4.0946 Life in Israel (2/232)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Fri, 25 Jan 91 16:52:02 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0946. Friday, 25 Jan 1991.

(1) Date: Fri, 25 Jan 91 13:14:45 JST (54 lines)
From: sokoloff@coma.huji.ac.il (Prof. Sokoloff Michael)
Subject: Another view of life in Israel [eds.]

(2) Date: Fri, 25 Jan 91 15:38 +0200 (178 lines)
Subject: False Alarm in Israel Last Night [eds.]

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 91 13:14:45 JST
From: sokoloff@coma.huji.ac.il (Prof. Sokoloff Michael)
Subject: Another view of life in Israel [eds.]

Dear Humanists,

Since you have been recently getting one-sided reports of the situation
in Israel from Werman, I thought that it was about time that someone
sent you a different picture to balance out the situation. Indeed, we
cannot let our emotions get hold of ourselves even in life and death
situations and academic responsibility - to say nothing of scholarly
integrity - demands that a full-sided picture of the actual events be
placed before our distinguished colleagues.

Firstly, it must be clearly stated that SCUDs do save lives. The media
have reported here that since the beginning of the war only one person
has been killed in a motor accident. If we take into account that as of
this writing the war has been on for ten days, and that the Israeli
average motor fatality rate is about 1.25 a day, then even if we
subtract the number of fatalities from the raid on Ramat Gan we come up
with a positive tally. Indeed, though I don't have the exact figures, I
would even venture to say that the number of injuries is probably on
balance less.

Moreover, the SCUDs have injected new life into the sagging tourist
industry. During the last few months, many tourists from abroad have
canceled their trips to Israel, even the hardy Scandinavians who flood
sun-drenched Eilat in the winter. But now after a few rounds on Tel
Aviv, you can't get a room in Eilat! All of the Tel Avivites have
discovered the Negev and old friends that they haven't seen in ages.
Even Jerusalem-of-the-long-knives is enjoying a boom. It seems like
ages ago, but actually less than three weeks ago, Tel Avivites had to be
cajoled and embarrassed to visit the capitol. The Hilton is now
bursting with guests who have now discovered the Holy city.

The crime curve has dropped enormously. Indeed, the police say that
they are actually underemployed, and if it weren't for a missile or so
which brings out the looters who steal from the bombed out houses they
really wouldn't know what to do with themselves. Personally, I don't
think that the official explanation for this phenomena, viz. that people
are at home more now after dark, is really correct. There is really
honor among thieves, and in this they are showing their solidarity with
the rest of the population in this dark hour of trial.

Finally, the missiles have brought about a messianic era of an end to
the Jewish wars which are so popular in Israel. The leftists are giving
there full support to the Likkud; the religious and secular populations
have ceased their never-ending strife; the newspapers have stopped
printing articles about the negative aspects of society. Indeed, it is
even reported that mothers-in-law from the outlying areas have taken in
their daughters' Tel Aviv spouses without argument.

I suppose I could go on with more glowing comments on the situation, but
I think that the above should give you a better picture of what it is
really like in Israel today.
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------184---
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 91 15:38 +0200
Subject: False Alarm in Israel Last Night [eds.]

Jerusalem, Friday 25 January

False Alarm

Last night, at 22:32, the TV broadcast of the semi-final round European
Cup basketball game between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Pop Split, last year's
Champion's, from Yugoslavia was interrupted, early in the second half -
Tel Aviv ahead by 4 - by the flash of a shield in the center of the
screen. The strange medallion did not mean anything to me for a second
or two, until the message in the center of the shield finally - How
could I be so obtuse as not to realize immediately what was going on?
Was I not already a veteran of air raid drills? - began to register -
ALERT - written in several languages. I called to my wife and only then
did we hear a siren. We hurried into the sealable room upstairs, and
were all masked and seated, more or less calmly, even my 86 year old
mother - who had to be awakened and did not quite seem to know was going
on - listening to the radio tell us that the alarm was for all Israel,
when [FINALLY!] - at 22:35 - another siren was heard, this time a steady
blast [The alert alarm is an alternately rising and falling wail.]. The
radio confirmed that there was now an all-clear condi- tion. Did it
last only three minutes? It seemed much longer than that; how had we
accomplished so much in only three minutes?

After the all-clear was digested by us, understood: Yes, we were once
again "safe," we could now resume watching the game. How strange it
seemed, an Israeli team [Most have been devastated by loss of foreign
players who left with the onset of Desert Storm, but not our best team,
Maccabi, with 4 Afro-Americans who all stayed and played.]. How could
they go on playing? But they could not possibly know that there had
been an alarm here; after all, they were in Split, in Yugoslavia. Added
to our relief after understanding that what we had experienced was only
a false alarm - and added to the glow from the effective action of the
Patriot which still is felt - we were treated to a hair's breadth [Which,
by the way means something altogether different in Shakespeare.] victory
by Tel Aviv. Two points and Split had the ball!

We latch on to good things, to good signs, we need reassurance. Rain.
The rain that we have had for two full days, is another blessing. Or, a
bundle of blessings. It has been a heavy and hard rain. And we all
love it. For so many reasons. We have had a very dry winter and our
major source of water, the Kinneret, also known as Lake Tiberius or the
Sea of Galillee, has been drying up and is 3 meters below its normal
level. To make matters worse, we have had a scandal here with the
National Omboudsman [Actually a woman, extremely impressive 70+ year old
Miriam Porot, a former Supreme Court Justice.] revealing almost [?]
criminal waste and mishandling of our water reserves for years. Talk of
buying water from other countries has been depressing. We are a major
exporter of desalination plants but have none of our own. And now with
this glorious rain we are filling up the Kinneret again, only 2-3
percent of the lack thus far, but the rain has not ended. And now it is
also snowing on Mount Hermon, snow that will melt in the spring and feed
the Kinneret.

