Reality Bites

Retirees and their caregivers sat at the McDonald's on the bridge between the two parts of Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Center, suspended between heaven and earth as they sipped McCoffee and waited for the siren to signal the start of yesterday morning's emergency drill.

It seemed like a cheap action flick starring the deputy defense minister, Matan V. But it was no movie - it was the real thing, even if it was just pretend. After all, we have to get ready for the real real thing - a shower of rockets, maybe, or atomic chaos.

The saleswoman at Top Shop explained that they had to close the store and go down to the bomb shelter, but capered around indifferently. She's not scared. The guy at the pizza place said he planned to take a cigarette break on the roof during the drill, but let it slip that everyone in the shopping mall was really supposed to congregate outside Mega Ba'ir before proceeding from the supermarket to the bomb shelter in the underground parking garage. Where the bats are? "Yup," he said.

Suddenly there was a ding-dong sound, like when a department store wants to announce a sale in the sock department. But instead, the PA system informed us that a home front exercise was underway and that the ladies and gentlemen were requested to descend to the shelter, quickly but carefully. A light panic swept in on an air-conditioned gust of air, but it passed when everyone recognized Guy Zuaretz, the host of the local version of "Survivor," wearing shades and heading in the opposite direction from the shelter.

The mall's own siren sounded, and a security guard led about 100 obedient citizens down the stairs. There were no bats - or cars, or kids. Mostly mall employees and old people, united by their shared fate.

"Armageddon - that's what there's gonna be," said Sharon, who works in one of the mall's stores. "My question is if we can smoke here," said her co-worker Yoni. "War is so passe. It's like, stop, enough."

A man with a megaphone announced that the drill was over, and Sharon and Yoni went for a smoke. Upstairs, everything looked as it had before. Dr. Arik, one of the "Survivor" contestants, passed by. Wait, were they filming an episode here? Did they forget to tell us that we were starring in a reality show?