Monthly Archives: July 2006

Under Fire, part 26

All quiet on the northern front: The temporary cease-fire went into effect this morning at 2:00. So far, things are quiet, but I’m not holding my breath.

Lies, d*&m lies, and photo journalism: The building in Qana that was hit is real, but many of the photo “stories” are staged. The whole situation is horrific, but to use bodies of children to stage a photo op is repulsive.

Indolence, corruption, and general bad taste: My sister Tracy writes, “I’ve watched more stupid Web videos since reading your blog than I have in my whole previous life. Pug bowling indeed. You’re contributing to the indolence of your big sister…” This coming from a woman who collects chachkas? Clearly, my work is not yet finished. Here is today’s batch of tacky, time-wasting links:

  1. There’s a new superhero in town. The Japanese ambassador has offered the services of Kikkoman to fly over the skies of northern Israel and protect us from offensive condiments.
  2. The Peace Now movement has joined forces with Che Chihuahua, offering this song to assist during negotiations. (Alternately, it may make Nasrallah run screaming for the hills.)
  3. Feeling like you have no control in your life? The Subservient Chicken lets you boss him (her?) around.

He’s a peach of a guy: Abner, another former student from the gee-we’re-so-close-to-the-border-that-we-can-touch-the-fence community of Adamit, shows up with 15 kilos of peaches. The constant thudding of artillery and ketushot means that the kibbutz’s fruit risks rotting on the trees. I spend the afternoon making peach preserves. Last week, Abner is interviewed by CNN reporters and goes on record saying that the rockets are sailing over their heads. Within a day, Adamit take three serious hits. This is clearly the wartime equivalent of saying, “He’s pitching a no-hitter!” We’re not sure if Abner took a break from the border today due to cabin fever, or if he was voted persona non grata by angry Adamit residents who fear that he jinxed them. Well, in any case, Abner, we appreciate the peaches.

Under Fire, part 25

Qana aftermath: As the death toll rises to 57 after the IAF air strike on Hizbullah targets in the Lebanese city of Qana, we face our biggest challenge of all—our own morality. It is utter agony to cause civilian casualties; top IDF brass, Prime Minister Olmert, and other government members all voice our genuine regret at this difficult time. Perhaps this ability to empathize with others is what sets us apart from our enemies, but it will also make this a war that cannot be fought to any clear victory. Hizbullah is firing rockets from within populated areas, often dressing as civilians, and hiding behind Lebanese children (see the story in the Herald Sun). But the truth is that we lack the hatred and ruthlessness necessary to carpet bomb the area, even though that would minimize casualties among our own soldiers and save countless of our citizens still under daily threat of Hizbullah rockets. But we can’t.

By vilifiying us at international “peace” rallies, demonstrators are implying that we have no right to protect ourselves and no right to live in peace. They selectively choose to ignore the fact that Hizbullah starting firing across the border into our cities, and that is what triggered the air strikes. It is worth checking out these five photo slides shows of rocket damage in Haifa.

Be strong; be safe: I answer our home phone and hear our mayor, Adi Aldar, telling me to be strong, to stay inside, and to call the city hotline if I need anything. It is only a recording (which is then repeated in Russian), but hearing his voice makes me smile. I call Gill and tell him about the call he missed.

My neighbor comes by to pick up the key. For her, the normalcy of a peaceful Friday in Tel Aviv was a tonic, reassuring her that life goes on and that we will not be cowed or driven off.

I make kneidlach and, after they have cooled, cut one up for Nadine. She gobbles it with tuna and then drags herself up onto the Forbidden Sofa for a long shluff, knowing that I don’t have the mental energy to discipline her. We have both become shell-shocked enough to jump every time the siren goes off, and I wonder how long it will take to get back to normal. Kneidlach and tuna have definite soothing properties for my girl, but they only go so far. Will she need therapy? Will our vet have to subscribe tranquilizers?

Perhaps I will call the city’s hotline, so that our mayor can tell her to be strong, be safe.

Under Fire, part 24

What did I miss? Taking advantage of a Shabbat afternoon, we try to watch a movie on TV. Sirens go off repeatedly, sending us scuttling downstairs to the meimad. Each time, we hang out and wait for the barrage that may or may not come before we can eventually go back upstairs. Each time, we miss some critical plot development in the movie. The third time the sirens go off, I scoot into the meimad only to discover that Gill is not right behind me. Annoyed by the constant interruptions, he decides to ignore the siren and stay and watch the movie. (Who needs to hear a sound track when you have to read the Hebrew subtitles anyway?) In the evening, we open a bottle of fabulous Gamla Reserve (originally intended for my parents, but left in our wine rack when Gill had to cancel his visit to the States this last May) and watch The Upside of Anger.

