Letters from Israel 2
Four years ago I wrote to our alums living in Israel. The message was, "Are you OK?". Almost everyone answered. These answers can be seen on the "Letters From Israel" page. On 8/10/06 I wrote again asking the same question: Are you okay? Below are the replies I've received.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Things over here are amazingly tense. I find myself living from news-report to news-report. A good friend of my daughter was killed in Lebanon today, and we are trying to help out with temporary housing, etc for the million refugees from the North. I am on a list of physicians on call to the people of Kiriat Shemona who have been living in bunkers for over a month. We all hope for better times.
(You can reach Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org)
This is from Linda Haas-Shapira, Class of 1968, living in Jerussalem
August 10, 2006
Thanks for asking "again."
Same war - different year. It's "the whole world is against us" yet again. But we're used to it already. When at first, it looked like we were going to do the world's dirty work for them they were cheering us on. Then they realized that - oops - someone forgot to tell Iran and Syria to stop feeding the Hezbolla weapons for six years! But because of their blindness (or unwillingness to confront the Arabs) we are now paying a very dear cost alone again naturally. I'd love to see what France or Sweden would do if they had missles lobbed into their towns for six years.They wouldn't take it for a week! You think they'd listen to anyone telling them not to bomb apartment buildings where people are deploying katyusha rockets from their porches to downtown Paris or Stockholm? I feel very uncomfortable watching people get displaced by our bombings, but if it comes down to deciding who's blood is dearer, well pardon me, but I feel like living in my country - safely.
Oh, and by the way, does anyone even know that about a million Israelis have also been displaced? I've had "refugees" from the north for the past 3 weeks in and out of our house. The hotels in Jerusalem are filled with northerners who are nervous wrecks living in shelters and trying to sleep with katyusahas and sirens going off all day and into the night.
My brother in law and family (and dog) from Nahariya has been on his in-law's kibbutz since the second day of the war. They came here last weekend to give some relief to his hosts. My cousins from Kibbutz Ayelet Hashachar (Galilee) were given a four-day reprieve at a Jerusalem hotel through the auspices of the Joint which basically bought out all the rooms for northern refugees. The problem is when they have to go back home and to the shelters. We hope to host friends from Haifa here this weekend (or until they want to leave). They have no shelter or interior safe room. Their daughter is in J'lem all month being a counselor to groups of teens/preteens who come for a week at a time and stay in a school gym. She called this morning - slightly panicked - that she just got a group of kids who are totally shell shocked and she doens't know what to do. I spent half the day trying to connect her with psychologists who would volunteer to help her. And our shul is hosting six families from Qiryat Shemona who have autistic and special needs children. The government has no alternate plan "B" for the poor and elderly who can't afford to leave the north (our own mini New Orleans). Food not getting up north. Banks closed, no mail or municipal or social services. But this is when Israel shines. Private citizens rise to the calling. In Sfat an anonymous donor went and paid cash to all the groceries where people had outstanding bills so that they could continue to eat. Doctors from the center of the country are going north to relieve doctors who have been working round the clock in hospitals up north. Funerals can only be held at night in the dark because they can't gather in groups for fear of being targets. And there are too many funerals.
But it's really far away...and yet not. We don't actually feel the war other than that. We're glued to the TV all day and night. Not CNN (you think they're sponsored by Arab Oil countries? hmmm...). We're at the age where our friends have sons in Lebanon. And we know many reservists. May they all return home safe and sound.
This war is one we have to finish. For us and for the rest of the world who doesn't seem to connect the dots. Or don't want to see them at all.
(You can write to Linda at email@example.com )
Shaul (Steve) Ceder, Class of 1972, also writes from JerusalemHi Carol,
My computer died on me some weeks back, so I'm answering from work. I've been doing the overnight shift at the Jerusalem call center for IDT (the phone company) for a couple of years now, and for some reason when I try to send out a message from my regular email address at work, the Internet Explorer crashes. So I sent this one out from my Gmail instead.
Anyway, Jerusalem is not being directly hit, but there are a considerable number of evacuees from the north of Israel who are staying in our neighborhood. And many others. I also have several relatives up north, close to the Mediterranean coast, who are spending quite a bit of time in bomb shelters.
As for the immediate family, everyone is OK. Two of my sons and one of my daughters are staying in Far Rockaway now; my sons (Shmuel, 21, and Michael, 15) are by my father and my daughter (Bruria, 17) by another family. The sons will be returning (with my father) in another two weeks and my daughter the first week of September.
My oldest daughter, Nitza (age 22), returned a couple of weeks ago from several months of teaching in the Lubavitch-Chabad center in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital. My second daughter, Chaya (age 19) is in the Army. She is based near our neighborhood. Since she has asthma, she's not going near any combat zone. And the two youngest, Devorah Malka (12) and Moshe (5) are home with us.
