4.1036 Israeli Diaries: Koren and Werman (2/661)
Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Thu, 14 Feb 91 21:44:35 EST
Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 1036. Thursday, 14 Feb 1991.
(1) Date: Tue, 12 Feb 1991 13:20:03 GMT+0300 (415 lines)
Subject: [Haifa Diary]
(2) Date: Tue, 12 Feb 91 18:07 +0200 (246 lines)
Subject: Three Alarms
Date: Tue, 12 Feb 1991 13:20:03 GMT+0300
DIARY OF THE GULF WAR -- THE VIEW FROM HAIFA
Copyright Judith Koren 1991, all rights reserved
Sunday, 8th February
8 pm. The English news has a report on the return to work of Palestinians
from the West Bank and Gaza. The decision to allow it was made over the
weekend. "Aha!" says the demon who sits on my right shoulder (I'm left-
handed so I always think of my guardian angel as sitting on my left),
"now how about your theory that we're in the process of separating our
economy from that of the West Bank?" My demon proves to be a non-starter,
for we have a new licensing system. Only 2,000 Palestinians from the West
Bank were licensed, and many fewer actually showed up. They're not allowed
as yet to work in the Haifa and Tel-Aviv areas, becase of the fear that
incensed inhabitants of those areas would seek scapegoats to attack. The
fear is possibly well-founded, certainly well-publicized. Even more
off-putting, their employers suddenly find themselves "in loco parentis".
The employer has to provide organized transport to and from work, and is
responsible for the employees' good behaviour (i.e. no terrorism: in
the period before the war there was a rash of cases of West Bank workers
suddenly attacking, and in many cases killing, their employers or any
passerby, for the Arab Cause). Moreover, since all the employees now
need a license, they're all legal. Gone with a stroke of the pen are all
the abuses of the labour system that liberals have complained about all
these years: below-minimum wages, no social benefits, inadequate lodgings.
Now they get minimum wages and social benefits or they don't work; and
they can't stay overnight at all, in lodgings of any standard.
This has obvious results. No employer wants to be held responsible for
workers whose personal feelings may be unknown but whose views and
allegiances, AS A GROUP, are all too clear. And the new wages, benefits
and transport costs mean a sharp rise in the cost of labour. Under these
conditions, it's no more expensive to employ a new Russian immigrant, and
it's a darn sight safer.
No, I don't think we'll see our neighbours come flooding back into Israel
to work, the way they did before.
An official of the building industry says he hopes they will, for with all
this immigration we'll need 50,000 building workers for the next year or
2 or 3. I've seen enough Russian engineers and doctors working in stores
and on building sites to convince me that the immigrants will build their
own housing. But even if the West Bank workers do return, the important
point is that they're doing it on equal terms with everyone else. There
is no longer an economic incentive to employ them, rather than an Israeli
Arab or a Russian or an Ethiopian. And 2 or 3 years isn't so long; just
the changeover period from one economy to another. How many people
remember that before '67 the Israeli economy managed OK without cheap
labour from the West Bank and Gaza?
Of course nobody needs to believe that this is all political manoevring.
All we're doing is taking the precautions necessary in wartime, and
improving working conditions. People believe what they want to believe,
and each of us will make up his own mind. My personal opinion remains:
better to blame the necessary upheaval on the war now, than on the
A corollary of all this is that the West Bank will have to be switched
back to its original eastwards orientation fairly quickly. If work
isn't available here, it'll have to be elsewhere. That shouldn't be
too difficult. They're going to need a lot of building workers to
reconstruct Iraq. Sorry if I sound cynical, it's the effect of
After the Friday night attack the jokes are flying again. I hear the one
about selling plots in H2 and H3 twice, from Haifa and from Bob Werman's
Jerusalem diary. Before the weekend it didn't exist. The grapevine is very
efficient. I do my bit by bringing it home to the family. Gadi grins, but
Yair is not impressed. "Not impressed" is putting it mildly. "That's the
dumbest joke I ever heard," he declares. I remember that right from the
start Yair has been the tensest member of the family. Or perhaps it's just
that at his age, anything a parent says is dumb by definition. Can't
blame THAT on the war.
