on hay that was in a second-story loft.
One of the high points, and something that youngest son had been excited about from the moment we set out were the penguins. There are African penguins there, surrounded by many very large fans – presumably to help them cope with the ridiculous heat of an Israeli summer. I can’t remember everything, but I took lots of photos.
The park was getting ready to close and so we headed to where we had parked the car, and stopped at the gift shop. I always go to gift shops. It helps to support whatever-it-was we’ve just been visiting, and often you can get truly unique gifts you can’t find anywhere else. While we were shopping there was a siren. Nothing like our tseva adom at home, or the beeping of our electronic warning box, still it was instantly recognizable as an incoming rocket.
The clerk in the store tried to explain to us where the bomb shelter was, but it had taken such work to get me into the shop in my wheelchair, it really wasn’t feasible to try and race me across to whatever shelter there was. Besides, we live through these things every day. So I reassured her that we were from the south, no worries, and we stood there chatting for what seemed like – How the hell Long do you have to get to your shelter here?!? – several minutes. It couldn’t have been that long, but still down here we have fifteen seconds. Except when we don’t even have that.
It seemed like forever waiting for the bloody rocket. Then there was an iron dome interception almost immediately over our heads, and another rocket apparently landed in an open field. The ‘boom’ was tremendous. Is it really louder in the centre (of the country) or does it just seem that way because it is new to us?
It was an entirely un-subtle reminder that there is no place to truly get away from the war in this country. I knew, while we weren’t running for shelter, that this could turn out to be the one time we had bad luck, when we might be hit by a rocket, or hurt by iron dome shrapnel. We know the odds are in our favour, but is this a situation in which one wants to be playing the odds?
Rocket attack over, and we purchased a few things and headed back out. There had been a rocket attack in Sderot while we were at the park, and I called to make sure my daughter who lives there was okay.
We had managed, briefly, to forget that we were in the middle of a war and enjoy the hippos, the rhinoceros, the giraffes, the penguins. But long before we were back home again, we were listening to the news on the radio, listening for rocket alerts, fretting about the health and safety of our kids, our critters, the soldiers.
We missed a tseva adom while we were out, and had two of them after we got home. I was, and am, so exhausted it is kind of unreal. I haven’t the strength to knit a row, my hands and arms are just spent. I haven’t the strength to get up and open my door for critters to come in and out. Fortunately for tonight I seem to be critter free.
It was a good day. I hope we have a chance to return to the Safari park, now that we know how to get there. We’ll spend more time with the critters, particularly the penguins and lions I think, and maybe I’ll get a therapeutic massage from volunteers who are working there for people from the south (like me) for free. We missed them this time.
And so I’m back home and back in the middle of the war, with no real let-up. I can’t even think about where we go from here, only that the IDF pulled some of the soldiers out of Gaza, and we immediately got hit by more rockets.
I wonder if they ever actually will build us safe rooms, m’mahdim on our moshav, so that we will actually have someplace to go when the tseva adom goes off. I know that so far we on this moshav have been really lucky, but I don’t want to rely on luck forever. And I don’t expect that there will be peace – a peace that includes no rockets being launched at us from Gaza – for a very long time.