Ask the Rov: In Eretz Yisroel, air raid sirens signal possible rockets. Am I obligated to run to a shelter whenever a siren sounds?
By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin – Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah
Chazal teach us that one is not allowed to place oneself in a dangerous situation and rely on a miracle.1 Regarding saving someone from a clear danger, halacha necessitates overriding Shabbos even if many doubts are involved.2
On the other hand, certain activities accepted as normal by society are permitted, notwithstanding a certain degree of risk, based on the rule “shomer pesa’im Hashem,” that Hashem protects the simple. Therefore, people don’t hesitate to drive in a car, notwithstanding the occurrence of accidents, and some occupations involve inherent risks (e.g., construction).3
Yet, when society commonly takes extra precautions, this allowance does not apply.4 Additionally, this rule is only applicable to a remote danger that has some chance of occurring over an accumulation of time, but not to a clear present danger (see issue 569).5
If one is in the middle of Shmoneh Esreh and a non-dangerous snake approaches, halacha rules that one may not interrupt with speech, though one may walk and shake the snake off. But if a scorpion or lethal snake is approaching, one may make any interruption necessary to save oneself from this dangerous creature.6 Contemporary poskim note that a siren indicating an oncoming missile is comparable to the latter category that is aiming to harm.7
Although Hashem’s miracles and, l’havdil, Eretz Yisrael’s defense systems greatly mitigate the danger of oncoming missiles, it is nevertheless a tangible danger like a scorpion. Moreover, the government advises and requires taking the necessary precautions.
In practice, contemporary poskim agree that if one hears an air-raid siren, one should immediately go to the closest safe spot, even if this involves interrupting Shemoneh Esreh or even chilul Shabbos, since Halacha rules that even doubtful danger overrides Shabbos.
See Sources (open PDF)
From The Weekly Farbrengen by Merkaz Anash