Safe sounds of Iron Dome’s thump

Music is about humanity, about the human spirit. What we experienced was the absence of those qualities, writes James Inverne


An Ultra orthodox jewish man walks inside a bomb shelter after it was open in the northern Israeli city of Tzfat, May 8, 2018, following an order of Tzfat mayor to open all the bomb shelters in the city. Photo by David Cohen/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** î÷ìè àéøï öôú çøãé ôåúç çøãéí ñåøéä

May 13, 2021 13:54

I write about arts and music most of the time. When I occasionally turn to politics I usually try to relate it to music. But there is nothing musical about the sound of Iron Dome projectiles taking out rockets that are streaming towards houses and cities around you.

Thump. Thump.

When composers want to depict war it’s often through the use — the very musical use — of drums. Turns out the one who came the closest to what I heard last night was Mahler, when at the close of his Sixth Symphony he calls for the “hammer blows of fate” to be represented by an actual hammer, smashing down.

It’s not music, that moment, it’s inexorable, lifeless. It just happens. And that’s what occurred to me last night when sleep finally came at about 5am, here in Israel.

Thump. Thump.

It’s dull, unrelenting sound. Not music, just... sound. Because music is about humanity, about the human spirit. What we experienced was the absence of those qualities.

When you’re eating dinner and the air raid siren screams through the city, tears through the house, and all conversation flies from your mind except for panicked, functional instructions — “Get to the safe room!” — that peels away civilisation.

When you learn that Arab mobs are vandalising Jewish houses, cars and synagogues in a nearby city, it’s as if the fabric of society rips.

And when at 3am you’re woken by the loudest of bangs, soon followed by that siren again, you feel barely like a functional person. Only those instructions for survival repeat and repeat in your head and form on your lips: “Get to the safe room. Kids. Sorry. Get up. Get to the safe room.”

But you do what you can, you smile for the kids and you have chocolates and treats in the missile-proof (we hope) safe room, but who can eat at that time of night? You have Friends DVDs at the ready, but who’s in the mood to watch?

And all around you hear those non-music thumps. You’re grateful because if you don’t hear the thumps, that means a Hamas rocket has got through. So suddenly the thumps seems like the vital beating of a country’s heart.

Lots has happened in the last few days here in Israel. The faults are not all on one side, but nevertheless this was a planned escalation looking for a spark, or several — a bid by the Hamas terrorist group to revive dwindling poll numbers and wrest back a sense of relevance. And to those of us on the ground, under the thousand rockets they’ve sent, we witness the results; they float down as rag-tag news nibs, ashes of a story that should have gone another way. An old lady killed in her home by a direct hit; a delightful-looking Arab teenager and her father murdered in their car by yet another missile; my family member’s best friend’s father who has died of a heart attack in the midst of the sirens and the stress.

Meanwhile those Arab mobs maraud their towns — and that, I tell myself, huddled in our safe room in the dead of night, is not the real story. The real story is that Arab and Jewish integration in Israel has been a growing success over the last two decades, pulling politicians from both ‘sides’ closer and closer to real partnership. The real story is that the Abraham Accords moved the region past the spite and bile of Hamas. The real story is that the extremists and the haters are, I truly believe, on the way out. The future is ours, not theirs. And they don’t like it.

Our future is music, humanity, life and living together. Theirs is just the dull thump, thump — inexorable, until it has gone.

I woke up this morning and my wife had made pancakes because pancakes make everything seem better, and the kids were smiling. Even if we felt prickly nervousness all over our bodies, we know the music of humanity will not be long silenced. So, a tough, scary night in Israel. But, hey, I ended up writing about music.

And for good reason. have to believe that.

May 13, 2021 13:54

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