Israelis Turn Deaf Ear to Air Raid Sirens

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli soldiers, wearing protective gear, take part in a drill simulating a chemical attack in Azur, near Tel Aviv on Tuesday, the second day of an annual home front defense exercise. (REUTERS/Nir Elias)
Israeli soldiers, wearing protective gear, take part in a drill simulating a chemical attack in Azur, near Tel Aviv on Tuesday, the second day of an annual home front defense exercise. (REUTERS/Nir Elias)
 Israeli soldiers, wearing protective gear, search a building for survivors during a drill simulating a chemical attack in Azur, near Tel Aviv on Tuesday, the second day of an annual home front defense exercise.(REUTERS/Nir Elias)

Israeli soldiers, wearing protective gear, search a building for survivors during a drill simulating a chemical attack in Azur, near Tel Aviv on Tuesday, the second day of an annual home front defense exercise.(REUTERS/Nir Elias)
 Head of the Home Front Command General-Major Eyal Eizenberg (L) debriefs Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon about the home front command drill in the Home Front Command headquarters in Ramla on Wednesday. (Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense/FLASH90)

Head of the Home Front Command General-Major Eyal Eizenberg (L) debriefs Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon about the home front command drill in the Home Front Command headquarters in Ramla on Wednesday. (Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense/FLASH90)

Public response to the national emergency preparedness drill that began on Sunday and concludes Wednesday has disappointed Homefront Command officials who acknowledged that the general population completely ignored the air raid sirens.

The poor response was blamed on a failure to communicate the importance of the exercise to the public.

Israelis who have been hearing from generals and politicians for many months about the threat of war and the likelihood of enemy missiles reaching the very center of Israel may in fact have been over-publicized and become inured to such exercises.

In any case, aside from the emergency responders, who carried out elaborate simulations of missile attack scenarios, and schoolchildren whose teachers ushered them into shelters, very few people could be seen going into protected areas on Monday when the sirens sounded.

On the other hand, Homefront Command officials expressed satisfaction with the performance of civil defense, police, medical and rescue teams.

The public was more responsive in the matter of obtaining gas masks, however. Post offices, which are serving as distribution points for the masks, recorded a 30 percent increase over the last two weeks, apparently stimulated by the air raid drill and reports of chemical weapons use in Syria.

Some 4,730 masks were handed out across the country on Monday, the largest amount for a single day.