Monday, August 7, 2006

Sharif family wartime Update (no.5)

7 August, 2006

Life goes on at home in Gesher Haziv.

The sirens give us lots of prime time in our relatively-safe small bedroom with reclining bed, T.V. and telephone. We tend to think that if a rocket lands right by our house (perhaps also inside) we’ll be relatively-safe from shrapnel, shock wave and other little killing objects flying in our direction – if we shuffled into the bedroom in time. We fairly well realize that a direct hit on our bedroom would have us joining ancestors, but that’s a statistical gamble we opted for. The alternative would be to spend a lot of time in an underground shelter, away from the amenities and sweet smells of home. No thanks. Our prerogative.

Another alternative would be to leave the area for the safety of more southern points. Our children did so with our grandchildren. We’re happy about that. Friends and family coax and tempt. We’re grateful, but not now. No particular logic. Just so. Most of the community has migrated southward. That’s fine. I’m not sure, but I think that to turn us into pilgrims there would have to be an actual enemy invasion by land forces, or at least a specific order from our own army to vacate the area. As I ask myself why such an illogical choice to stay, I find myself in an emotional empathy with the many Lebanese who had to leave northward without having any statistical choice. Anyways, we have the choice and we’re here.

As of a couple of weeks ago I actually get up and go to work every morning. In accounting – bookkeeping – records: there’s always what to do, and what isn’t done today won’t go away tomorrow. There is a safe area one floor below. I moved down some computers. I stay upstairs with my own work. At the whirl of a siren (many times during the day) I spend a few minutes behind an inner wall or go visiting downstairs. Iris has been gathering a group of the elderly every day in the main shelter for some arduous physical exercises, after which she helps distribute the daily mail to our more than 400 mailboxes. Mail doesn’t arrive here during the war. We go to the back door of the main post-office in Nahariya, collect an oversized mailbag and bring it to our mailroom. During a lull in the action, those here come to collect their mail.

Though possibly only a third of the community is still here, we are fairly well organized. Rifi sees to underground shelter events for the few children that are still here, and trips outside the war area. Efi is in direct touch with the army about activities in our area. Volunteers constantly man the phone in our main shelter – the “war room”. We have a fire brigade (has been active), we have an “armed civilian unit” in case of terrorist infiltration (no call so far). Communication is constant between all of these and the entire community (both here and those away) via SMS messages sent to everyone’s cell-phones through the internet. There is an Hanhala. There are meetings Shai and Tami keep the kibbutz office open and available for continuing some affairs “as usual” and being available to the outside world. The infirmary, the library and our small local supermarket daily announce times open for service. This can change at a moments notice as the rockets re-schedule our lives.

It seems that more than 3000 rockets have so far arrived from Lebanon. Less than 20 have fallen around our kibbutz; only four in residential areas; minor damage to a number of homes. Many many more rockets fell all around us – Nahariya and Saar bordering on our south, Cabri and our regional hospital bordering on the east, Moshav Lehman bordering on the north, and who knows how many in the sea to the west. People were killed, many were injured, many homes damaged including the hospital which had moved its work underground. So far Gesher Haziv has enjoyed some kind of relatively positive karma.

Even in the chaos of war there are things that have a regular schedule. After dark we have a lull in the sirens, the rockets, the rush into safe-rooms. I thought it was because in the dark it’s easier for the army to see from where the Hezbollah rockets were launched. Somewhere now I’ve heard that after sundown the land cools down and it’s easier for the air force to pin-point the moving “hot-spots” of terrorists preparing their launching activity. All this does not mean that there is blossoming war-time nightlife. Not in our quiet berg. But though we still hear our own guns working overtime and the air force still rumbles the skies, nighttime is relaxation time. And we can find sleep.

Good night. Be well.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Sirens of War - an update (no.4)

3 August, 2006. Hello to our dear friends,

Update number four(?). short. Between work and war there seems to be a lack of time.

Yesterday was a trying day. Katyusha rockets at various intervals all day long. And Sirens. Yes, contrary to what you may have thought, the first three weeks of this war had no sirens. We had loudspeakers from Naharia and local. We also had an SMS system (95% are with cellphones). Army notifies us, we take to the horn while simultaneously sending about 600 SMS messages to those here and to the many who have migrated south. That’s also (SMS) how we notify about one or another happening that’s going on in an underground shelter….e.g. crafts and games for children, movies, visiting celebs and such.

