Jerusalem Magazine
July 31, 2006 Day 20 War in Israel
“The cease-fire won’t last,” said a guy on Fox TV this morning. Later you’ll find out whom. “I’ll tell you why. For it to last Hezbollah would have to stop firing their rockets. And Hezbollah will never stop firing their rockets.”
He was right, and wrong.  At about 1:30 PM Israel time Hezbollah fired four rockets into the Galilee. The rockets landed in open areas, but started brush fires.  
Israel didn’t respond with air-force strikes. As we all heard, U.S. Sec. Of State Rice extracted a promise from Israel to halt air strikes for 48-hours. In the minutia of diplomacy, it might be interesting to note that the announcement came from the U.S. Embassy, not from the Israeli. Makes it pretty clear who is pushing this.
But U.S. President George W. Bush has said that a permanent cease-fire won’t be in place until the threat of Hezbollah rockets is significantly reduced. Meanwhile, the Israelis can continue their ground operations, and hit those “Hezbollah assets” they need to hit. At the same time Israel is allowing a 24-hour window to allow the Red Cross and UN to get humanitarian aid into South Lebanon, as well as allowing more people to leave.  It’s worth pointing out that the village of Kana was mostly empty when Israel bombed the ill-fated building.
The poor are the ones suffering. In the Galilee, from Kyriat Shmona to Haifa, it’s those who can’t afford to leave that are stuck in the bomb shelters, or in their apartments. One Russian immigrant family was interviewed on TV. Their son was a champion figure skater, and had been practicing at the Canada Center ice skating rink in Metulla, on the Lebanese border. But the center closed, the ice melted, the son went to Slovakia to train, and the parents were left in the bomb shelter. “We don’t have money. We were in Tel Aviv. No one there can understand what it’s like here. But we had to come back. Who could afford it,” said the skater’s mother.
The Israelis have been in the bomb-shelters for 20-days. Not all the bomb-shelters have the amenities required. Some of them don’t have toilets. Some have holes in the floor that serve as a toilet. Many of those in bomb shelters are elderly and infirm. Young mothers with infants are frantic after nearly three weeks in near confinement.
Compared to those shots of Lebanese camped in Beirut parks, these appear to be minor inconveniences. Lack of opportunities to find suitable refuge was the unfortunate fate of the two families in the Kana building. Two poor families with out the $1,000 for a taxi to Beirut, reportedly, that’s what it would have cost them. Stuck in the nearly empty village.
Yaacov, a veteran immigrant from the former Soviet Union, is the super in the office building where I rent space. His son-in-law, a medic in the Golani reserves, was called up the other day and was already in Lebanon. “I’m worried about those Israelis stuck in the bomb shelters up north,” he said. “Why do they have to be there? Why can’t someone take care of Hezbollah once and for all.”  Who did he think? “I think an international force, but one with teeth, who will fight Hezbollah.”
When I asked him about the Kana attack, he said, “Hezbollah was firing rockets from that building, what did the people expect.”
So the idea of an international force comes up again. Will it be the solution? Yaacov shrugged. Jews are good at shrugging. He’s confused. He’s upset. He’s fed up.
The Israeli ground force is still building up on the border. Some are going in. The cease-fire from the air will allow them to get in where they have to be. If I were Hezbollah I’d worry what the Israelis are doing on the ground while the bombs aren’t going off. Special Ops units are all over the place. Archie G, a neighbor, is worried. His son is a career officer in a Special Ops unit. He’s been in and out of Lebanon over the last few weeks. But what you learn living in Israel, is that kids never really tell their parents where they are. The Galilee might mean a gun-battle in Lebanon. Why worry Mom and Dad?