The return to school this morning was confused. The announcements managed
to be ambiguous enough that many children (meaning, of course, many
parents) couldn't decide when their schoolday was supposed to start. At
8 am? At 8:30? Perhaps at 9:00 like last week? It all depends on where
you live and what grade you're in. Not exactly Back to Normal. Nor are
the new regulations, which stipulate gas-mask drill every 2 days. I
remember being told many years ago, by an American friend, about all the
nuclear-attack drills in school when she was growing up. The fears they
engendered, the nightmares. Only as I heard her description did I
understand the gut reaction of the U.S. population to Russia. She belonged
to a brain-washed generation. We are brain-washing our own children with
regard to a similar threat. I hope the effects will not last so long.
At least we're doing it only for weeks, not for years. Perhaps, in the
end, one reason for this war is so that we won't have to do it for years.
Monday 11th February
Today I take a day off for personal needs, one of them being a haircut.
My hairdresser is a young Christian Arab with an ugly, charming face and
a smile that endears him to half the women in Haifa. As if that weren't
enough, he knows (oh rarest of attributes!) how to cut hair. The result
is a salon so full that you can scarcely get a foot in the door, even in
normal times when he works till 7 pm. Now he only works till 4, Because
of the Situation; and from the number of hopeful souls inside at 8:30
am, some of them must have been waiting since dawn.
I settle down to wait in a line presided over by Rosa, his plump, friendly
wife, who specialises in fan styling and managing salon and husband
together. In 4 months of marriage, and despite her mere 20-something
years, she is already being visibly transformed into the stereotypical
Arab Matron (who is almost as well-defined as the Jewish Mother). Thus it
is that I am treated to a whole two and a half hours of radio.
And the radio is indeed a treat. Most of the morning (between songs) is
devoted to the ongoing argument between the army and Civil Defence about
which is safer, an air-raid shelter or a Sealed Room. A shelter, says
the one (I forget which one), provided you can seal it. Nonsense!, says
the other. Most of the public shelters, built 20-40 years ago, cannot
withstand the impact of modern weapons. Moreover you're likely to be
injured in the open on the way to a shelter; and they're useless against
chemical attack. Only go to a shelter, says the spokesman, if you know
it's been sealed properly, it's in your own apartment block (i.e. you
don't have to leave the building and go outside), and you can get to
it in less than 2 minutes. It's clear that in his eyes this rules out
most of the shelters in apartment houses, as well as the public ones.
This seems to me to be mainly an argument about turf, an appeal to the
public for priority. Whom do you believe, Citizens, the army or Civil
Defence? Ludicrous, for as someone on the radio points out, the Civil
Defence is a branch of the army. But as the threat to our lives lessens,
we can allow ourselves the luxury of what we call "Jewish Wars" --
wrangling between politicians, government agencies, or anyone with a
line to the media, about whatever subject is currently in fashion.
Of course it's also a good way to keep up the national blood pressure.
People can stand almost anything better than uncertainty, and there
are several hesitant, unhappy faces around me in the crowded salon.
I'm not worried, I feel out of the whole conflict: my personal physicist
has convinced me that neither shelters nor Sealed Rooms are much use
against gas, the only thing that counts is a well-fitting mask. I
therefore find it amusing (to the shock of those few who notice) when
one of the opposing spokesmen, a few songs later, explains that not
only are shelters of no use, even a sealed room is at best an inadequate
backup to a mask. If your mask isn't sealed properly, the sealed room
may give you some protection. But don't count on it.
But the Civil Defence have had us all sealing rooms for a month. Schools
whose rooms can't be properly sealed are still not working (thus Frieda's
6-year-old is still at home, his classroom alone of all those at his
school having been pronounced unsealable). So a wave of shock and dismay
washes over the faces of the good ladies in the salon. They tend to
disbelieve the spokesman, or the radio, or their own ears. Denial is
better than the release of all the hopes and fears that have been taped
over windows and around doors.
The radio treats us to another cheerful song.