As of day before yesterday – sirens whining up and down. They’re connected to a national network. As soon as army technology spots a rocket lifting off in our direction, the siren goes off and we have some time (measured in seconds) to get into a shelter or safe-room. Iris and I scamper (no panic) into our 3 by 3 square meter bedroom, hear the explosions in the area, wait a while and then leave to once again hear the constant rumble of big guns far and near.

As mentioned before, yesterday was a trying day. So was today. Probably tomorrow the same. But tomorrow we won’t be here. Away for the week-end. (That sentence sounds so peaceful and suburban). We’re off to visit children and grandchildren spread around Kfar Yedidya, Tel-Aviv and Kibbutz Givat-Brenner. Friday I’ll spend some time in Saálem, that Palestinian town near Shchem where I help the farmers avoid harassment by Jewish criminal fundamentalists who set their eyes on Sa’alem’s lands. From there I’m off to meet Iris and see the family.

We need the week-end vacation. Three weeks of “here” and probably more to come. It’s tiring, at times exhausting, and allows for creeping anxiety.

Here and there over the years we meet up with it. Here’s what I’ve found: Anxiety is a state of mind that starts somewhere deep in the stomach, swells up through the lungs, chokes up the esophagus, dizzies the brain and stumbles back down to the stomach in a nauseating never-ending loop. Getting out of it takes concentration and the ability to relax. It means recognizing what’s happening and grasping hold of our primitive ability to control mind over body. Well, lately we’ve gotten some more practice.

All in all, we and our (and likely your) friends in Gesher Haziv who haven’t (yet?) migrated southward are fine, and our little town has been luckier than others around us.

Across the border things are not so well. Mainly for civilian life and also for the hopes of changing the situation we’re in. Sometimes I see a faint light at the end of the tunnel, but unsure yet whether its daylight or the headlights of an oncoming tank, or maybe just another lost person with a flashlight. Obviously we’re sitting at the border of a global conflict between a western open society and a fundamentalist Islamic “something-or-other”. Mel Gibson was “almost” right: Before the west wakes up we’re right up front in THIS ONE, somewhat like we were in the last BIG ONE. But this time is different. Major major different. During some intermission I may bother you again by expanding on those last sentences. Meanwhile I’m getting up to expand on some midnight snack.

That’s it. Just a reminder that we’re fine, and plan to be so.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

more war - update (no.3)

Hello to all who may still be interested:

25th of July, 2006. I think its Tuesday. (update no. 3….or 4?)

Early This morning I woke up to the strange sound of quiet. Not total quiet. I could hear the birds. But no guns near by, none in the far distance, no plane passing by nor the whirl of a chopper.

It was not that I died and went to heaven. Thank goodness. I have a few things to do yet. (places to go, things to see, etc…). I reached for the radio, pushed the button and sorrowfully learned that we were temporarily lodged in the eye of the storm.

The war was still on all around us. Hezbollah was still there. Our soldiers are still carefully surrounding the Hezbollah stronghold of Bint-Jabil, Heavy guns and the air force are continuously active, but most of the noise is heard further east of us and in the upper Galilee. Condi is talking with Tzipi. The Lebanese gov wants a cease fire, but voices from there are also asking for a further weakening of Hezbollah before they can be replaced by the Lebanese army. That seems also to be the jist of talks between Condi and Tzipi. The war continues. No one has yet found available conditions for a meaningful cease fire. Condi has gone on. Dying also goes on.

Yesterday started out reasonably quiet in our small, partially vacated community. Then came late afternoon with a violent barrage of rockets all around us. Fortunately, no one hurt, and no damage other than heavy brush fires which we couldn’t control until a pro fire brigade arrived. Trees and bushes went up in flames.

I know that the demise of vegetation is such a very minor worry while people are being killed and maimed on both sides of the border. I know that the migration of families from the war area in Lebanon, hundreds of thousands of people, is causing human suffering which needs to be answered and aided. And yet, at least for a moment, I need also to spare a wet tear or two for the color green. So many trees, bushes, beautiful open areas of wild plants we call weeds, have turned to grey ash after more than 2000 rockets. I know we can eventually bring it all back (something which can’t be done with lives of people). But will we?

