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.