The main thing is to go to an INTERIOR room, the spokesman resumes. One
without exterior walls, or windows. The bathroom, for instance. Sure,
seal it if you want. (?! If you WANT??!!!) That's the best protection
against falling masonry and flying glass. Against gas, all you need is
I throw a stone into the pool of uncertainty in the salon, to see what
ripples it'll make. I say that my husband is a physicist and has been
saying this all along, and in my opinion he knows more about gas than
some army or Civil Defence officer. One or two people latch onto it.
The army and Civil Defence are losing credibility by twisting and turning;
it's better to stick to a lie than to change your tune midway. My
listeners are therefore ready to accept a Physicist as an alternative Expert.
They have only one question: so why did the authorities set us all to
sealing rooms? perhaps, I suggest, to occupy us, to give us a feeling
of security. People can't just sit and do nothing, they need to feel
they're defending themselves and that the Government/Army/Civil Defence
knows how to defend them. Some of my listeners accept this idea, others
give me up as a hopeless case.
My turn for a haircut arrives. Vidal (for so my young hairdresser styles
himself with a characteristic and possibly justified lack of modesty) is
quite ready to discuss the war, and I feel free to discuss it with him
without treading on any corns, because he's Christian not Muslim. He
gives the war another 2 and a half weeks. I'm doubtful, I give it a
month. Vidal is basing his estimate on the start of Ramadan. He thinks
there'll be a compromise solution rather than prolonging the war: the
Saudis can't afford to allow the U.S. to stay into the holy month. I
agree, only I thought Ramadan started mid-March; and at a pinch I can
see the Americans staying into Ramadan, as long as it's all over and
they can be seen to be beginning to leave before the start of the Hajj.
I stick to a month.
The lady sitting next to me demands to know what Ramadan and the Saudis
have to do with this (and what's the Hajj, anyway?) For her the matter
is much simpler. Saddam the Wicked is driving his country to ruin and
the war will go on until the Americans catch him and liberate Iraq. But
Vidal and I have our own understanding, and she's outvoted. Vidal
compromises on March 5th, 3 weeks from now. We shake hands on a 10-day
difference. If you're right, he says, you get a free haircut.
I don't mind how long it takes, says the defeated lady next to me, as long
as the missiles stop. It's hearbreaking to wake a baby in the middle of
the night and push him into a sealed plastic bag. I agree, but venture
to observe that it's even more heartbreaking to be sitting with that baby
in Basra right now. When's all said and done, we're on the sidelines.
But here I'm pushing it. Vidal knows better than to air an opinion on
the relative merits of Haifa and Basra, and his clients emphatically do
not feel they're on the sidelines. They have invested too much energy
taping fears into Sealed Rooms.
7 pm. A couple of minutes before 7, the siren sounds. Three of us are
home: Yair is at a friend's. We dig out our masks and put them on, even
Gadi, who has decided to be obedient to command. I take Liron into the
computer room, but by the time we've decided what game she wants it's
clear nothing's happening in the Haifa area, so we don't even bother to
start it. Ten minutes after the alert they're already releasing all
areas except the centre and south.
Yair calls. He didn't take his mask with him and I'm annoyed. Gas masks
are a form of insurance and I want him to get into the insurance habit,
however slight the perceived risk. He is relatively contrite, for a
13-year-old. I know, he says; I called to tell you I'm dead.
What he called for, of course, was a lift home.
By the time I return the radio has informed us that this missile hit an
uninhabited area. Two Patriots were fired but they're not saying if they
hit the Scud. That probably means they didn't. We glean our news from
what they don't say as much as what they do. In any case there are no
casualties and no damage.
9:25 pm. In the middle of the Israeli news, the alert sounds again.
This time it turns out that the Scud wasn't even aimed at us, but at
Saudi Arabia. Since no missile falls, there's nothing to signal the
end of the incident, so we spend more time in gas masks than we do when
we really are the target. Finally we're released, and hear that the
Saudi Patriots downed their missile. Again, no damage, or so they say.
I imagine there's quite a bit of rivalry between the Patriot crews
stationed in Israel and in Saudi Arabia.
I have at long last bought 2 of those neat little gas-pack-sized boxes
made of brightly-coloured corrugated plastic, and the children pounce
on them with glee. Liron immediately decorates hers with pairs of
fluorescent eyes that glow in the dark, obtained from the local
stationery store. Unadorned gas-pack cartons are definitely not "in".