O.K., I just heard them. The big guns are once again barking not far from us. We’re back to normal. A number of rockets just landed in our area. We took our breakfast into our “security” bedroom, opened the T.V. for the latest news, and waited. Well, the warfront is no longer starring 24 hours a day on almost every local T.V. station. We’re back to some of the regular morning talk-talk shows and how-to-cook repertoire. Back to the radio. As yet no mention of our guest rockets this morning. Almost a feeling of being forgotten? I know we haven’t been, but life in most of the country travels on as we learn to absorb the present, grit our teeth, carry on and expect tomorrow to be better. Life for many in Lebanon is a lot more difficult. I am sorry for those who are the unwilling hostages of a Government policy which allows a terrorist organization to dictate what occurs along their border with Israel. Today I don’t know how to help them. Maybe others can. Maybe we’ll also be able to at some tomorrow. There it is on the screen: “rockets fall in western Galilee (that’s us). House hit in Nahariya. Everyone safe.” I knew we weren’t forgotten, neither by the Hezbollah nor by our media.

One of my sons was called up for active reserve duty a few of days ago. He is already in his 40’s with wife and three children. He is part of a medical team stationed along a very “warm” part of the border. We talk with him every day. He tells us that things by him are fine and safe. Somehow, we still worry. Parents are a fretful breed of humans.

Actually, I’m worried about a lot more. Violence can’t eradicate violence. This war (mini-war according to some) has its limits regarding the results it’s able to offer us in defense against terrorists who are deployed within the civilian population and who are connected to a much larger network of regional and global terror funded and funneled from Iran and Syria, but basically belonging to a much wider global rude awakening of an Islamic religious fundamentalism. (That sentence is way too long, but that’s how loaded the situation really is.)

I think our government made the right move by deciding to evict the Hezbollah from their entrenchment along our border. It would also be good if we could get the Lebanese government (and army) to take responsibility for southern Lebanon as was negotiated upon our leaving the area 6 years ago. It would also be good if the Hezbollah were totally disarmed, as was ditto promised. It would be a blessing to receive back the kidnapped soldiers. It would be right to enter a safer phase of life along our northern border.

On the other hand a whole bunch of blurry questions are constantly knocking at the back door of our cranium: When its all over, will the katyushas still come from somewhere further north in Lebanon?? If the Hezbollah never actually “give up” (which they won’t), how will we know when it’s over?? Can we keep this whole mess localized between us, the Hezbollah and Lebanon?? Where is the “line of turmoil” that should not be crossed?? Will Lebanon come out of this ‘independent’ or will it once more revert to a dependency on Syria?? At what point will Syria decide it can no longer sit on the sideline of the action?? Will we know to recognize that point before getting to it?? Can we be so sure that Iran will stay quiet, rumbling only at the mouth?? At what point does a local action turn into a regional bonfire….and from there into something more??

Plenty of questions, no clear answers. Government and army thinktanks, along with a variety of intelligence agencies, must have deliberated these and other questions before our soldiers were killed and kidnapped two weeks ago. I hope their judgments were based on ample raw data. I hope their judgments are right. They haven’t always been so in the past.

For the moment I’m optimistic and hopeful. Mainly, I’m expecting for some hard negotiations to begin at some point. Here again, I’m expecting our people to grasp hold of that point when it arrives. Hold on tightly. Don’t lose the point.

Aaron Sharif
Kibbutz Gesher Haziv

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Dear Oak: at WAR in LEBANON !!? - Update (no.2)

This week I received a letter written by a British friend of Adar and Carmi. I met him at our house on his way back from a protest against the wall. He, like others, judges our action in Lebanon. I needed to answer him; something of my own personal defense mechanism. To some extent my response glosses over much of my own criticism about many of our actions. Call it natural in the face of outside criticism. I wish I was talented enough to put all this in one small paragraph, but I’m not.

Here is the letter I received:

Innocent people both in Israel and Lebanon are suffering - but there seems to be one difference.
Most Lebanese want a ceasefire.
Most Israelis want the 'war' to continue.
An Israeli ground offensive will destroy what remains of southern Lebanon.
Will this really improve Israel's security? For how long?
Hisbollah are recognized as terrorists by the west.
Israel is destroying a country and killing hundreds of civilians - so what does that make Israel?
Bush and Blair refuse to call for a ceasefire - prefering death and destruction, and risking a wider war.
The BBC reports the evacuation of British citizens from Beirut, and injuries to Israeli citizens, whilst almost ignoring the death and destruction in Lebanon.
Sean says "What if Israel sent over sandwiches and clothes instead of missiles?"Please forward this to your friends to spread this message.If you do not wish to spread this message, if you think I've got it wrong, I would like to hear your thoughts.Oak

This was my response:

Dear Oak.

