Everyday life in an extraordinary place.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The War, from Here

This Postcard from Israel was originally written on 30 July 2006.

We spent most of this month traveling around the northeastern United States. As has happened before, our enjoyment of the trip was ruined by upsetting news from home. This time, of course, was much worse. By mid-month, we were spending more time channel surfing for the latest news than visiting the spots of interest on our itinerary. The anti-Israel bias on the major networks only served to further upset us, until finally we found more balanced reporting on Fox News. Still, we knew we weren't getting the full story, so we checked in on the Hebrew press websites hourly.

Now we're home, and seeing the war from here is, as you might expect, another thing entirely. It's not just the different footage shown on the news. It's not the way each day is marked as day number X since the war began. It's not even just the weekly summary on Saturday night, showing the photos and basic information on all of the Israelis, soldier and civilian, Jew and Arab, killed in the past seven days.

It's the way, when an air raid siren goes off in Sfat, that fact is announced on national radio and television, along with instructions to the populace on what to do. It's the way neighbors, family, and friends exchange news, share their fears and worries over loved ones at or near the front lines. Forget the six degrees of separation; virtually everyone in Israel knows someone whose loved one is fighting in this war. Without too much effort, I can think of at least seven young people I know who are currently doing their regular army service. As for reservists, I can only speculate that the number is in the dozens. And it's not just seeing the war from here; the difference is in the way I can hear the army jets zooming by overhead, at all hours of the day and night. In fact, I hear them right now as I write this.

It's also the way the places that are being hit by hundreds of katusha rockets are all places I have visited. They are places where people I know live, or used to live. When we traveled to the north of Israel last year, I was concerned, briefly, about being so close to the border with Lebanon. I decided things had been quiet for quite a while, and I had nothing to fear. Little did I know that terrorists with rockets could have decided to shorten our vacation for us at any moment.

Being in Israel doesn't mean we don't know what the rest of the world is saying. Our nightly news is full of reports of the demonstrations in Europe and around the world. We are used to the anti-Semitism, the anti-Zionism. That doesn't mean it doesn't affect us. But we will persevere, because if we don't, we will perish.

As of now, the residents of Netanya haven't yet been instructed to enter their bomb shelters. I know people who are hosting, or seeking housing for, refugees from the north. Friends who work in the military are now doing so around the clock, even on Shabbat when necessary. Friends with teenaged sons are looking at the future and praying that this war won't go on as long as the last one. Indeed, all of us are praying for the safety of our soldiers and citizens.

That's how the war looks, from here.

(c)Amy Samin

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