Yves Shefner in Israel at War 2006

Life in Haifa and north of Israel during the 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon

Monday, July 24, 2006

Day 13, No anger

19:42 PM

Today was relatively quiet. No sirens sounded until about 3 PM. I was giving a lift home to Dmitry again when we were about to stop for gas opposite Haifa Mall when I thought I heard a siren far off in the distance. At first we weren't sure if it was a siren or an ambulance. I hit the pre-programmed button for Radio Haifa and sure enough the siren was wailing on it.

Instead of pulling into the gas station I did a u-turn and headed back for the covered parking under the mall. There was a red light in between us and the mall and there were cars stopped in all directions. The siren was wailing and no one was moving for what seemed like a very long time. It was maddening. I was really tempted to run the light. I imagined a rocket falling out of the sky any second, spraying the car with shrapnel. Good for Dmitry who urged me to wait for the the light to change.

As I pulled in to the mall's parking lot I had no choice but to stop near the other gas station under the mall. Here is a dilemma one doesn't come across every day: where does one place his car in case the gas station at the mall take a direct hit from a Syrian missile and explodes into a fireball?

There was a short concrete wall between the parking lot and the gas station and I parked behind that as the least dangerous position, but I didn't think the odds were very good in case the worst happened. Other cars were looking, tentatively, for a safe spot as well. After the radio sounded the all clear we headed back on our way.

Not long after I arrived back home, the second and final alarm of the day sounded and I went down to the shelter. All the kids were there and three of the parents. Some parents are already back at work in spite of the risk of being exposed on the road. One mother came down with her three year-old all wet and wrapped in a towel. She had been taking a bath. Another mother who had done her army service in the airforce said that she had her kids do like they had to in the army: 3 minute showers. Another said she had her daughters wash their hair first and once that was finished, and there was no siren then they could go ahead and take a shower. Again, reducing the time they might get caught by a siren in the shower.

Both times the radio reported that nothing fell on Haifa today - although we heard a rumor of one missile landing next to Rambam hospital. I speculated that last night's incursions into Lebanon by the IDF may have caused Hezbollah to busy themselves with relocation of some rocket units and that was why there was nothing until late afternoon.

The mood in the shelter has been consistent for the last week or so. A serious but not panicked environment. Someone usually cracks a joke while others speculate about how far and where the missiles landed. We don't understand why the radio has to help the enemy by mentioning which neighborhoods or parts of the city have been hit.

The children get fidgety while their parents hush them because they are trying to listen to the radio for the All-clear. The moment it's given everyone is eager to head back for their respective apartments. I notice that the kids continue their play together upstairs in Dvir and Yulie's apartment. Dvir is a shift manager at a large electronics plant in Migdal HaEmeq, about 25 minutes from Haifa. The Bahats go to Tel Aviv for the day to enjoy themselves and come back to Haifa to sleep, and then leave again in the morning. Everyone has their plan.

One thing I noticed about the mood is not what's there but what is absent - Anger. It took a while for me to notice that none of the people I know or speak to are angry and outraged. No one is ranting against the lunatics that pulled them into this war, that is killing Israelis and hurting the economy. For Israelis, it's a given that we are surrounded by enemies who hate us so much that they want to destroy us. It's as if they all know, to the last man, woman and child that this was going to happen - again - sooner or later. It's as if there is perfect unanimity about what the armed forces (IDF) has to do now. No matter that it's ugly because they use civilians as shields, or that booby traps are waiting. Or that Nasrallah has promised more surprises (beyond the surface to sea missiles or the longer range missiles that can hit Haifa or Tel Aviv).

No one is saying it (there is no bravado talk... just bravery) but the attitude seems to be, "Let them do their worst and we'll do what we have to do to stop them". That's all. No one is yelling "Death to Arabs!" or even death to Nasrallah. No one is foaming with hatred. People's attitude seems to be saying, "We know they hate us and we accept it as a fact of life". I am sure some people, somewhere in Israel are yelling terrible things, but I have not heard it.

I suspect that part of the source of this attitude is the confidence that people here have in the ability of the IDF. In spite of the missiles which do have some people terrified, no one thinks that we might be invaded or destroyed as a country. Most people expect the IDF to be able to take a significant chunk out of Hezbollah though it is beginning to dawn on us that it's not going to be easy or as quick as we first thought. I think that is empowering and precludes a sense of helplessness. The IDF is an army of the people - almost everyone here above the age of 18 has served, so we know everyone in it is doing their best to protect their families and friends and their country. Even though no one can stop the rockets themselves (for now, at least), Israelis are taking precautions by going down to the shelters - that in itself is empowering.

What can I say is that it fills me with an overwhelming, over-brimming(?) sense of pride in the confidence and dignity of these people who do not hate their enemy. Who inside, are crying also, not only for what is happening to them and their country, but also for the poor, innocent Lebanese who, like us, have been pulled into this conflict against their will.

Golda Meir once said something like, "We can forgive our enemies for killing our sons, but we can't forgive them for turning our sons into killers." I get the feeling that these people can forgive their enemy even that.

Again, I pray that this ends quickly with as little loss of life on both sides.

Shalom,

Yves

PS Thanks to all of you who have been posting comments and sending emails. It's been very encouraging. Keep them coming.

1 Comments:

At 24 July, 2006 15:29, Blogger Peter Tuschak in Canada said...

Well, Day 13 in Canada was rather uneventful. The Stock Market raced ahead (rose by just over 200 points), Oil Prices fell slightly, and no surprises in politics.

That does not say that I am not thinking about Haifa though! There isn't a minute that goes by where I don't check my computer screen to see if there is an end to the bloodshed (on both sides) or any important developments.

It is interesting how you recount the adventure of the day and explain the hatred of our people by the Arab world. I have realized that this hatred is far reaching to more than just Arabs. The only thing is they are like the KKK and refuse to show their faces. I also have come to accept that our people have a great capacity dust ourselves off, reach down and gather the strength needed to proceed on. I think this is part of what we inherit from generation to generation.

Nevertheless, every night when Karen and I walk the dog we pass by our neighbour's house and I comment: "why can't we all get along as we do with our neighbour". There is a mutual respect, a somewhat liking of eachother and even a comfort that they accept us and we them! Even though we are Jews and they are Lebanese! I just don't understand it, probably because of my naivity and optimism I will never understand why there is so much hatred in this world. I can honestly say that I have not hated a human in my 45 years. I may have been angry at them to the point of dislike but I sleep on it, wake up in the morning, see the sun shine and try to remember it is a new day.

This is what has happened in Canada today....reflection and hope!

Speak to you soon!

Peter

 

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