And Aviva lost her mother about three months ago, and her mother's sister passed away last week, so she has had quite a bit of coping to do apart from the war situation.
Writing this between answering calls. Hope everything well by you.
(You can write to Shaul at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org)
A tense message from Elaine Mandell Barel, Class of 1960
Thank you so much for once again thinking of us. I just reread the responses from your last inquiry. And again I repeat that I come from a left liberal political outlook. How sad that we are still in this state of affairs. Where can I start? I would just start by saying that everyone in the world had best open their eyes to the what is going on because it will reach every single country and every single city. I have been in Israel since 1965, lived through several wars, 2 intifadas (one still going on) and this, I must say, is the very worst situation that I can remember.
The north of the country has suffered such great damage. It will take years for the people of the north and the traumas they have suffered to recover. I could give you dozens of stories of people who have become nomads and people who have stayed. And again so many young men are gone- both those who had not had time to taste life and those who had families. Their families will also never be the same. And so many more wounded and handicapped and deformed. They and their families will never be the same.
I dwell upon our pain because while I feel for every Lebanese who has been affected by this terrible war we are the victim here. We left Lebanon 6 years ago, we ignored the intermittent katushas that came over the border. We only wanted peace. We left Gaza last year and shells and rockets are falling upon our cities, towns and kibbutzim in the south.
We are committed to leaving the West Bank and suicide bombers repeatedly try to enter Israel.
The world comments on the severe damage in Lebanon and the lack of peace talks with the Palestineans.
I have to say we are stronger than our neighbours and, therefore, will always be the bad guys because we will do more damage. We, however, do not use innocent civilians as hostages or shields, we notify that we will be bombing or entering or whatever and please leave. Who notifies the people of the entire North of Israel before a katusha randomly hits a village.
I could go on and on and would be happy to communicate with anyone who wants information or arguments or whatever. But I think these 2 sentences really say it all.
If the Arabs would lay down their weapons tomorrow, there would be no more violence. If Israel lay down its weapons tomorrow there would be no more Israel.
In great sadness and anger,
Elaine (Mandell) Barel
(Elaine can be reached at email@example.com)
This harrowing message was received from Shimshon (Stuart) Robinson,
Class of 1974 on August 11, 2006
How are we doing was the question posed to us recently because of the escalation of fighting here in Israel. The answer to this question is a long and complicated one. To begin with I'll tell you about my adventure last night.
Our son Doron (the name means gift, or present) has been serving in the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) for the past year & a half in the Tanks Corp. using the strongest tank in the world the "Merkava 4." He has been in and out of Lebanon since the beginning of this war against the Hezbollah .
While I'm sitting here writing this the siren is ringing, and that means that the missiles might be landing. I heard at least 3 explosions nearby. The radio says that luckily there have not been any reports of injuries.
The recommended action is supposed to be that people are supposed to go to the nearest bomb shelter or some kind of protected area.
What can I say, the feeling is very strange knowing that at any time the siren rings you could be killed or wounded. Someone once said on the radio recently that we are basically living a lottery life, meaning that anyone can be a victim; it just depends on your luck.
Last night we traveled North with another mother & father of a soldier serving with our son. Our sons had just come out of Lebanon and were waiting for orders.
We has not seen our sons for over a month, so we decided to take the dangerous route (at night it's less dangerous) to the Lebanese border to a Kibbutz where the soldiers and their tanks wait to go back in. The Kibbutz is located near to the city of Kiryat Shmoni. While passing through the city it was like driving though a ghost town.
That city has been hit by katusha rockets and mortars more than any other place in the country. Finally after a month of living in their bomb shelters the people of this city have been relocated by the government to a safer location.
We arrived at the place where the soldiers and tanks were standing by. It was like a scene out of a war movie, but it was real. The road was lined up with tanks, and soldiers everywhere. We found our sons, and proceeded to have a great reunion with them for almost an hour before it was time for them to leave. We came with lots of refreshments and food, and we gave it out to everyone.
Needless to say the faces of the soldiers lit up when we passed around the goodies. Another siren, and this time the missiles fell very close. A few more minutes went by and still another ringing of the sirens.
We are really getting sick and tired of this!
A few missiles fell in the town 1 km. away from us.
So in response to your question of how are we doing, the answer is not so great, but we are holding on to the hope that we will be able to live in peace and quiet one day here. Below are a couple of pictures that I took last night. (Click here to
view the photos.)
Best wishes to all.
Shimshon (Stuart) Robinson
(Write to the Robinsons at firstname.lastname@example.org )
The following e-mail was received from Carol (Fuller) Gamson,
FRHS Class of 1961
It was so nice to hear from you. Yes thank g-d we are ok. I am right now in New York visiting with my kids that live in Hewlett, but i have 3 other married children in Israel. I return home next Thursday.
I live in Rehovot, so we are basically safe. My children all live in the center of the country as well on Moshavim. My daughter and her family live in Modi'in. So personally we are fine.