As I write this I hear the guns.
I don’t like guns. Can I do without them?

For the last 35 years we have had to constantly build and rebuild defenses against terrorist infiltration and katyusha rockets coming across the border from Lebanon. It was not a game. Our people were murdered. Schoolchildren were held hostage in their classroom and slain “for the cause”. A rocket fell only too close for comfort in front of my house with shrapnel flying through the walls of our children’s bedroom, glass shattering over them as they slept. Our army fired back, our air force made small punitive answers. We wanted a Lebanese government to control the Fattah groups that were responsible, but the Lebanese government was not functioning while all the ethnic groups in Lebanon were busy fighting and killing each other.

In 1982 the Israeli army went in to do what the Lebanese were unable and unwilling to do: drive the Fattah groups far from the border. Lebanon was still unable to put together a viable government, and the Israeli public was torn between the need to stay in part of southern Lebanon to keep our border safe, and the need to get out and let the Lebanese once more do what they can to govern and control all of Lebanon including the terrorist organizations. To my mind, it is unfortunate that this internal conflict within the Israeli public lasted till the year 1999. Nevertheless, in that year a number of things happened. Israel announced that its army would leave southern Lebanon on the basis of a major requirement: the Lebanese government would take responsibility for the border with Israel, would place its army in southern Lebanon and would disarm the Hezbollah. The Lebanese Government and the United Nations required of Israel to have a U.N. team delineate the exact international border between the two countries. Israel acceded and so it came to pass. The U.N. passed its resolution for Israel to move over the border delineated by its team in order for the Lebanese army to take control of southern Lebanon.

Israel moved out of southern Lebanon, the Lebanese army did not move in. Since then, not only did the Lebanese government totally ignore its responsibility for southern Lebanon, but it allowed the Hezbollah to become the complete controllers of the area with a constant buildup of arms and equipment from Iran through Syria. Rockets kept flying over onto Israeli communities. Attempts and a few successes were made at kidnapping across the border. The Lebanese Government turned a blind eye with hints of approval. The international community puts no pressure whatsoever on the Lebanese to take control of the border and to disarm the terrorist military organization in their midst. The international community does pressure Israel to “stay calm”. Meanwhile the Hezbollah acquire bigger and more far-reaching rockets: an organization called “terrorist” by the non-fundamentalist world, unhampered by any intervention by its host country, blatantly initiating terrorist attempts over the international border, constantly and overtly threatening to use its growing arsenal against my country. I wonder if there is even one country within the “organized countries” of the world that would accede for years to the demand to “stay calm”.

As a rule, Israel did its best to “stay calm” and respond very minimally over these past 6 years since moving back to the international border. Our main plea was to the U.N. and the “Major Powers” to influence the Lebanese government into deploying their army along the border.
Two weeks ago, while Israel was already involved with a major kidnapping incident in Gaza, the Hezbollah launched another well planned incursion over the border, killed 3 soldiers, kidnapped 2 soldiers, and then (probably to aid the escape of the kidnappers) opened full fire with rockets and automatic guns at Israeli positions across most of the Lebanese-Israeli border. (keep calm?? O.k. this time it was not a civilian riding a bicycle in the town of Shlomi that was killed by a rocket attack. This time it was only soldiers. Why get so upset?? After all – aren’t soldiers expendable?? No, no, no. our soldiers are there to defend, not to be killed.)

Remember the last straw that broke the camels back? Well, this was a very heavy straw – a baleful. With neither the Lebanese Government, nor the U.N., nor the major European powers, nor the entire gamut of anti-violence organizations, willing to offer any solution for the safety of Israelis from the terrorist threats across the border, our own government had to stop “staying calm” and began the forceful eviction of Hezbollah from southern Lebanon, the destruction of their arsenal and the destruction of their well-developed Beirut Infrastructure.

I am extremely unhappy about this result. I doubt that violence can eradicate violence. For 35 years we have been looking for ways to fend off the terrorism from the Lebanese border. No one has offered a viable solution, other than “stay calm” – essentially turn the other cheek, and prepare for the next slap-in-the-face to be much harder.

