The 11-day conflict between the IDF and the Palestinian group Hamas has affected the life of São Paulo lawyer Felipe Minhoni, 25, who has lived in Tel Aviv since September last year.
A master’s student in the field of security and diplomacy, he has witnessed the clashes that are often the subject of his studies. In Folha, he describes how his last two weeks have been.
During those 11 days of conflict, there were bombings in Tel Aviv in the afternoon, at night and until dawn. Hamas had previously threatened to bomb the city, but no one believed it very much because it is something that rarely happens. But this time it happened, and it was pretty brutal.
The day they launched the first rockets, Tuesday , everyone went to bomb the shelters.
In my case, every floor of the building has a bunker. I had already been informed by the university that this could happen. At dawn, they emailed everyone and communicated in WhatsApp groups. So I was well educated, I went very quickly to the bunker.
There is an iron door and window that must be closed to seal – the shelter is nothing more than a fortified apartment, with concrete walls and metal doors and windows. And when I went to close the window, I saw the intensity of the bombardments. I saw the rockets hovering over the condo, passing very close. So much so that when we left the shelters, there were shrapnel in the street, cars hit.
The first day was pretty intense. People were a little worried, not quite sure what had led to this situation. In the bunker, the atmosphere was very tense at first, because it was not clear why hostilities were starting. We knew it had to do with the situation in East Jerusalem, with the Arab protests, but we didn’t know where this crisis was going.
A lot of people here have military experience, so they started talking about previous events, how they were guided or even how they participated in the conflicts in Gaza.
People think: will a war start again like the one in Lebanon, like the one in 2014, which lasted two months? Do I have to leave the country? I was worried about what to do if the situation got out of hand. This is the kind of subject we have discussed here. And everyone was on their cell phones, trying to text family or receiving messages.
There were between 10 and 15 people in the shelter, all of whom lived on my floor. Most of them were friends as I have been living in this building since September. I had colleagues from the course, people I had seen in the building before and who were doing programs at the university.
But people I didn’t know became friends right away, we started talking, we even exchanged phone numbers. Because it was the first time, but there were six, seven, eight more times that we went to the shelters. Then it became a more common thing, which everyone was already expecting.
At night, I was already waiting for the bombing program to be able to sleep. For example, Hamas and Islamic Jihad posted on social media that they were going to launch an attack at midnight. No one was going to sleep before midnight because they knew the risk. It was part of the routine.
As the days passed, the atmosphere became more relaxed, as it was very clear that Israel had far superior capabilities than Hamas and Islamic Jihad and that this war would cause much more damage to the other side. So people took it easy and it turned into a joke.
During the bombings, the warning siren sounded more than once. The army’s order is that after the last siren sounded, we had to wait ten minutes and we could leave. So we didn’t spend more than half an hour in the bunker. Even so, this situation is still in my head until now. There are other sirens ringing, and I still think I’ll have to run. Of course, we never know what time a bombing is going to happen, and you could be in the shower. I saw people coming in briefcases towards the bunker.
You may be asleep. There was a day playing at 3 a.m. I woke up and had to go. So it had a big impact. I started sleeping in the open window and stopped using headphones on the street and at home, so I could hear if the siren sounded.
When played, the maximum time you have to reach the Tel Aviv Bunker is 90 seconds.
This is one of the areas where you have the most time. There are towns that are only 15 seconds away. But that’s the protocol, the official version. There was a day that I heard the Iron Dome [o sistema de defesa antiaérea de Israel] operates before the siren sounds. I was having lunch with some friends in the building where I live, it was about 11 am, and we heard the anti-missile system working, that is, they were bombing, everything was shaking. And the world froze, because no one had heard the siren.
It took about 10, 15 seconds and then the siren went off. In other words, it’s a good system, it works most of the time, the population is quite used to it, but it has this type of breakdown.
During the conflict, my master classes were suspended. At work, they stopped working from home. I imagine that, like me, a lot of Israelis did too, because when I went out on the streets I realized that I had a lot less movement. I lived a normal life, but following the news.
My life has changed in this way, people have become more isolated, they have not traveled. He had a Jewish holiday and the trip he had planned had to be canceled. I was going to camp in the north of the country, on the Jordan, and that was obviously not possible. So much so that the next day there was a missile launched from Syria that fell near where we were going. So all of those plans were canceled.