Ben Lynfield: Our faith in the security of the holy city has been shattered

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It IS trivial compared with the suffering in Gaza and Israel’s south, but the burgeoning Middle East war reached right into my study in Jerusalem as I was preparing my dispatch for The Scotsman yesterday evening.

A shrill siren sound emanated from outside. I went to the living-room to check on my children aged two, five and eight and their babysitter, 14. “What is this?” asked my eight-year-old. “Have they fired rockets at us?”

I didn’t directly answer the question and instead ordered everyone to follow me into the stairwell, the safest place we have since our building is utterly unprepared for a missile attack.

There is an old bomb shelter, but it is packed with mattresses, bicycles and boxes. No room to take cover.

Like buildings throughout the holy city, ours never imagined we could become part of this escalation. We were surprised when the missiles reached the Tel Aviv area on Thursday, but I for one was still sure Jerusalem was immune. Yesterday’s alarm of incoming fire was the first since Saddam Hussein’s missile attacks on Israel during the 1991 Gulf war.

Saddam, however, was careful to spare Jerusalem, not wanting to risk hitting the city’s Arab population and al-Aksa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. I was sure that for Hamas the same considerations would prevail.

I hugged my children in the hallway as the siren continued. After the siren stopped, we went back in and the kids did not seem overly traumatised.

A friend with a suggestion: “Tell the children there was no missile, that it was a mistake.”

Another told me it was “insane” that there had been a missile alert here in Jerusalem. “It took us time to understand that it wasn’t an ambulance,” he added.