Everyday life in an extraordinary place.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Taking No Chances

Photographs copyright Yediot Aharonot

This Postcard from Israel was originally written on 24 May 2001

This morning a Cessna airplane flew from Lebanon southwards into Israeli air space. After repeated attempts to contact the pilot of the Lebanese craft were ignored by its pilot, the Israeli Air Force was mobilized. Jets and fighter helicopters flew to intercept the Cessna and attempted to turn it back towards Lebanon. The Lebanese pilot ignored those efforts, as well as the warning shots fired by the IAF, which finally had no choice but to shoot down the plane. The pilot had by then flown 70 kilometers down the Israeli coast, which is approximately half the length of the country.

Perhaps you are surprised that I say "had no choice." Consider, if you will, all that has happened here in Israel since October of last year. Also, please keep in mind, that today is the one year anniversary of the Israeli Defense Force's withdrawl from the south Lebanon security zone. And remember that the Hezbollah, which coordinates most of the terrorist attacks that occur in this country, has long cherished dreams of escalating the violence against Israelis.

Now try to imagine the disaster that could have occurred if that Cessna was loaded with explosives and being flown by a suicide bomber, with a flight plan that would take the plane into the heart of Tel Aviv, Israel's largest city. As it was, wreckage from the plane damaged the roof of a school in the town of Mikhmoret. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

As I spoke with some of the other parents outside my daughter's preschool earlier today, a few said that shooting down the plane had been unnecessary, that the pilot was no doubt either stupid or inexperienced. The majority of the parents, however, supported the actions of the IAF. Still another parent complained that it took the IAF far too long to take action, and needlessly endangered the population. This kind of debate is typical in Israel. No doubt we will later hear of protests and demonstrations against the actions of the IAF in shooting down the Lebanese pilot, with counter demonstrations calling for harsher actions on the part of all branches of the army in the future.

Last week, in shock and mourning the loss of several fellow citizens in the Netanya shopping mall bombing, residents of Israel were treated to coverage of how the people in the West Bank village of Tulkarem (the home town of the suicide bomber) celebrated their brave hero and the deaths of his victims with singing, a parade, and the distribution of sweets. I am sure that had an Israeli pilot in a Cessna strayed into Lebanese air space, he would have been shot down immediately and another victory celebrated by the Hezbollah and the Palestinians.

(c) Amy Samin

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