These are stories you don’t hear about on the news. These are the stomach tightening things that parents go through in Israel.   Hanan J. made the mistake of telling his mother he was going into Gaza on his tank. His mother was sick with worry. Last weekend he was off on a weekend pass. He wasn’t a fierce kid. Brainy. Bright. Slight. Yet he’d been in a tank when they’d been attacked by Hamas, remember them, and had to open fire. The bright brainy kid had to shoot people. It upset him. He told his mother. She told us. Our own kids had reported similar unfortunate stories. Not pleasant. Not wanted. But they do what they have to do.  These are not Hezbollah fighters breathing fire and brimstone and out to convert the world to their ideology. These are kids who were called to duty, and are doing it. And not particularly liking it. But doing it as best they can.
I wish this weren’t true. That it was only stuff to make Israel look good, but it is true. Hanan, standing on a street corner of our quiet Jerusalem neighborhood last Shabbat, told us he was probably going up north with his unit. “Don’t tell your mother,” my wife told him. He looked at her hard, and nodded. Right. Why worry her.
Lebanon has a deathly ring to it in Israel. It’s been the killing fields for Israelis for thirty-years. And no matter what Israel does, occupy it, withdraw troops from it, bomb it, ignore it, it keeps coming back up to haunt Israel in one form or another. When a guy tells you he’s “going to Lebanon” it not the same as telling you he’s going to Miami Beach. Going to Lebanon means nightmares and fear and overcoming fear and coming out the other end, and having other people call you courageous.
This morning I saw two things on Fox TV that were inspiring. Fox is one of the few places on TV that sometimes see Israel in a good light.  One analyst blamed Kofi Anan for not enforcing resolution 1559 and disarming Hezbollah. Now, said the analyst, Anan was blaming Israel for fighting with Hezbollah. Why wasn’t he even handed? The analyst asked?  That’s sort of a conundrum I think.
The other analyst was the guy who made the prediction about Hezbollah. And a guy who twenty years ago was castigated at a Senate hearing when he told the Senators investigating him that he was afraid of one person, a guy who lived down the street from him in Washington. Who was the scary guy? Ossama Bin Laden. He had a house in Georgetown, and drove past this other guy’s house and made him nervous. This guy told the panel that Bin Laden had to be dealt with or there’d be trouble. He was ignored, and castigated, and pilloried for his involvement in Irangate. Who was this guy? Col. Oliver North.  Now Ollie has his own TV show and said that he can’t understand why the world is criticizing Israel. It’s Hezbollah that’s the problem. Hezbollah that has to be disarmed.
Who ever thought we’d think Oliver North was right about anything?
Lastly there’s our drunken friend, the loveable Mel Gibson. I have nothing but respect for Gibson as an actor and filmmaker. He’s entertaining, believable, and charming. But when he’s drunk he’s a handful, I guess. The old joke goes you suddenly wake and Englishman in the middle of the night and he’ll sound like he’s from Brooklyn, all pretences dropped. Gibson seems to be one of those liberals who were very upset with the war in Lebanon, since when he was stopped for doing 90 in a 45, and given a Breathalyzer, he started insulting everyone around, reportedly calling them dirty Jews.
Okay, he was drunk. Nice guys say wild things when they’re drunk, and regret it in the morning. So Mel regrets it. I forgive him. He blames it on his being an alcoholic. I accept it. But there are shrinks that say that the booze strips away the pretense, like the Englishman waking up in the middle of the night. That under it all, stripped away the civility, Mel just don’t like Jews.
In that he’s got a lot of company. But at least he’s not shooting rockets, or going into the Seattle Jewish Federation and opening fire with a machine gun; or blowing up the Twin Towers because of a Zionist Plot to take over the world.
But please, don’t let him near explosives or guns when he’s drunk, and certainly not when he’s on one of his anti-Semitic binges. Who knows what he’ll do.
Mel’s doing chuva (repentance) though. He’s got a new film coming out about a Jew who suffered in the Holocaust. Do you think Hezbollah will watch it? Do you think he would if he were drunk?  But at least he’s torn. Troubled. Sick. What excuse do our Arab enemies have? They don’t even drink!
July 31, 2006, War in Israel Day 20