Yair would have preferred red not yellow, but I don't offer to go
back to the store and change it and he doesn't suggest I should.
Stores are too difficult to get to on work days, we can dispense
with the luxuries of life.
"Luxury" these days means choosing the box colour for your gas mask.
1:30 am. Don't know what woke me. The siren is so faint that it takes
a while to realise it's sounding. No, it isn't. But it is. As I get
up, Gadi mutters "it's the siren" and goes on sleeping. The kitchen
radio, when I get to it, is already counting 5 minutes since the alert.
It's full of well-intentioned advice about the regrettable need to wake
the kids. I close the connecting door to Liron's room so that she
can sleep despite the radio. Five minutes into an alert there's no
longer any point in reaching for a gas mask; either it hit you or it
1:38 am. Ten minutes after the alert, we're already released, along
with the south. I don't ring my mother because I sincerely hope she's
sleeping on her good ear and didn't hear the siren anyway. The
omnipresent, omniscient Nahman Shai says one missile has fallen; they're
checking the site. I wait for further news. Not that they'll tell me
much, but somehow you hope they might say, once more, "no damage, no
casualties" and release you to sleep.
1:45 am. The radio comforts the inhabitants of areas A and H that even
though the rest of Israel has gone back to sleep, it is still with them.
I'm still with them too, but they can't know that. I dislike the radio
for telling them that I have deserted them. It's nearly 2 am and this
is the third attack this night and I'm feeling sentimental. I wonder
how many other lonely islands of light are keeping vigil with them in
how many other corners of Israel. The radio is playing a lullaby, for
the benefit of the toddlers in their plastic incubators. Between songs
it reminds their mothers to keep damp cloths spread over the plastic,
for experience has taught us that these child-boxes heat up like green-
houses and must be cooled. But don't spread the cloths over the air intake,
the radio warns. There are people who have to be reminded of that too.
The radio will remind us, it is our lifeline.
1:55 am. Nahman releases the central sector from its sealed rooms and
masks. The missile, once more, was conventional. I still don't know
where it fell, or whether there were injured. They haven't said there
were none, so I have to assume there were. Perhaps they'll tell me
at 2 am, perhaps there'll be news. I put the kettle on and settle down
to wait a little longer. On the coastal plain the apartments have no
central heating and I'm shivering, but it seems too much trouble to go
back into the bedroom and find a robe.
2 am. Nothing new about this missile, only about the last one, the one
fired at Saudi Arabia. It wasn't shot down after all; it damaged a
building at Riyadh University and injured 2 people. I suddenly remember
a librarian from Riyadh whom I met at a conference last year in Europe.
She had a rich Irish brogue and a mental suitcase full of anecdotes about
the frustrations of building a liberal arts collection in an Islamic
country. We shared a couple of lunches and a wish for peace. I wonder
where she is right now. Is she, too, sitting in an island of light
in her own city, waiting for news? For an instant the map of the
Middle East turns into a thousand points of light. Then I remember
that "her" missile fell several hours ago, and that most of the points
of light in the Middle East are the exhaust flares of bombers over
Basra. Tonight it's too late to be consoled by fantasy and worn-out
speeches. The cheerful song on the radio suddenly irks me, and I turn
2:15 am. Still no news. But I have an excuse to stay up: I'm still
nursing my rapidly cooling tea. I remain in my pool of light and keep
vigil over my wounded planet as it whirls through the darkness, even if
it is too late for fantasy.
2:24 am. The army, via the radio, requests everyone who has come or
plans to come to the site of impact to go away and let them work. The
first confirmation that it hit a populated area, that there's work to
be done. I wonder what type of morbid curiosity draws people to watch
these rescue operations in the middle of the night. Is it the same
impulse that keeps me in the kitchen hugging my almost-cold teacup,
or is it the one that once drew the law-abiding to the public square
to watch a good execution?
2:30 am. At last, an announcement. A few injured, none seriously.
A "certain amount" of damage. I think I heard someone in the background
of the studio say "Ramat-Gan", but it was probably my imagination.
