Yves Shefner in Israel at War 2006

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

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Day 21 - The War from Hollywood

The trip I was working so hard to arrange for the last 6 months (readers of previous posts will recall it was delayed to the 13th of August because of Canadian passport issues) has finally happened. We got a call from the travel agent saying that we got through on the waitlist. I had 24 hours to arrange the trip. I got everything arranged and picked up Yarden. Luckily, he had come back from Tel Aviv the day before with his mother because things had quieted down and there was a cease-fire. We got on the plane just after midnight on the 2nd and arrived here about 22 hours later. We were in the air for so long that felt like we were still moving. I thought that they were having earth-tremors here. They’ve since gone away.

Although everyone was happy that we will be out of harm’s way, I felt very bad about leaving and I can think of a number of reasons why. The first is that I felt like it was my duty to stay, firstly to keep normal life going as much as possible. The north of Israel’s economy has been hit very hard and I didn’t want to hit it any harder. Second, I wanted to encourage others to keep on going by my own actions. Trends develop one person at a time, and I didn’t want to be part of the migration trend, I wanted to be part of the presevering trend. I also felt like I was leaving my fellow Israelis behind in the lurch. Not that I was providing any essential services or anything, just that you don’t leave your people behind when they are in trouble.

Yarden and I had planned this trip for so long and we both had gone to sooooo much trouble to arrange it – he had been really looking forward to it and the war had already scared him a little and put a cramp in his summer - that I didn’t have the heart to deal him such a large disappointment. I must admit, that while I was scared myself a few times being in the north, I tried to think things through calmly – there was little chance of harm – I am glad to have him out of harm’s way.

Then there is this Blog. I started to write it from the perspective of a resident of the north during a war that has so terribly affected the region. Now I will write it as someone who was in this region but is now enjoying himself at Disneyland. It sounds a little absurd to me – hopefully it isn’t and won’t be to the readers. What I will do however is continue to add postings for the next few weeks that we are here, based on what I hear from the friends and family I left behind and what I read in Israeli press, etc.

Bizarre Sensation
It is such a striking change from the sirens in Israel to the tourists at the Hollywood walk of fame, that I feel I have been teleported to another planet. Darth Vader, Charlie Chaplain and Mickey Mouse all wander around posing for autographs with the hoards of ahppy tourists. There is no hint of a war going on here except for the few gigantic American flags hanging at US customs. Yarden said they were a little intimidating.

Another absurd war note: we rested a little in the hotel room after walking around Hollywood and woke up hungry around midnight. We went out into the dark street to get a bite to eat nearby. What had been a nice street during the day was a little menacing at night. Maybe I had seen too many police shows on TV or too many action movies. We had to walk past a couple of empty lots and a small house with a huge chain-link fence around it that simply dwarfed it. There were bars on the windows and a couple of people that were drinking outside on the porch. There was a homeless person sleeping on a bench and a couple of other unsavory-looking types. I actually felt far more afraid right then and there, in Hollywood, USA, than I did for the last three weeks in a war zone! :-)

Perhaps the real irony is the town that has re-created so many wars and conflicts, is now scarier than the wars themselves.

Shalom to everyone back home! Our thoughts and prayers are with you. We pray for a quick end to this with minimum casualties - on both sides.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A little about the fear of rockets

August 1, 2006

It was a strange day in Haifa. Yesterday's announcement of a ceasefire brought a day with no rockets or even sirens. Not even a false alarm. After three weeks of almost constant explosions and dancing down to the shelter to the tune of sirens, it seems absent somehow. I and a couple of other people I spoke to have said that in a strange way, they miss it. I know it seems bizzaar, but I think that there is a certain thrill in the fear. There is something about those few minutes where, once in the shelter, you listen quietly for the rockets and measure, by the strength of the blast, how far away they are. You consciously know you are safe in the shelter and the odds are tiny that it will be hit, but you wonder anyway if it might happen. If you have experienced some close ones as I have, you respect the power of the rockets, and there is something in their threat (again, as remote a possibility as it is) of death, that reminds you that you are alive. ALIVE!

A lot of people went to work today and there even reports of heavy traffic downtown. It seemed that life in Haifa seemed to return to normal. Almost. In addition to the missing of the sirens by some of us, we were also grateful for the quiet and what it meant - no one will be hurt or killed today. At least not in Israel. As I also drove through the city streets doing some errands, I didn't trust the quiet. I was sure that at any moment I would hear a siren and have to brake quickly and run into a building to wait it out.

I try to tell people who are really afraid of the rockets in Haif to look at it coldly. Statistically, I am sure one has more chance of dieing in a car accident than being hit by a rocket. I have said this to a few people, who listen to me very impatiently when I say it. The fear for them overrules cold logic. In a very tragic coincidence, today's Yediot newspaper front page has the story of a 16 year-old who came south to Tel Aviv from a kibbutz in the north. He was killed in a traffic accident.

May the quiet last on both sides and let there be peace.

Shalom.