Tuna me now! Our neighbors take a break over the weekend, heading down to the Tel Aviv area to visit their son, and leave us to feed their three cats. Gill takes cat duty on Friday while I’m teaching in Tel Aviv. I take over on Saturday; at 10:30, there is not a cat in sight, and I worry that the noise has finally freaked them out. But when I return in the late afternoon, the food dishes are empty and all three cats are hanging out in the yard, looking mildly annoyed at the bad service. Nadine sits in our yard and screams insults at them through the fence.

Rumors of a cease-fire: Everyone is talking about Wednesday as the magical day in which some sort of cease-fire will take place. There will probably be some sort of security strip (a no-man’s land), and either UN or NATO forces will help the Lebanese patrol and make sure that Hizbullah doesn’t start firing rockets again. Or so we would like to believe. Meanwhile, the warped international view of us as the big bad bully continues, fueled by apologists and the grossly confused. A few voices of reason are heard: Dershowitz bursts the myths on his site; US Senator Dianne Feinstein, at a rally in San Francisco on 23 July, speaks out about Israel’s right to defend itself:
“When terrorists attacked our country on 9/11 Israel did not waiver in support of the United States and now in time of need we will not waiver in our support for the state of Israel. Let there be no doubt Israel was subjected to unprovoked, unjustified attacks from terrorists on both the northern and southern borders. Remember it was Israel that pulled out of Lebanon. Remember that it was Israel that pulled out of Gaza, that brought her people out, that dismantled the synagogues… and the result on both the north and the south have been rocket attacks.”

But by and large, the news is depressing. Even watching pug bowling can’t quite cheer me up.

No, it’s not a typo: In response to the many people who insist that my husband’s name is Gil, let me explain. It really is Gill. The name is Hebrew (gimmel yud lamed, pronounced geel), but his first English teacher (probably grade four) insisted that the name is spelled “Gill” in English. Yeah, right. This was a delightful woman with (at best) second-hand English, an appalling accent, and some of the most bizarrely mangled colloquialisms I have ever heard. (And yes, I’ve met her: she must be close to 90 and recently visited Gill’s family on the kibbutz to pay a shiva call.) Anyhow, because of her early and influential insistence, Gill started writing his name that way in English. Thus, on all his official paperwork (including ID card, passport, international driver’s license, etc.), he will forever be a fish’s breathing organ.

Bada bim, Bada boom: Sirens go of this morning at 6:50. Akko is taking a heavy beating. Nadine runs and hides; I hear her moaning from under the bed, and am only able to lure her out by heating some spinach cheese bourekas. Four more days. Four more days. We can do this. I think how incredibly lucky I am to have the luxury of a meimad in my home. Some of the communal shelters are horrible, but even those people still stuck in Kiryat Shemona and forced to hang out in those dismal dungeons are staying resolute. “Do what you have to do,” says a resident, talking through the camera to IDF troops. “We’ll be OK. Don’t worry about us. Just do what you have to do so that they don’t just start firing at us again in a few months, in another year.” Another friend in the north writes about her sense of anger that Hizbullah can disrupt our lives and fire on us at will. Here and there, in a newspaper editorial, or on a blog, or in a TV interview, someone manages to say exactly what I am thinking and feeling, and I think that may there is some hope.

Meanwhile, I’m one of the lucky ones. We still have electricity, water, and there are more spinach cheese bourekas in the freezer. I wonder if there is any of that Gamla Reserve left…?

Under Fire, part 23

This is all of us: This morning we receive the news of the attack on a Jewish Federation office in Seattle (where my parents live). One killed, five wounded. The shooter, and American Muslim, yelled something about Israel before opening fire. When things like this happen, it is so clear that there are no borders to this conflict. We are fighting for our right to exist on this planet.

The Four Mothers, a movement that lobbied heavily in favor of the Israeli pull-out from Lebanon in May 2000, has come out publicly to state that this time, everything is different. In an interview with Ha’aretz, three of the original founders talk about why today’s war is necessary and just. One of those interviewed, Zohara Antebi, said:
“I have no doubt about the necessity for this state. I am in Israel, because only in Israel will my child not be turned into soap. I am in Israel because I remember our attempt to assimilate into others for 2,000 years. And it is totally clear to me that all the French bleeding hearts and all the German bleeding hearts and all the Dutch bleeding hearts will not want us in their countries. This is the only place. And this place has to be fought for.”