The radio sums up the night's news. Bush has announced he'll wait as
long as necessary before launching the ground attack. Arens has
complained that our policy of restraint isn't getting us anywhere. I
wonder for a moment if that means anything, and if so, what diplomatic
exchanges and understandings it conceals.
2:35 am. The radio is playing a seamen's song in a plaintive minor
key: "If the darkness abounds and the storm surrounds, and I have no
star to guide me..." It seems like a fitting note on which to turn
off the radio and go to sleep.
Tuesday 12th February
We are all bleary-eyed at work this morning. The Standing Commission
on War Crimes, a self-appointed branch of the Department of War Hysteria,
is discussing last night's attack. The raised voices vibrate out to me
past the plastic of their sealed door:
"Every time I hear those announcements -- a missile has fallen -- we're
investigating -- please keep clear -- I get butterflies in my stomach."
I can understand that.
"I'm angry more than afraid. I sat with my son in our sealed room at
1:30 last night and I couldn't find the words, in any language, to
describe my anger."
I can understand that too.
"The trouble is, they never learn from history. You scarcely finish with
one dictator and the world turns around and arms another."
I have my own opinion about what we learn from history, but no intention
of getting embroiled in the argument.
Three beeps. They have a small transistor radio and it's 8 am. Despite
myself I cross their threshold to hear the news. Of course it's courting
disaster, for you can't be in the room with them and not be involved.
When someone comments that Bush isn't doing anything with all his bombs --
how on earth can he need another month? -- How come he hasn't finished
off their missile launchers? -- I find myself replying that a lack of
information from Iraq doesn't mean he's not doing anything. One or two
missiles a night is nothing compared to what Basra is now going through.
They had it coming to them, she says. They supported him. They didn't
oust him. Fact.
She's a plump, usually sweet-natured lady with an engaging smile.
Everyone's more extreme when they're frustrated, and angry, and they
haven't slept. I wonder if that excuses her, but I'm too annoyed to work
it out. If you were living in Iraq, I said, when Saddam seized power,
and you knew that at the slightest criticism your children would be
tortured and killed before your eyes, would you open your mouth? And
what would you then think, if outsiders said it was OK to kill you in
order to remove him, that you obviously supported him, that you had it
coming to you?
A heated discussion ensues. She cannot win by logic and retreats to
denial. Of course she didn't mean children. Of course she didn't
mean... Five minutes after she's said it, she's firmly denying that
such words ever passed her lips. How could I have thought it? She
didn't say that, she said something else entirely. The co-members of
the Standing Commission rush to support her. Only a visitor from
another department, standing aloof, has a wide smile on her lips.
The interesting point is that this sweet lady really believes, with
all her soul, that she never said it. Still, that's an improvement
on continuing to think it. Perhaps I've done my bit if I've managed
to narrow her vision of the Iraqi population, even for 5 minutes,
from "Them" to a woman and a child in an air-raid shelter. Even
though I know she'll revert with the next missile.
Perhaps it would do us good to get more CNN news coverage here.
As it is, no news is reaching us from Iraq and few people know
what's happening there. There is no incentive to distinguish
between "Saddam" and "the Iraqis". But our own TV would have
to put Hebrew subtitles on it, else who would watch it? And
if the TV intended to show us pictures of down-town Basra, they
could cut them into the regular news. They aren't, and the average
Israeli only sees what they show him.
Date: Tue, 12 Feb 91 18:07 +0200
Subject: Three Alarms
Tuesday, 12 February
Yesterday I felt free to speculate on whether we were or
were not in the war; today that is not possible any longer, not
after the three alarms we had last night. It is surprising but
none-the-less quite punctate both in time and thought how what
was an abstract problem can suddenly, effortlessly, become an
The first siren came while I was still at work:
18:58 - I hear the alarm on the radio; only a few seconds later
it is echoed by the local siren. I gather my mask and
the radio and go to the sealed room; a new one - more
intimate and also not unpleasant - in my department.
19:02 - In the sealed room with mask on, radio working. I look
around me; there are 10 of us there, 5 without masks.
I am angry at them, and angry at the Iraqis, at Saddam
Hussein, at the Americans. I say nothing; they know
every bit as well as I do that they have been foolish.
I try to record the progress of the attack as seen here.