You are right. Probably most Lebanese want a cease fire, but their democratic government is unwilling to take responsibility for the border, and unwilling to begin the long hard road of disarming a terrorist organization in its midst. They are very willing for a ceasefire which will leave Israeli citizens still under the threat of terrorist action, while they can turn the other way, free of any responsibility.

You are right. At this juncture probably most Israelis are wary of a ceasefire that will leave the Hezbollah with the continued ability to be a very meaningful threat. Were the Lebanese willing to “take care” of the Hezbollah, I am certain that almost every Israeli would revert once more to “staying calm” and embracing a cease fire.

It therefore seems to me that your comparison of who wants a cease fire and who doesn’t is more than simplistic and naïve. It borders on a demagogic approach to the problem of “how do we defend ourselves” – and not only ourselves. We also have children and grandchildren.

Are we exaggerating?? I hear say that we are using the Hezbollah as a poor excuse for once again “taking Lebanon”, while the Hezbollah are no more than just a small group of extremist terrorists who have no real ability to do damage to life and limb??
How simple it is for one to delude oneself.

The Hezbollah are a proven threat by the facts of their past terrorist activities, and by their show of arsenal strength during these last few days. Many people were certain that Israel was exaggerating about the growing arsenal of rockets being stockpiled against Israel. In the past 11 days the Hezbollah have launched over 2000 rockets into Israeli cities, towns and villages. Their range now covers considerably more than the communities within sight of the border, and they openly threaten with even longer ranging rockets. We believe them. Our kibbutz is already pockmarked with a good number of “hits” both within the area of our homes and all around our fields. Most people have chosen to migrate with their children far southward out of the line of fire. So did my own children and grandchildren. A day after they left a rocket landed a few meters from their home and went through the roof of our local grade school. Other rockets continued to land too close for comfort, but those of us still here have gone either underground or into (relatively) secure rooms. The town of Nahariya, just south of us, is less fortunate. People there have been killed by direct hits, and our Hospital is filling up with the injured.

Yes. I know we are much stronger than the Hezbollah and all of Lebanon combined. I know we have weapons and abilities they can not match. I know that therefore we are considered the “bully” and they are the “underdog”. That makes us the bad guys in your eyes while they are the good guys. Which also means by your logic that in the interests of peace and justice we should be willing to cease fire and go back to the way things were: a terrorist organization attacking us at our doorsteps, building up an even larger arsenal supplied by such purely noble countries as Iran and Syria, and hosted by a country whose government sees nothing wrong with such an arrangement and also accepts this fundamentalist terrorist organization into its parliament and government. Thank you very much for supplying such a just solution.

I too would like to silence the guns and “send over sandwiches and clothes instead” to the people who allow, condone and aid the terrorist activities of the Hezbollah. Someone who has no need to protect his own children and grandchildren can deceive himself in seeing this as a solution. It is total delusion regarding the Hezbollah approach to extreme fundamentalist terror.

Now let’s start talking about solutions……………..
I have none.
I would like to see world pressure on Lebanon to take over southern Lebanon and to disarm the Hezbollah. Unfortunately, world pressure will not come by our “sending over sandwiches”. Perhaps it will come in order to aid western interests (not Lebanese interest) against unbalancing the situation in Lebanon.
I would want the return of the kidnapped soldiers.
I would want the return to Lebanon of captured terrorists, but only after the disarming of the Hezbollah arsenal and the presence of the Lebanese army in southern Lebanon.
I know how difficult it will be to disarm the Hezbollah and that the process may take a long time. Perhaps then, we can engage a settlement on the basis of the Hezbollah announcing unequivocally that they accept the sovereignty of the border as delineated by the United Nations, and will from here on desist from any activity across the border.
Then again, there is a very small territory which the U.N. team claims does not belong to Lebanon, but Hezbollah insists on having it transferred to Lebanon. This too can happen in a situation where the Hezbollah are disarmed and affirm their desisting from any further activities across the border along with the guarantee of the Lebanese government.

O.K. how can any of this happen?? Not without the cooperation of the Lebanese government. Till now we have heard no word from them about willingness to deal with the Hezbollah – only their desire for a cease fire. At long last other countries (France, Germany, Turkey and U.S.) are beginning to pressure and negotiate in that direction. I hope it succeeds. We need to stop shooting before it turns us into the same kind of fanatics that are shooting at us.

