Jerusalem Magazine
War in Israel July 20, 2006
Ninth day of the war.
Exhaustion is setting in, both physical and psychological, on the residents of the northern settlements who have been under nearly constant bombardment for over a week. Yesterday nearly 100 rockets fell on Israel. During the night Israel loosed 25 tons of bombs on a bunker believed to be the hiding place of Hezbollah leader Sheik Nasrallah and some of his top leadership. There is no report if the bombs had any effect.
After a previous attempt last week on Nasrallah’s life he showed up on Hezbollah’s Al Manara TV, subdued but very much alive. He hasn’t been seen since. Reports say that Hezbollah’s leadership is being careful, knowing Israel can track cellular phone signals, landlines, even faxes. Does this mean that Nasrallah is dead, wounded, gone? Who knows? But it’s clear that the Hezbollah resolve hasn’t slackened.
Israel has begun with limited pinpoint land incursions by commando troops. The result of these limited incursions is clear evidence why Israel doesn’t want a land war. Already a few soldiers have been killed and half-a-dozen injured in fire-fights with Hezbollah terrorists who have had six years to build bunkers, establish a rabbit warren of tunnels connecting them, plant road-side bombs, and booby-traps. Even carpet-bombing will not work. Think of the unsuccessful bombing campaign the US waged in Viet Nam for years.
I was reading a book by Leon Uris, more out of desperation at having run out of reading material, than choice. It was a newer book, I don’t remember the title, maybe “Ohara’s War” about the US Civil War. In it Uris wrote that the South entered the war knowing they’d loose, but with the intention of wearing down the North, testing if the Union had had the mettle for a long drawn out war, all the while improving the Rebel’s negotiating position at the inevitable Peace Conference.
It strikes me that the same is probably true of Hezbollah. They can’t hope to beat Israel, but they can hope to come out of the struggle far ahead of the pack of Israel haters as the leader of the Destroy Israel faction among the Arabs of the world. Even displacing Iran, who deny the extent of the Holocaust as if once they get their chance at it they won’t be looked down upon.
What drives these guys? Don’t they know they’re blowing any chance for peace? Sure they do, but Peace isn’t what they’re after. Destroying Israel, the tip of the wedge of U.S.-style Democracy, is the goal, with the US to follow soon after. Hezbollah has shown their hatred for the US in the past; just think of the two hundred US soldiers killed in an Army base in Lebanon in 1982 if you need reminding.
This is old news. We all know they want to take over the world. Not Hezbollah, exactly, but the radical Islamic Fundamentalists they’re aligned with, the Bin Ladins, and others. Remember Hezbollah is an Iranian brand of fanaticism, with Khoumeni as their spiritual guide. They are also closely aligned with the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt, who were responsible for the murder of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, a man they considered a traitor for making Peace with Israel.
So now we’re faced with fighting on the Southern border. Israeli troops back on Lebanese soil. Tricky stuff. Hezbollah fighters are shrewd, intelligent, cunning. They set ambushes, like the one that resulted in the death of three Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of two others. This was a classic Hezbollah move, and I’m surprised the Israelis fell for it. Years ago, when I was in Lebanon doing a film for the Israeli Army, we were taught about Hezbollah’s ambush tactics. What, did the Israeli Army forget to tell the new commanders in the North?
Now Hezbollah fighters are driving their trucks into Christian areas of Beirut and launching missiles into Israel. The IDF warplanes hit a few of these trucks. The Christians complain that they’re against Hezbollah, why shoot at them. But Hezbollah saw the Christian neighborhoods were untouched by IDF bombs and decided to use the old “Human Shield” approach, hiding out amid a crowd of innocent people. Israel hit the trucks, left the buildings intact. But still, a bomb going off in your neighborhood is a teeth-rattling, bone-shaking, head-ache causing, intense fear inducing experience. No wonder the Christians complained. Does this mean Israel shouldn’t hit the Hezbollah in Christian neighborhoods? I don’t know. But in war, stuff happens.
The missile boat disaster was another example of what can happen in war. One of the world’s best missile boats was hit because they commander didn’t turn on the detection radar. Or the 8 workers killed in Haifa because the siren didn’t sound, warning them of an attack, allowing them to rush the 10 meters to their nearby bomb shelter. But as my wife’s genius uncle Lew reminds us, wars are lousy things, and people get killed, many times those who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. When the shooting starts, watch out.