We escape the tension briefly last night with a lovely Shabbat dinner with friends at Shorashim, a moshav right next to Karmiel. Even though they are only five minutes away from us, the mountains between Givat Ram (our neighborhood in Karmiel) and Shorashim seem to be protecting them, as they have not yet had a single hit (“yet” being the operative word).

This morning, my father calls to check up, and we have a long talk. Hearing the voices of loved ones at a time like this is so important. I keep checking the time to see when I can try calling my sisters (one on the west coast, one on the east coast).

Meanwhile, we do our best to keep our spirits up. The radio stations are playing “Y’allah Ya Nasrallah,” a catchy mizrachi pop tune. It is defiant, silly, and ridiculously juvenile, but it makes us grin. Someone sets the music to a montage of IDF footage and the video starts making the rounds. (I suspect that Nasrallah and his fundamentalist ilk will be more disturbed by the image of a female IAF mechanic hopping into an F16 than of anything else!)

More opportunities to show your support: Table to Table, a Ra’anana-based organization that distributes food to the needy, is doing a special campaign to get small gift packs (food, personal hygiene products, etc.) to soldiers. You can donate gift baskets from their website.

Shabbat shalom to all.

Under Fire, part 22

In another galaxy, far, far away: How utterly strange to be walking around outside in Tel Aviv as if nothing was going on. And here, in fact, nothing is going on. It is a normal Friday; people are doing their Shabbat grocery shopping, running last-minute errands before the shops close, sitting in cafes, visiting friends, and just generally having a normal life. It makes our experiences in the north seem all the more surreal.

I leave the house at 5:55 and am in Tel Aviv in just over 1.5 hours. A new record! No one is on the roads up here, so it’s easy to make great time. I teach until 14:00 and head back. Meanwhile, the north takes another pounding all day with close to 100 rockets falling. The total is now about 1600 fired into Israel by Hizbullah.

Yesterday, my brother-in-law’s family shares this with me: Elite (one of the large Israeli chocolate companies) is sponsoring a “Send a Hug” campaign You can write a message of support that will be delivered to an IDF soldier along with some chocolate. It’s free and it’s a nice way to give these guys a bit of moral support.

A friend in the north (a former student who is now a freelancer) is creating rather zingy cartoons to help cope with the situation. (These are the work of a very bright and talented adult with limited vision: think James Thurber’s cartoons for the New Yorker before his eyesight completely failed.) You can catch the rest of Bracha’s work on her website.

Meanwhile, more damage in the center of town finds its way to my computer as friends document scenes from their neighborhoods. When a crater like this is made a block from your house, believe me, you feel it.

This car got hit by shrapnel. These types of ketushot carry, in addition to the explosives, metal balls like large ball bearings. They can rip through metal like a hot knife through butter. Add to that the flying glass, downed power lines, and fires, and it is amazing that more people haven’t been killed.

Driving back from Tel Aviv, I feel the tension mount as I get closer to home. I eventually turn off the radio and roll down the window, listening for sirens as I drive the final few kilometers. As I unload the car, I hear that ominous rumbling that means something is falling somewhere, and I race for the door. It’s locked. I don’t even think to try my key, but scoot around to the side where the screen door is open.

A peaceful and quiet Shabbat to all…

Under Fire, part 21

There are dust bunnies under here: I’m on the phone with a client when the sirens go off and we start taking hits. “Gotta go!” I trill. “We’ll talk later!” There is a distant thud, a closer boom, a much closer boom, and then I’m under my desk. The client, situated comfortably in the center of the country, is oblivious. As I hang up the phone, the rational part of my brain that copes with things like Large Projectile Missiles Falling on My Neighborhood cuts out, and I find myself focusing on the small clumps of dust, cat hair, and dead flies that have accumulated around my computer cables.

I’m definitely losing it.

The sirens are going off again as I type this. This makes only seven occurrences today, yet we’ve taken more hits than yesterday; that last barrage was heavy enough to warrant a Ynet blurb. Nadine disappears upstairs to the psychological safety of her new hiding place: a tiny crevice between the wall and the back of the sofa.

I wonder if she, too, is contemplating the dust bunnies.

Under Fire, part 20

So you think that’s funny? A fringe benefit of purging office clutter is rediscovering the occasional gem sent in by friends. This picture is definitive proof that Israeli kids are tougher than their Anglo counterparts.

Hey, Teach! Class is back! Tired of sitting around waiting for the roof to fall in, we decide to get back on track with the Tel Aviv class, Introduction to Technical Communication. I’m sure my students are thrilled at the prospect. Oh, goodie! More homework! More pop quizzes! Unfortunately, with the trains in the north still not running, I’m facing a long and exhausting drive down and back. Ah, well…