People are getting hurt even when there is an attempt to single out only Hezbollah activists and helpers. Unfortunately, not everything which looks like Hezbollah from the air is purely Hezbollah on the ground. These are the difficulties of fighting a terrorist organization that purposefully spins much of its webs within the normal fabric of civilian life. True, the result is such that many rules of “fair” fighting are lost when having to fight terrorists within a civilian population that gives it comfort and shelter. Also, the figures you hear about from Lebanon don’t tell you how many of the casualties are Hezbollah. They haven’t been interested in giving out that information, therefore all casualties are “civilians” only. I wish there were no casualties at all. But after being unwilling to stop terror from Lebanon into Israel, the Lebanese government somewhat reminds me of the young man who murdered his parents and asked the judge for mercy because he is now an orphan. Somehow I wonder what kind of letters you send to Lebanon to the supporters of said “orphan”.

One day a week I have been going into the West Bank to the Palestinian village of Sa’alem near Nablus to protect them against possible harassment by Israeli settlers who I hope will be moved out of their homes soon, like those moved out of Gaza. I do that because I believe the settlers have infringed on the land of legitimate owners and have no right being there, and in any case are morally corrupt in condoning the harassment of other human beings on the basis of their own type of religious fundamentalism.

But the Hezbollah are another story. They want my legitimate home and I’m willing to fight for my home. They want to propel katyushas onto my grandchildren. I can’t allow them the opportunity to do that. This is my basic emotional instinct. I imagine I shall never be a total pacifist. I believe in defending myself as best I can when I run into an enemy whose sole purpose is my demise. I then accept the penalty of being called a “bully” by those who are unwilling or unable to help me protect my grandchildren in other ways.

Of course, at the moment at which I thought our government was attempting to go beyond the necessity of disabling the Hezbollah and the terrorist threat, I will join many other Israelis in public protest. It seems to me that time has not arrived. By the way, I never saw any viable public protest in Lebanon against the actions of the Hezbollah as hosted by the Lebanese government.

Therefore, Oak, I will not spread your message. I have my own. And yes, I think you’ve got it all wrong. Please don’t misunderstand. Your heart is in the right place. But the situation you relate to is at best segmented and at worst – tainted.

Be well and continue working for peace. I shall too.

Aaron Sharif
Kibbutz Gesher Haziv

Saturday, July 15, 2006

No Peace from Lebanon
- an update (no.1)

15 July,2006

Hi all’,
An update. Everything (work, play and whatever is inbetween) is at a standstill while guns and rockets do their stuff. With time on my hands, I hit the keyboard. In English. All of you read English well enough. Some of you would need a lot of brushing up on Ivrit.

I’m sitting at the computer in the living room listening with half an ear to CNN, FOX, and/or Israel News. The other half is listening for the next first-of-a-series “BOOM” which will push me back into our inadequately-secure bedroom. All this while my fingers sail thru cyberspace at 2.5MBps reading e-mails and searching the world for more info.

Katyusha rockets have been dropping around us for the last three days at the rate of many per day. Deja-vu. Most have made it to Nahariya. So far one woman killed there, a good number injured to some degree, lots of shell shock. In Gesher Haziv a rocket went thru the roof of the teachers room in the local grade school next to our homes. Another rocket landed into a new section of the kibbutz where new homes are being built, others in fields around us………………

I’m back. A few moments ago we heard the whiiizzzz of a rocket, heard the fall, made for the bedroom, waited for the small barrage to end, waited a little more, and came back to the computer. Meanwhile, as before, we keep hearing rockets falling in the distance.
The kibbutz is partially empty. Families, especially those with children, packed up and made their way to relatives and friends down south. Sort of a forced summer vacation.
Our own children (Amir&Galya + Adar&Carmi), with two grandchildren (Ellla + Elisha), made their way to stay with Eitan&Sigalit in Tel-Aviv and from there to Givat-Brenner and Ein-Gedi.
We’re still here, as we probably will be come what may.
Yesterday evening we got together for a kabalat Shabbat at Helen’s house (+ Greenfelds + Meno Cohen). On our way there we pass many homes. A few of the old kibbutz, most from the new neighborhood. Very few lights in very few homes. No voices, no cars. Most people are away.
…..hmmmm……years ago…..what a difference.
(I hear rockets falling in the distance shadowed by the constant rumble of very high flying planes.)
1982 – sample year. We spent at least two weeks with our children in underground bunkers. Everyone was there. No one headed south.