The tragedy of the two small Arab boys in Nazareth killed by a Hezbollah rocket is a case in point. They were out on the street, where they’d been warned not to be, and were killed. An elderly Arab man, a veteran of Nazareth, didn’t blame Hezbollah’s leader Sheik Nasrallah, who he said wouldn’t hurt innocent people. No, he blamed Israel, for not providing bomb shelters, for not turning on the air-raid siren. Another Arab man who works for the municipality said he’d gone around warning townspeople to stay off the streets, go into shelters in their homes, but no one listened. They still don’t listen. That’s the way war is. This is my third since I’m in Israel, not counting two Intifadas. Believe me, strange things happen, like the guy killed running to his bomb shelter, or the factory in Tsfat that didn’t get destroyed even though a katyusha hit it and there was a gas leak in the building.
My wife’s newly-wed niece Pnina and her new husband Amos left their rented apartment in Kibbutz HaGoshren near the northern Galilee town of Kyriat Shmona because of the constant bombardment. After a couple of days holed up at Pnina’s mother’s house in the Golan Heights, where on nightly walks around the Moshav they could hear the bombs falling in the Galilee, they left, back to Kibbutz HaGoshren. But no sooner had they arrived than the rockets started falling like a hailstorm. A few fell near their apartment on the kibbutz. One hit the barn killing 22 cows. I guess cows aren’t important because the damage didn’t make the papers. So Pnina and Amos  packed up and moved back to the Golan. They’re talking about coming to Jerusalem, too. Maybe for the weekend, but probably won’t. They should, though, since Jerusalem is a bubble of peace, until the suicide bombs start, away from the Kassams in the South, and Katyushas in the North.
Many other residents of the North are showing signs of wear. Days of bombings and bomb shelters are starting to take their toll. Even though Israeli entertainers are flocking to the North to entertain the residents, many Northerners have had it. They’re starting to move south. I get e-mails from synagogues asking me to volunteer to take in families from the North. What, should I tell them my mother-in-law was with us? Does that even count?
I heard of one man who took in seven Israelis from the North, including their dog. Yesterday I was in Omer, an upper-middle class town in the Negev Desert, visiting Tamar Elboim, the Rabba of the Magen Avraham Conservative synagogue. While I was there she received a phone call from the town’s manager making final arrangements for dozens of families from the North who were going to be guests of families in Omer. Just one other example of Israelis opening their doors to their beleaguered fellow-citizens.
Today the Army is warning people in the North to stay in doors. As of about 2:00 PM there had been hardly any rocket attacks. Highly unusual. By 8:00 PM only 40 rockets had fallen. The Army thought it was a trick to draw the Israelis to the streets, so the Hezbollah rockets could massacre them. We shall see. Maybe Nasrallah was hit. Maybe the Hezbollah fighters have run out of rockets. Sure, and maybe I’ll win the lottery. ‘Anything is possible,’ as Chaim Weizman, Israel’s first president, was fond of saying, ‘but not everything is probable.’
The wildest idea yet though is that a Peace Keeping force will come in to separate the two groups. And who has signed on to be in the force? Indonesia! A fairly radical Islamic State with leaders who have done their share of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish bashing.
Meanwhile we’re hunkering down. Watching the news on the hour, the radio always on. The topic of conversation the war, those dummies siding with Hezbollah in calling for a cease-fire, and others talking about a multi-national force, as if one has ever helped in the past. Unless a force is going to go door to door, house to house, send “tunnel-rats” down into the bunkers to kill everyone with a weapon, there’s no point in them coming. That’s the common consensus.
So my mother-in-law Leah is staying in Jerusalem, against her will but to appease her children and grandchildren. Leah says if her late husband Jonnie were alive they’d still be in Haifa. He wouldn’t have left. But he isn’t and she did.  Like those in the North tired of the bomb shelters, she’s tired of not sleeping in her own bed, of not being at home. And until the situation is resolved, she’ll be with us for a while. I keep telling her, “My grandmother lived with us for 15 years.” It doesn’t help. She just looks at me, and sighs. And the war goes on.
July 20, 2006 War in Israel Day 8