19:05 - Nahman Shai reports that a missile has landed in Israel
and that those in all regions of the country other than
Tel Aviv and Shomron [Samaria] are free to remove gas
masks and leave the sealed rooms.
19:08 - I am already back in my room, at my computer, using IRC
to localize Israelis on the net from the struck area.
The first I find is in Rehovoth, southeast of Tel Aviv;
he tells me that he usually hears the explosions in Tel
Aviv, but this time he heard nothing.
19:10 - I locate someone in Tel Aviv who tells me he saw the
Patriot and then heard a small boom. [What does a
small boom mean? That the intercept was far away?
That the Patriot struck the tail instead of the head
of the Scud? That there was no intercept at all?]
On the IRC war report, I hear that CNN has already
reported a missile attack directed at "central Israel."
19:17 - We are told that those in Tel Aviv and Shomron may
remove their masks but are to remain in the poison-gas
19:22 - A general all-clear is announced. The warhead, from a
single missile, was conventional. No wounded [Later,
we learn that two Russian immigrants in the Tel Aviv
region, one 39, the other 46, died of heart attacks
while running to or sitting in the sealed rooms.
These too are casualties. These two are listed as
unpaid debts. We are showing restraint now, but we
have very good memory for this sort of thing, this
being killed business. We have had enough practice.]
I feel very angry now. It is in the air. American
obtuseness to our needs does not help. Certainly not the
Senator who suggested that the cost of the Patriots be
deducted from the aid to be given us this year. We show
restraint and we gain some sympathy, sympathy which will
disappear when the war is over; the Middle East settlement we
neither need nor want is being formulated in remote places,
ready for the first moment when it can be rammed down our
throats. The US government says we are not participants in
the war; do they tell that to the wounded, to the families of
the dead, to those who have lost their homes? Do they forget
that no Scud was fired on us before the beginning of the
coalition bombings? Or do they think that the relationship
The confusion about proper behavior in the time of an
attack continues; we act as if we expect a poison gas attack
but we are blasted by conventional weapons. We suffer from
Scud attacks, we suffer from the results of Scud and Patriot
collisions. American engineers have improved the Patriot
performance in Saudi Arabia; is that information being shared
with us? Caspar Weinberger refused to share knowledge about
Iraqi development of unconventional weapons with us; Jonathan
Pollard stole the information and transmitted it to us. He is
guarded in the basement cell of a penitentiary, in complete
isolation, serving a life sentence for giving that information
to us.[Americans who write to me are under the false impression
that he transmitted data about American defenses or nuclear
information. Nonsense. He passed on information about Arab
arms which was promised us and then withheld.]
Last week, spying for Russia, an enemy of the US, was
punished by a 20 year sentence; apparently that sort of spying
is more acceptable. After all, the Russians are supposed to
At this time the Americans are sharing information with
us. Not everything; not aircraft identification codes, for
example. Will this sharing last?
The map of Iraq showing the position of Iraqi factories
producing nonconventional weapons that Pollard transmitted to
us is now featured on the front pages of newspapers throughout
the world. Ironic? Not really. Israel destroyed Iraq's first
military nuclear plant in June 1981; we were condemned by the
world. We warned the US about the Iraqi threat; we were again
ignored. These are the norms. The current war is an exception.
Sharing information is a two way arrangement, or is meant
to be. The US declined to give us the information on Iraqi
development of nonconventional weapons. We apparently told the
Americans that we had successfully penetrated the George Hawatmi
Palestinian terrorist group operating in Syria. We asked that
the information be kept secret, and provided plans for terrorist
attacks against US agencies. When bringing Syria into the
coalition, this information was passed on to President Assad, as
a sign of good faith [to him, not to us]. As a result two
agents were exposed and executed.
The confusion about what to when the siren sounds is
particularly striking in the Tel Aviv area, the site of most
Scud attacks. Despite statements by Army Chief of Staff
General Shomron and by Nahman Shai on TV, the controversy about
use of the sealed room as opposed to the use of the bomb shelter
continues. Shai has even pointed out that bomb shelters have
been destroyed by the attacks, but the most compelling argument
is that the casualties from a poison gas attack - which we
fully expect despite American experts who tell us that gas masks
should never have been distributed - will be much greater than
from a conventional warhead.
