15/1/09 FEAR AND ROUTINE
Things here are a little quieter. Six people wounded in Be'er Sheva today, but usually there's 'only' property damage. Everyone is following orders, taking shelter when the alarms sound. Yet there are more people in the market. People are so frigging adaptable.
Last night I was quite amazed to have a phone call from the 'Home Front Command'; they asked if all was well with me, if I had questions, if my shelter arrangements were satisfactory! So the lessons from the last war were well learned.Saturday morning, the 17th
- BOMBS AND FLOWERS
A few minutes ago, on the radio, Azariya Alon was in the middle of a panegyric involving the necessity of refreshing the soul in days of war especially, and lengthy, lyric descriptions of the glories of the spring flowers. This was interrupted by a Red Alert in Sderot; the usual laconic, serious announcement: 'color red, I repeat, color red in Sderot. Color red now
in Sderot'. It's never anything more than that, repeated once or at the most twice. This particular time was only distinguishable by the fact that as of last night, we have had a cease-fire.*
And by Mr Alon singing the praises of a daisy-strewn field in the background as the alarm overrides his voice, repeating the alert an embarrassingly maximum number of times. Obviously he wasn't aware of the alert. Then the technician cut him off, and a second later, the announcer's voice ceased uttering and Radio Bet
[Second Program] listeners were left in silence for several long, portentous seconds.
While the morale-building advantages were swiftly debated off-mike, probably (or maybe). With the result (or not) that after a fairly prolonged silence the meadows won and Azariya faded in again, now explaining the therapeutic value of a family outing to a place of natural beauty. I totally don't know whether to laugh or cry. This is radio-drama of the most puissant sort. Or is it the kitschiest hasbara
Or, if hasbara
it isn't, as another poignant reminder of how full of contrasts life can be. 18/1/09 INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
More radio, the army station this time: first come interviews with children. Their extreme youngness is endearing. Their interviewers lead them shamelessly and they are naturally highly leadable. Adults remind them to keep the Other Side in their prayers and thoughts. The kids are happy to remember this facet of their complex situation and happily agree that they do, all of them, keep the Other Side somewhere in the picture. They express fear and confidence all at once; their confusions are extremely close to the surface. They strive hard to be good representatives of their...' town, or country? As the interviews are in Hebrew, probably they're representing the Gaza Envelope Area. Often, they are clearly parroting phrases the adults around them repeat. 'If they hide behind children...'' and 'if the parents of all the children in Gaza...' and '...'we can direct and from our experience'.
Next comes a very frightened Gazan, begging for peace and quiet.
Next, a very frightened mother at the bedside of her wounded child, begging for our prayers.
Next a sober report about the wounded child -0 it turns out that he was wounded in the head by shrapnel after having not waited the mandatory 5 minutes after the sirens are stopped. We are treated to another rundown of the red-alert instructions.
The down-to-earth attitude of the Home Command spokesperson is very pleasant, nothing poignant or ambiguous about it. There are simply a number of things the public is required to know just now, and here they are again. Blessed are the pragmatic.
On the other hand, e-reports from various sources (for example from Leah Shakdiel, currently under house arrest for participation in a 'quiet' demonstration) make me value the collective conscience as incarnated by the Extreme Humanitarians. We've always needed our Prophets to keep us warned, humbled and inspired with an impossible, glorious ideal vision. So much for the pragmatic.
It is true too that some of the ardent humanitarians are self-haters. Those are not needed; there are enough flame-carriers without them.
On another other hand, there's been a light touch of religion in the air of this war. Radio announcers are a lot more likely to use 'Praised be The Name' (Baruch Hashem
) and suchlike phrases. The word 'miracle' has been uttered a lot more than ever. I'm not the only one who's noted this effect.
Roads in the south are decked with banners proclaiming 'Strong Home Front; Victorious Front' and 'The quiet band in this area can be found at XX.XFM'. 'Quiet band' is a radio station which broadcasts silence unless there's a Red Alert. It operates at night and on Shabbat [the Sabbath]. 19/1/09
There will be a few days during which we will 'allow' those to blow off any incidentals; we'll bristle but put it down to "units who haven't yet heard the news;" last salvos of bravado. But after that, all bets are off. Our leaders have warned of instant reactions when and if the rockets come. This is very satisfying on a primal level. GREY AND BLUE
Just back from the western Negev. A grey day but no rain. The unaccustomed light should go with rain, but though the wind is finally changing from dry and easterly, no moisture is coming with it. The air is dry, the wildflowers are blooming at a fifth of their usual height. It looks like the water wars will be here soon.
Bnei Akiva [a religious youth movement] and maybe others have been out there, putting out too many flags. Did they also put up the new banners which read 'Resettle Gaza'? The journalists have not left Sderot yet; they're getting pictures of the flags, which look like a victory, and one last interview (we all wish) with Yossi-Melekh-haFelafel (Yossi King of the Falafel). Sderotites are all so camera practiced; Yossi is downright debonair. Yes, he's glad the government has put Hamas in the hot seat. So am I, and we both add 'if it lasts'. BELIEF AND DISBELIEF
Just as we've desperately wanted to believe just about everything that our government's been telling us this last month, we also want to believe this is over, or at least, sort of over.
For the last few years, the phrase 'not the Left and not the Right' has been common. Yesterday I heard a new version: 'I'm not Left and not Right'.POOR AND RICH
The other e-group I'm in was worried if the soldiers are taken care of nicely, shades of the last Lebanon caper. A bunch of beautiful high school girls are personning (neuter of "manning") a table on the way into the supermarket. They give you a brown box about two shoeboxes big and direct your attention to the various items on display, any of which cost half price if put into the box, to be sent to a soldier at the Front. I forgot to find out who pays the difference -- whether the manufacturers or the 'Mi Kol haLev'
On my way up north I rode with a miluimnik
[reserve soldier] (salt of the earth, a teacher of electronics from Netanya, fully in favor of what we're doing in Gaza, non-officer rank, etc) on his way to one-day break from the war. He said "we have a nagmash
[APC] full of candies and stuff and so do all the units." There have been no problems feeding the soldiers this time round either. He went on to say 'the packages we get aren't necessary, but they do have a strong morale-boosting effect'. The e-group heard that the soldiers needed scarves and warm stuff. I asked about this too:
'The reason the soldiers are cold is that it is cold right now... they carry lots of equipment and stuff, they have body armor, but they usually can't wear gloves because they can't handle equipment [read: fire a gun] with gloves on.' :
Karmela Menashe (does that woman ever sleep?!) interviews sadirnikim [enlisted soldiers] every day on Radio Bet and they all say they have plenty to eat etc.
There's going to be a restitution battle (for lost business) in the courts. But how far will they go? Is the fact that less people were out and about during our weeks under fire, which affected every business in every town, big enough? War is ugly.
*Actually, the cease fire was announced on Saturday night only, and IDF ceased fire on Sunday at 2:00 AM (editor's note).
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