But we are trying to live our lives, and it's not easy. We can only pray for peaceful times for the world.
Keep in touch and I'll write again when I can.
All the best
Carol Gamson, Class of 1961
(You can write to Carol at email@example.com )
This arrived August 14 from Sharon (Tepper) Gefen, Class of 1968
Thanks for your interest in how we're faring here.
Today the ceasefire went into effect and I am hopeful. I know that it's very fragile and that it might not stick. But I want this to end -- the rockets on Israeli cities, the more than one million Israeli citizens displaced from their homes, the young soldiers who are being killed every day. And of course, the innocent Lebanese who are paying the price of their country's inability to stop the Hizbollah terrorists from taking over.
I live in Tel Aviv and so have been spared the worst effects of the war. My life goes on -- almost as usual -- except we're glued to the TV and internet. My youngest has just entered the army this week. He's in basic training and will probably work in Intelligence and won't see fighting. Still I feel so sad when I hear of another soldier who has been killed. Being a mother, I know how impossible it is to accept the loss of a child.
I am a PR consultant and one of my clients is UJA-Federation of New York. I have been accompanying solidarity missions since the war began. Last week my work took me up to Haifa to visit wounded soldiers in a hospital there, with a delegation of Congressmen and community leaders from New York. Since Haifa has been hit by dozens of missiles I was pretty scared to be going up there. Fortunately no Katyushas fell while we were there. The streets of Haifa were fairly empty and most of the stores were boarded up. This very beautiful and usually vibrant city has been turned into a ghost town, just as have all of the towns, villages and cities of the north. We did visit the site of a direct rocket hit a few days before, in a mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhood, and spoke to some people who were taking a breather from the stuffy air in the shelter. They were Arabs, some of whom had been wounded in the rocket attack, and who ran into the rubble to save their loved ones. This was as close as I have come to experiencing what they have gone through every day.
By the way, Congressmen Jerrold Nadler and Anthony Weiner were on this mission, as well as leaders from the African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic communities in New York.
Tomorrow, the magician David Blaine is supposed to arrive to give benefit
performances to wounded soldiers and kids and families in shelters in the North. He wants to express his solidarity with Israel and to give something of himself to the people here during these difficult days. My client, UJA-Federation of New York, is helping to facilitate his visit. I'll be covering his visit as well. The war is giving me quite a bit of work...
Sharon (Tepper) Gefen
(You can reach Sharon via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Alyne (Glazer) Bat Haim, Class of 1959 writes this very moving letter
How thoughtful of you once again to get in touch.
The list of wars I've now lived through seems endless--the Six Day War, the War of Attrition, the Yom Kippur War, the Lebanese War, the Gulf War, the endless terrorist attacks and now the second Lebanese War--when it comes down to it, as Israelis we have been living in a state of war forever.
How has this affected me? First of all, I walk through life with an inner storage bin of pain and tears for all the thousands of "my" kids, brothers, fathers,friends who have been killed throughout the years, As a hiker, I have literally walked the country and stood at the endless memorials to the seemingly endless number of young men and women whose lives were cut down brutally and far too soon.
As I wrote before, the constant loss of life, so suddenly and sometimes so unexpectedly has made me profoundly appreciative of each moment of life that I have.
Friends and family become such a high priority. Interpersonal conflicts must be dealt with as soon as possible--who knows whether we will have another chance to do so.
Living continually in a war zone has made me more devoted to "Tikun Olam"--making the world better than it is--and my particular quest has to do with children and youth living in Homes because their families have been too destructive to them. This past year I have been the volunteer head of the Big Brother and Sister project at the Home, recruiting and training and lapping up the joy and thankfulness of the kids I've helped and their Brother/Sister whose lives have been deeply enriched by being there for a kid who hadn't experienced such constancy and caring before. I've also raised money for the kids for special projects like sending a group to the overnight camp of the Nature Preservation Society, forming a day camp for those too problematic to send away to camp.
A few months ago I had the extraordinary experience of joining a group that hiked the Israel Trail in memory of fallen soldiers and as part of a dialogue between religious and non religious and different groups in Israeli society. Though I could only join in sections of the Trail because of the demands of work, the comaraderie that developed has continued since and some of us hike together every Tues, war or not.
The difference between now and then is that today I have little hope for the continuation of Israel as the Jewish homeland. The fanatic side of Islam, expressed by the fundamentalists, has made it clear that their goal is our destruction. Their message has been loud and clear though the West hardly seems to hear. Israel first has to be destroyed and then the rest of the world has to be taken under their control. It is frightening to think that they might succeed to destroy this country in my lifetime. This war, with its loss of so many lives and the hatred that the terrorists have for us, has been horrifying.
Living in Tel Aviv kept us free from being targets for bombs. However, it did not make us free from the pain of loss.
All the best to you,
(You can write to Alyne at email@example.com)