Spontaneously, and without prior discussion, most
residents of apartment houses in Tel Aviv decided that the best
tactic is to descend to the bomb shelters [if you are not
located too, high, more than two minutes from the shelter] or
to use the stairwells which have no windows. A Tel Avivian
reports to me that this behavior had two components; one, the
desire to take matters into their own hands and, two, the need
for some kind of extra-familial human contact. Many waited 4
minutes and then ran back to their sealed rooms, attempting to
get the best of two worlds.
If you cant beat them, join them. This morning the Civil
Defense agreed that a windowless staircase is also a good place
to stay during an attack.
Sirens are no longer sounded for the all-clear. In
schools bells are no longer rung, nerves are too tense. The
children jump in fright. Some firms are distributing small
presents to school children; a secretary reports that her 14
year old daughter received a bag with plastic bottles of
shampoo and hair conditioner - to make the girls feel better.
Believe it or not, the daughter and her friends did feel
21:18 - I am at home. Both the radio and TV give out alarm
warnings, interrupting the programs on the air; soon we
hear the outside siren as well. We quickly go to our
sealed room, 5 of us, all with gas masks.
21:31 - All clear; a missile was fired, but not in our direction.
Presumably, it is directed at Saudi Arabia. Later we
hear that a Scud missile is downed over Riyadh, with
some property damage there.
We are a cigarette smoking country; we smoke far too
much, just as we drive too dangerously. Psychologists say it
has to do with tension, with living with the sense that life is
constantly at risk here - from war, from terrorists. The one
cigarette manufacturer was designated an essential industry
during the period when most factories were closed as we
organized for defense against missiles at the beginning of the
war. Cigarettes were produced in quantity to deal with the
anticipated increase in use, a phenomenon found in each of our
wars. Surprisingly use of cigarettes actually declined and the
manufacturer is stuck with large stocks of unsold cigarettes.
Chocolate seems to have partially replaced cigarette use.
Sales have increased markedly, as has the sale of coffee.
Sweet and fatty foods seem to lead the list of food items
Before the second alarm I developed a distressful
heartburn which did not respond to antacids. I began to worry
that this was a heart attack. [I had not yet heard about the
two Russian immigrants who had died.] I thought that this
would be a particularly ungraceful way to die, that my timing
was poor indeed. I tried to sleep and dozed off at about 1:10,
1:15 in the morning, only to be awakened by a siren. The third
alarm this night.
1:27 - Awakened by sound of siren on radio, outside. The five
of us get to the sealed room - I stall, urinate, but get
there much more quickly than it seems to take - we don
masks, listen to the radio, turn on computer terminal.
The tape sealing the door has gotten worn from reuse; my
son replaces it with new tape.
1:32 - Nahman Shai tells us that this is a real attack. We are
all to remain in sealed rooms, with gas masks on.
1:37 - Once again, we are all released except those in Tel Aviv
1:40 - I use IRC to find someone in Tel Aviv; there is nobody
on the line; it is too late at night.
1:42 - We are told that there was one missile fired which
landed in Israel, the 34th thus far.
1:49 - The warhead was conventional; all-clear for the entire
2:24 - The curious are asked not to come to the place [we are
never told, only later - through a grapevine that is
even more efficient than IRC - do we learn the exact
site of the landing. The spectators who are there
already are asked to leave. They interfere with the
rescue operations. There is property damage, six
wounded, one moderately, the others only suffer light
My heartburn? Oh! Gone.
We are restrained. We are bombed. Our children do not
always handle this too well; some of our adults do not do too
well either. Some die of fright.
7500 apartments have been damaged. Of these 600 were
severely damaged and 200 of those will have to be rebuilt
So we are not in the war.
Angry? Yes. Very angry.
An acquaintance returns to Israel. On the phone he
tells his wife, "Save a Scud for me." His plane lands in
time for the first alarm. He spends the waiting period in the
sealed plane. The second alarm catches him in a taxi on the
empty road to Jerusalem. They pull over, put on their gas
masks and wait. He arrives home, falls asleep and is awakened
by the third alarm. Homecoming.
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