But the rain and the accompanying heavy fog are also pro- tection
against air attacks; not from missiles but at least from bombers. And
the threat of poison gas bombs from planes is seen as greater than that
from missiles. The American generals are convinced [Our experts
disagree.] that the Iraqis do not have a chemical warhead for the long
range SCUD which can and has reached us. We are told that there is
another advantage of rain in a poison gas attack; the rain will wash
away and dissipate the gas more rapidly than would occur otherwise.

This morning my wife stood in the rain in a demonstration against the
visit of the German Foreign Minister, H.-D. Genscher. He is here to
show German identity with us in our time of need; so he says. There has
been tremendous criticism of the German - and French and Soviet - arming
of Saddam Hussein with sophisti- cated military technology, in
particular in the fields of poison gas and missile warfare. With Zyklon
B in the background, the German government has been embarrassed, and the
visit is seen as an admission of guilt. Representatives of all French
political parties [except the Communists] are also visiting now,
identifying. In the demonstration, the women stood in the rain, felt
the first snow flakes in Jerusalem this year fall on them and heard other
women, survivors of the concentration camps tell how they had barely
gotten through the threat of being gassed to death and how, now, they
did not want this to happen to their grandchildren. Just as we are
sensitive to the subject of poison gas, the Germans are also sensitive
to the subject. Just not sensitive enough to desist from producing the
materials, from selling the stuff to the most irresponsible buyers

A little gas, even the threat of gas can do wonders: the European
Community has just cancelled all the sanctions they had imposed on us.

Genscher is taken to see the ruins of the SCUD attack on Ramat Gan
[greater Tel Aviv]; a little more guilt for the German role in
devoloping missile technology for Saddam Hussein is never out of order.
After all, we are not Jewish for nothing. Genscher is intrigued to see
a completely destroyed apartment with a large Israeli flag flying from
it. The owner of the apartment, who has just finished hanging the flag
is brought to Genscher and asked what he was doing. A large, burly man,
he replies that he had to find a picture of his father, the only one
there is. Did he find it among the ruins? he was asked. He pulls out
the picture from his jacket pocket and kisses it. He is asked if he
feels any hate towards the Iraqis. No, he says, not unless hate means
feeling very bad; otherwise he is not sure what hate is.

The problems of lack of sleep and increased anxiety are still
very much with us, particularly noticeable in children. Teenagers
cringe in Tel Aviv, waiting for the sound of the blast that they have
already heard so many times. There is more bed wetting, whimpering and
even crying in their sleep among children. We hear psychological advice
over and over again on the radio, not only for children. Whole families
sleep together, to reassure one another, in a single bed. In other
families, a watch is set; one person stays awake to be able to hear the
siren. Waiting.

One expert has advised fondling, caressing and even sex for anxiety.
When I ask a friend in Tel Aviv, he says "You must be made of stronger
stuff than me if you can think about sex at a time like this." Truth
is, I have not thought about it; I only wondered if sex might be used as
proof that you are still alive. On the other hand, fear does remarkable
things to your hormones, even producing amenorrhea. But then again, so
do anorexia nervosa and schizophrenia.

Speaking of anorexia nervosa and psychological counselling on the radio,
one psychologist advised eating for anxiety. Only in a Jewish country!

Last night's rain was associated with a thunder storm. Even though we
we were warned of thunder, my wife - and many others - awoke in fright,
fearing an explosion. There is now a radio station for sleeping; it
will broadcast nothing unless there is an alarm. The siren that usually
announces the Sabbath will not be sounded this evening in order to
prevent confusion.

An anecdote: following a kidney transplant operation, the patient awoke
in the recovery room to find the nurses and doctors all wearing gas
masks. He apparently was convinced by this strange sight that he had
died, not aware that an air raid siren had been sounded and he began to
cry bitterly. The staff attempted to reassure him by telling him that
his mother was waiting for him. Since his mother had died 4 years
earlier, this was the final proof he needed to know with certainty that
he was dead. The staff had mistaken the patient's father's second wife
for his mother. The ending was, I am reassured, a happy one - once the
confusion was cleared up.


Apparently I forgot, in writing about how inviting the American crews to
man the Patriots and teach Israelis how to use them was felt to be a
blow to our pride, to tell how thankful we were and are to America for
sending the missiles and their trained crews and to the crews
themselves. The crews were overwhelmed with home baked cakes [A radio
announcement pleaded with the public to stop; there was just too much.].
When a call was made on the radio for English speakers to entertain the
American guests, the response was over- whelming. It is possible to be
hurt and thankful at the same time. And all this was before the first
Patriot was fired. With the success of the Patriots in Haifa on
Wednesday night, our gratitude is that much greater. The mayor of
Haifa, where the Patriot downed a SCUD, brought champagne and a case of
whiskey to the American crew which had manned the Patriot launcher. I
hope they will not be drunk when we need them again. If we need them
again, as most of us are still convinced we shall.

__Bob Werman

copyright 1991 USA. All rights reserved.