Jerusalem Magazine
July 24, 2006 Day 13 War 06
My wife’s niece and nephew broke camp today. Amos couldn’t sit around any longer. “I’ve been out of work for twelve days,” he said. The Sports Center in Kyriat Shmona, where he runs a spa, is closed tight as a drum. Tired of enduring the endless rockets falling around them, they came to Jerusalem for a few days. But Amos has had it. “Maybe I’ll volunteer to fight fires,” he said. Brush fires are raging in the Galilee, near Kyriat Shmona, caused by rockets exploding in the dry brush. Israel’s climate is a lot like Southern California, except we only get rain in the winter, from about December to February. (Once ever few years it snows for a day or two.)
Amos was called up to the Golan by my brother-in-law Robert, who needed help bringing in the peach harvest. Israel radio reported that so far the farmers have lost about $15 million on their crops. The war came just as the harvest season began. Robert is slightly out of range of the main rockets, and can still get to his fields. But even then he’s called back to the bomb shelters.  His workers, foreigners imported from Thailand of all places, have gone to work elsewhere. He’s short-handed, so Amos and his wife Pnina are going up to help. I guess in his spare time Amos will fight the fires.
More and more of our friends’ sons, young men from elite fighting units, have been called back to do reserve duty. This worries the parents of course since boys are getting killed and wounded in this fight. Eleven more wounded today, not counting the Apache helicopter that crashed a few hours ago.  The push is on to hit Tyre now. Israel has been pounding that Lebanese city for a few days. Apparently the city of 100,000 people is the main launching area for the missiles striking Haifa. Israel dropped leaflets warning the Tyre residents of air and ground strikes, telling them to leave. Reportedly the city is 75 per cent empty. If the ground forces have to go in, it’s gonna get messy. House to house fighting. Booby-traps and land mines.
Israel claims they have destroyed 2,000 missiles. Over 2,500 missiles have landed in Israel. Israel estimated Hezbollah had between 10,000 to 13,000 missiles at the start of the war. They’ve still got a lot of missiles left to shoot. Israeli sources say that Hezbollah may keep shooting for a month or more. The same sources estimate that Israel probably has a week or ten-days before the “diplomatic” efforts call a cease-fire.
A NATO force is being talked about. They would disarm Hezbollah and allow the Lebanese army to move into the South. Nice idea. Wish it would work. But the Lebanese army is about half Shiite, and support Hezbollah. Sort of like a dealer in a poker game, you deal a seven of hearts to someone with three clubs, all picture cards, “No help there,” the dealer says.
According to what we all read, Israel recognizes that there is no military solution to the problem with Hezbollah. They’re too embedded in Lebanon. A NATO like force would be good. But would they do the job, or just get out of the way when Hezbollah starts shooting? That’s what the UN has always done.
So there we were, last Friday night, my two sons, two of their friends, and my new nephew Amos, sitting on my balcony in Jerusalem, looking out at the lights of the city beyond the valley, on the next hill. “How long a period of time was there between the time of King Saul and the destruction of the Second Temple?” I asked. My boys both attended solid Jewish elementary and high schools, wore a skullcap, prayed every morning. So did their two friends. Of the four of them only one is still ‘religious.’ But they have an education. The answers ranged from 130 BCE to 180 BCE. The real answer was more like 970 BCE. Who’s counting, only eight hundred years off.
 “What did you guys learn in school?” I said, flabbergasted at their ignorance. But I got over it. “Okay,” I asked, getting to the point. “How long a period, over that nearly 1,000 years of Jewish presence in Israel, back then, was there ‘Peace?’”
The answers were all over the place, hundreds of years, a few hundred years.
Surprisingly, Amos came closest. “Forty years,” he said. “Under King Solomon.”
Right enough. I think he was off by 43 years, I think even under Solomon there were wars, and only seven years of peace, but who wants to nit-pick over something no one can prove.
One of my son’s friends, who is a genius, in his last year of law school at the Hebrew University, showed what a liberal education will do to a nice Jewish boy. “I’ve got a professor who says King David and King Solomon never existed.” Beside the point, I know, but it showed what he’s learning. “Yeah,” I answered, “and I bet your teacher has his own political agenda, too.”
(Israel is divided into two educational streams, religious and non-religious, set up by Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister. BG was a reactionary, had been raised in a Yeshiva environment and didn’t think it was going to help his new country any. Today the secular Israelis are asking for more Jewish education in their schools, contrary to what BG thought. But that’s a whole other matter. It was clear, though, that the law student’s professor came from the secular wing, always looking for ways to refute his Judaism. True democracy and a Jewish state can’t really co-exist, but that too is another matter.)  
“Seven years,” I said. That’s all the peace the Jews had in 1,000 years of living in Israel. “Okay, make it forty years, for Amos’s sake, since he was the only one who was even in the ballpark.. So, if they only had even forty peaceful years out of one thousand, what can we expect. (Israel at 56 has already been united 16 years longer than any time in Jewish history. The famous King Solomon united the land for only 40 years.)
So when U.S.Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice flies into the region, can we expect anything to come out of it. Even if it is a NATO force with real muscle, can we expect peace? Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2,000, and had a peaceful border for six years. We thought we’d be able to get along with Hezbollah, they thought we were suckers, as they entrenched deeply into the ground, and the government. The UN passed resolution 1559, ordering Hezbollah to turn over her arms. Sure, and Riverview is going to reopen (a famous old amusement park in Chicago, torn down decades ago.). They won’t disarm unless forced to do it.
Talk is of this NATO force, with Israel negotiating with the Lebanese government, not Hezbollah, for a Ceasefire in Lebanon, and with the Palestinian Authority’s Mohamed Abas (Abu Mazen. Abu means “father of” Mazen is his son) to quell the Hamas attacks from Gaza. (Israel pulled out of Gaza last year. Israel’s right-wingers always considered both the Gaza and Lebanese withdrawals mistakes. Maybe they were correct after all, since both places became armed camps rather quickly, and then attacked Israel from a closer proximity, just as the right-wingers warned they’d do.)
According to Israel Radio, Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who masterminded the Israeli Army withdrawal from Lebanon after a bloody 18-year occupation, has been dodging any interviews by the Israeli press, apparently not wanting to explain how his withdrawal plan wasn’t a mistake after all.
A NATO force comes in after Israel negotiates with the Lebanese Government, who no one listens to, and Abu Mazen, who no one listens to. Sounds pretty stupid to me, but what do I know?
Except, that there’s never really going to be Peace, just quiet between the wars.
My wife Alice likes me to recount an experience I had once when I was interviewing Palestinians during an Israeli election. I found this one grizzled guy in the old city of Jerusalem, a working man, stained shirt, unshaven, in his thirties. “Israel is like the pigeon in the sky, “ he said through crooked nicotine stained teeth, “and the Arab is like the cat on the ground, watching the pigeon. Just watching the pigeon. Because the Arab knows that one day the pigeon will grow tired and come down. And then the cat will pounce.”
Quiet between wars, a time to rest, and an unwavering will to win is all that keeps us up in the air. Let’s hope we don’t get tired, ‘cause that cat is always there, waiting.
July 24, 2006, War in Israel Day 13