Gas Mask Distribution Dilemma: What to Tell the Kids?

Gulf War, Tel Aviv, Israel, January 1991
Image by rahuldlucca via Flickr

According to Ynet, Israel is distributing gas masks to protect the population against atomic, chemical and biological weapons. It seems like just last year, they were collecting our old ones. Wait, it was. Anyway, 60% of the population is expected to collect the free masks from post offices, or pay NIS 25 per household to have them delivered.

Updated: Gas Mask Distribution Information

So here are my questions, Israeli readers:

  1. Are you going to get your masks? One friend said that living in Beit Shemesh, she feels pretty safe. In the Gulf War, Tel Aviv and Haifa were the main targets. We live near Tel Aviv.
  2. Will you tell your kids, and if so, what? Or will you keep the masks out of sight?

I think we’ll get them. I’ll have to tell my older kids where they are, of course. But I think I’ll put off the conversation with the younger ones (8 and 6), unless they ask or the situation changes.

During the first Gulf War, we received a tent for our baby in lieu of a gas mask. Of course, in the end no chemical or biological weapons were fired.  Just good, old-fashioned conventional scuds.

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  1. Forget the kids, what am I going to tell my parents? Maybe I’ll conveniently forget to mention it.

    So how do we get them?

    The link to Ynet is broken.

    • Thanks, Benji, fixed it. There will be announcements in the news. Considering I missed all of the swine flu vaccine announcements, I’ll probably miss this one too.

      Robin, I don’t go to the post office if I can help it. Hmm, reverse Murphy’s law. I like that.

  2. We got ours (and what a bummer to have to do so – I’d been so pleased to get that shelf in the closet back).

    My kids are still young enough that I simply didn’t mention it to them, just stuck them (the masks, not the kids) on a shelf in the back closet. As someone with breathing and claustrophobia issues wearing that mask was highly unpleasant, to put it mildly, so I sure hope we never need them again! I figure just having them in the house is a way to ensure that, sort of a reverse Murphy’s Law if you will…

    PS Benji, my local post office had a big banner up announcing it all week when it was our turn.

  3. We got our masks already (don’t know how and where, SWMBO took care of this). I am, most probably, not going to use one, the circus of the Gulf war being still in memory.

    As for the kinds – mine are already adults, so I don’t have this issue, but I told them all as it was during the above mentioned. But I can’t advise on the best policy in this regards.

    Let’s hope we’ll not need the masks at all.

  4. I would tell the kids the truth – the army keeps giving them out and we keep not needing them.

  5. MII – I avoid the post office like the plague too. Luckily the banner was outside on the fence ;). (As was the distribution point actually, they set up in a covered part of the parking lot.)

  6. Shoshana says

    In our case my kid have vivid memories of the katushas landing in town and running to the bomb shelter only a few years ago – they are fully well aware that we are in rocket range (and they know several of the points in town that were hit) but we’ve always taken the ‘this is why we have a bomb shelter and why you run to the nearest one whenever you hear the siren so you are safe’ approach as thankfully they don’t know anyone who was killed or seriously injured by one of the rockets that landed on town.

    But the gas mask is a bit ‘scarier’. They were with me once a number of years ago when i exchanged baby masks for children’s in the mall since it was right there and convenient. But they were young then and they didn’t really ‘get it’ while now they are 8 and 10.5 with the recent rocket memories.

    I think i’ll probably wind up getting them (we live down to the street from the distribution point that is usually set it town but i’ve not seen signgs’ and try Leah’s approach for explanation – that the army is giving us them ‘just in case’ and if pressed add ‘if there is a problem with the air’. I’d rather not go into more details as I’ve one son who is most definitely a worrier and i think it would just make things difficult for him.


  7. “One friend said that living in Beit Shemesh, she feels pretty safe.”

    (comment from an armchair observer)
    i don’t know how to answer the what to tell kids question, but i’m shocked at how easily people (in the post and the comments) dismiss the need for having/wearing gasmasks. they sound a lot like my grandfather who use to use every excuse in the book not to wear a seatbelt.

    so you were lucky you didn’t need them for the iraqi scuds, lebanese katyushas or gazan kassams (or during other heightened states of alert). maybe next time the missles/rockets will be more accurate. maybe next time they will aim for bet shemesh (or they won’t aim at all and random projectiles will hit unexpectdely). maybe next time they will carry non-conventional warheads.

    i hope you’ll be as lucky as my grandfather. but who knows.

