Life Under Fire

Sunday, 16 July 2006:
It is almost 17:00 as it dawns on me that I have accomplished virtually nothing today. Despite a looming deadline, I can’t focus on my client’s material; I’ve read the same page of the style guide five times without absorbing a thing. I try to review my outline, but find that I am really just listening to the distant whoomph of artillery fire and waiting for the next barrage of ketushot to fall.
Such is life as a TC (technical communicator) in Karmiel, Israel, in July 2006.

It seems almost surreal to think that four nights ago I sat here in this same chair and, through the wonders of Internet webcast technology, gave a seminar to TCs all over the world. Karmiel was quiet and my biggest concern was keeping my cat (who loves to pick inopportune moments to demand food and attention) out of my office. Less than 12 hours later, ketushot had struck several Karmiel neighborhoods and Madj el Krum, the village right across the road from us.

Our main offices in Akko (Acre) are closed. Friends and colleagues in Nahariya and Haifa are sitting in bomb shelters and security rooms. Residents of S’fat, Meron, and Tiveria (Tiberius) have been under siege. The train is closed north of Binyamina. Most stores and businesses are closed. Summer camp programs are closed. The Karmiel Dance Festival, due to start in two days, is canceled. A training seminar for next week is canceled. A meeting with another client is canceled.

On my street, there is no one outside other than my neighbor’s notoriously dim-witted cat.

The ketushot arrive so quickly that there is no time to sound the siren; if one lands more than half a kilometer away, we hear the boom. If it is closer, we can hear a strange fizzing whine followed by a terrific bang that seems to reverberate long after the sound has actually faded. Then come the sirens of the emergency vehicles. Sometimes, the dry grass in open spaces catches on fire, and a pall of smoke hangs over the city.

Normally simple tasks have suddenly become adrenaline-pumped challenges. Will another barrage hit, with no warning, while I’ve got shampoo in my eyes? Can I risk the ten minutes that it will take to make a salad?

The phone rings every five minutes, and friends, normally too busy with their day-to-day lives to write, now send several emails a day. My husband, an animal nutritionist who has already weathered the threat of an outbreak of avian flu in Israel, is off at poultry science conference in Canada. When he calls, I try to sound blasé so that he won’t worry. (At least not too much.)

My cat, sensing that I am somewhat distracted and therefore a probable friar (Hebrew term for a sucker), demands extra tuna and cat snacks. I cave in, figuring that we can always start her diet again after the cease-fire. Whenever that may be.

I keep a browser window open with the Ynet scroller running, and read about the latest strikes in other parts of the country. “We’re not afraid,” says a guy in Tiveria, standing next to a homemade sign that repeats the message in Hebrew. While there is no question that some people are afraid, I’m just feeling angry and frustrated, and, well… distracted

Meanwhile, the open files on my computer look reproachfully at me as a singularly unproductive day draws to a close.


One response to “Life Under Fire

  1. Hi Leah,

    I’m pleased to see you started a blog about the situation. I enjoy reading your take on the “Katushot War.”

    Even though I live only ten kilometers south of you, I feel so much farther away from the trouble (although I do hear the booms).

    Hoping the troubles end soon, but that you keep your blog going.


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