A number of major differences between then and now:
One. Then we were in the age of the “Bomb Shelter”. Today is the age of the “Security Room”. Bomb shelters were a community happening; everyone was together with everyone, supporting, helping, talking, fearing, complaining, eating, sleeping, playing, crying, laughing, sharing and did I mention supporting? The security room in every home is a very private and personal affair; you and your children (if you have), your T.V. and radio, your telephone, along with your private anxieties, fears, and emotional abilities for coping with high-end claustrophobic tensions while trying to cope with the difficult emotions of your children. What a bummer.
Second. Today we all have private cars. What a technological difference!! Turn the key, and off you go.
Third. Our kibbutz world has turned private. Everyone for himself. You know that if you stay here, there’s no one but you to replenish that empty milk carton in the fridge, and there’s no one to help you with a frightened or crying child. May as well head for mom and dad or some other relative or friend down south. Sounds to me like the right thing to do.
(so why do some of us stay behind, regardless, in spite of, against logic, against safety, against prevailing winds or such? …….are we simply lazy or crazy or what ??)

Have no idea how long this will take. Days or weeks. Have no idea about the results. It seems that our strategic aims are to get chizballah far away from us and to bring the legitimate Lebanese army to our northern border. Seems right and justified to me. But problematic: I’ve never seen fighting in the last 40 years that has actually fully accomplished strategic aims. Here we have once again used a border skirmish (intolerable as it was) as a lever for an all out escalation to accomplish justifiable strategic aims. Not bad if the aims are actually accomplished; questionable if they are not; sorrowful if they land us in the long run with a battered Lebanon unable to cope with neither border nor the growing fundamentalist terror. Have I mentioned that I don’t remember fighting in the last 40 years that has actually accomplished strategic aims? Nevertheless, who can tell the future ???

Yesterday, Friday, I did not go to Sa’alem.
Sa’alem is a Palestinian village outside of Shchem overlooked by the jewish settlement of Alon-Moreh and the Jewish squatter farm called Chavat-Skally. Our jewish settlers from the area have overtly covertly and diligently interfered with the ability of the farmers of Sa’lem to enter their olive groves and work their fields. Intimidation is a mild description of what’s been happening. A few months ago a 74 year old farmer was beaten nearly to death for having dared work his olive groves. Only recently was he at last released from the hospital. He is only a sample. Olive trees are brutalized and at times set afire, especially in the groves closest to Chavat-Skally. The farmers can’t go to the groves nearest to Chavat-Skally without protection, and had abandoned those groves out of sheer fear. Many of those trees were torn, ripped apart, or burned . On Fridays I’ve been going up to Sa’alem with a small group of people making our way to the olive groves to be some protection for the farmers from the interference of the jewish settlers in the area…………

……..o.k. I had another early warning first “swoooosh” of a rocket overhead, went for the bedroom and counted ten to fifteen further rocket falls in our area, but not within the kibbutz. Meanwhile I’ve heard that a rocket fell on a house in kibbutz Sa’ar, next door to us. No confirmation yet. Hoping for a false alarm, a near miss.
…… I’m back at the computer. In the distance we continue hearing the constant rumble of heavy guns, flying machines, and non-friendly noise.

As for Sa’alem, about a month ago we got word of another section of olive groves where about fifty trees were mutilated. We came, saw, and helped undo some of the damage. Yesterday we were going to help bring water to the damaged and doctored trees. I called to tell our fellow volunteers that I won’t make it this week…..can’t get myself to leave this place while under fire. Obviously I’ve got a loose screw somewhere. My fellow volunteers told me that they’ve joined a “Peace Now” venture telling people to make their way northward to fill some of the empty guest-tzimerim that have been deserted by the tourist trade. Evidently, they too have a few loose screws.
Our son Adar called. He is leaving Carmi to finish her studies in Tel-Aviv and he’s coming back to the kibbutz. Feels he needs to lend a hand here. So he too has a loose screw.

That’s enough. Obviously sitting under these conditions leaves too much time on my hands, so I communicate and ramble and ramble. But now I return to CNN, FOX, Israeli networks and maybe some silly sitcom.
Be well. We are.
Aaron (and Iris).