  8. First of all, I don’t really see why and how the masks will protect us in case of an atomic war…

    Second, as we live in the South and have so far experienced alarms as well as rocket hits, we’ll get the masks for sure (also to calm down my family – they all live abroad).
    As far as the children are concerned, I stick to the truth – answer their questions without getting into too much detail, don’t answer anything they didn’t ask. They remember the shelter and the sirens, so they have an idea of what “war” is (sadly, since they’re only 5 and 2.5 years old)

  9. faith/emuna says

    i agree with leah gg, for the past 19.5 yrs weve been getting, switching, returning etc, im going with the nonchalant approach. i dont think theyve started distrubuting them by us yet, and i would gladly pay 25 shekel to have them delivered. i also agree with robin that i am not happy having to store them again, the winter blankets are now on that shelf.
    (btw am i the only one still slightly traumatized by those tents we used 19 + yrs ago? )

  10. Regular Anonymous says

    I imagine we’ll get them. My kids (teens) will probably not be concerned about them.

    I put them up on a high shelf that I can’t reach anyway so I’m not missing the space.

    What really freaks me out is the idea of the 4 of us having to be in our small Mamad for any length of time. I just assume nothing is going to happen.

  11. brenderan says

    when I was an English teacher for the blind in Jerusalem, we had solidiers come in to demonstrate for the mechina students how to properly use the masks and the rest of the kit – just in case. Of course, I sat in on this class. It was quite a learning experience. I am not sure where my fiance (now my husband) stored them. Maybe in the trunk of the car?

  12. Moshe David says

    I hope they work better than the first Gulf War. I understand that the masks didn’t even work then. Mine certainly didn’t as I sported a beard and the mask I was given wasn’t able to form an airtight seal around my face. They told us to smear our beards with vaseline to get the mask to seal properly. Do you know what it’s like trying to get vaseline out of your beard? AARRGGGHHH!

  13. We happen to loose previous (and I have no slightest idea where). Still we will sure get them (and pay for it), my eldest daughter (13) would be mad with fear if we wouldn’t. I would prepare not to tell her altogether, but she has her own sources of information. Little one’s were really interested last time and I suppose that one as well. BUT in Jerusalem our Post is still mask-free, only flu advertisements.

    AND YES, the idea of calling Bet Shemesh safe place as it was bomb-less for previous several occasions sound funny. It is just not statistically significant.Like Eastern European Jews were waving of information about German deeds as propaganda (from Polish Refugees), saying they know German occupation well from the first world war and it was absolutely OK

  14. Ms. Krieger says

    I agree with Lion of Zion and Vasya. Just because it hasn’t happened before doesn’t mean it never will. It only takes one warhead tipped with nerve gas to kill or permanently disable your child. Have you never read of those poor Kurdish villagers killed with chemical weapons by Saddam Hussein? The mothers tried to shelter their children by covering them with their own bodies. Of course we know this because they were found dead, together.

    It is a horrific thought that that could happen to anyone – please take advantage of anything that could protect you.

  15. Faith/Emuna, those “tents” 19 years were awful. I actually couldn’t get the baby in on my own. Then they said to take the baby out if he cried or slept… Those were the two modes my baby had other than being held. Afterwards it turned out they didn’t have enough air circulation…. Things have improved a lot since then and small children have air pumps on the masks.

    Last time round my kids were excited about the masks, not really understanding, I suppose. But this time round I would answer as needed and not offer any graphic info.

    Yes, I will definitely pick them up.

  16. thank you for this post and always-thoughtful discussion. i’m fascinated reflecting on what you’re thinking about today as compared to what i might be contemplating in my neck of the woods! in this way, it’s a different world, for sure!

    i have a picture of me trying on a mask at about 3-4 years old. i remember sharing it with american classmates and, like here, the conversation was truly thoughtful. thanks.

  17. Esther Shchory says

    Living on the border my children are experts in security drill and are always very thoughtful about warning me when there will be a security exercise at their school so I am not worried by the sirens and active security personnel.

    Personally my security room feels a little empty with our gas masks and I will be glad to have them back as soon as they turn up at out Post Office. In a small place like this and the Post Mistress being a friend I don’t have to worry about missing PSAs.

    Last time Bibi was in charge we all had to try on our masks. At the time my children were young enough to still need the ‘head tents’.
    They didn’t mind wearing their own so much but there were a few wide eyes and tears when I put mine on. I gave them a cuddle, played peekabo and made sure I kept smiling and they calmed down.
    Now they’ll probably just decorate the boxes with stickers so it’s obvious which belongs to whom.