Sunday, July 16, 2006

Breaking News - Israel in the Press

What did you do this weekend?

After the weekend, everyone asks the same question… and generally my bleary eyed look on a Sunday morning will pretty much speak for itself. This week however, we all have the same response, “We watched the news”.

Not being someone who usually likes to pay too much attention to what is going on in the news, as an Israeli citizen it is difficult to turn a blind eye to recent events. This weekend was spent in front of the TV, watching the endless reports and breaking news on the current situation in Israel and Lebanon. Never did I think on Wednesday, that the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers on Israeli soil, would escalate to the level that it has, but here we are in a state of war, and I tell myself that I am just naïve for believing that it was ever going to end any other way.

I guess you want to know how it makes me feel. I guess you want to know how an English Jew who made Aliyah two years ago sees her future in Israel pursuant to recent events. I suspect that you have also seen the endless news and wondered how someone who has citizenship elsewhere would still continue to live in what I presume you see as a war torn country.

I want to be honest, I want to tell you the truth about how this all makes me feel, but in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the truth has always been an illusive commodity that very seldom shows its face. While watching CNN, BBC, and Sky News, I see what the rest of the world sees, I feel the concern that my friends and family in England must feel watching those reports, and it saddens me that this is what Israel has come to… a side headline on the “Lebanon Crisis” banner stating “Israel bombards Lebanon”. In the rush to report, the ‘who started what’ becomes confusing, and the facts disappear into the latest headline… the current situation… it does not matter how it arose, or who made the first attack… Israel is stronger than Hezbollah, therefore it is Israel who must show restraint. This will always be the truth as seen by the world, as truth be known that the press love to support who they see as the ‘under-dog’. Israel in its short history has never allowed herself to be the under-dog, the victim… she has stood on her hind legs and defended herself when the rest of the world turned its back. So when criticised for defending her own borders, what else do you expect her to do?

BREAKING NEWS: A Katusha rocket just hit the central train station in Haifa killing 8 people so far…

What is the solution?

On Friday I watched the UN Security Council meet for an open debate on "The Situation in the Middle East". During this debate I for the first time watched Israel openly defend its actions in an articulate verbal manner. Dan Gillerman, Israel’s UN Ambassador, spoke in response to the typical speech made by the Lebanese Ambassador (reported by the BBC as ‘The Palestinian representative’… idiots!). I want to quote some of what he said, as it was the first time that I have watched a representative of Israel speak and not wondered why on earth we chose that shmuck to speak on behalf of our nation... Dan you did us proud! You kicked ass!

“Mr. President,

There are words that speak far louder and clearer than anything I can voice today…
the words of an unnamed Lebanese minister, who said, “The Hezbollah has not only kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, it has taken the whole of Lebanon hostage.”

Mr. President,

With your permission, I would like to make a personal appeal to my esteemed Lebanese colleague.

Your Excellency,

You know, deep down, that if you could, you would add your voice to those of your brave countrymen. You know, deep down in your heart, that you should really be sitting here, next to me, voicing the same opinion. You know that what we are doing is right, and, if we succeed, your country will be the real beneficiary. I am sure many of our colleagues around this table and in this chamber, including many or our neighbours, share this sentiment.

Mr. President,

This Council and the international community have a duty today to help the Lebanese people achieve the goal of a free, prosperous and democratic Lebanon. The sad and tormented life of this war-torn land has today entered another sad chapter in its history. It is up to every one of us to help write this chapter, to ensure that this opportunity is seized, not only for the benefit of the Lebanese and Israeli people, but for the sake of generations to come.”

For the full speech, please take a look at this link.

The sad thing was that due to the UN’s inefficiency, this speech was a waste of Dan’s breath. It clearly fell on deaf ears, as was shown when it was followed by the Russian representative harking on about ‘even handidness’. I ask the Russian to be even handed with his ‘friendly’ neighbours when ambushed and bombed. Would he sit back and be ‘even-handed’ or would he rightly defend his country? I think the later… but lets all be honest here… the UN is as much use to the world as the Eurovision Song Contest. The same countries vote for the same countries every year, and we can always rely on the fact that while the US backs Israel (every time!) Russia and France will always back the ‘other side’, or whoever the US does not support. Sometimes I wonder if having the World’s superpower as our friend really does us any favours.

Solution? We are at war… that is the only solution. And if it takes a year, two years, or even if we find ourselves in a fifty year war (g-d forbid) this is the only solution that we currently face. How can you try to negotiate with those who will not put the guns down, and who shield their guns with human lives? It is easy to criticise Israel based on body count alone. Of course we are going to kill more of their people, than they ours! Firstly we have one of the strongest armies in the world, where their arsenal may be fierce, but no way near as accurate. Secondly Israel prefers to build bomb shelters in their homes to protect their people, rather than the Hezbollah who build bombs in their homes, among their wives and children, to protect their PR later down the line when their wives and children are “mercilessly slaughtered by the evil Israeli army”. I have heard it all and I am wondering when the world will finally realise that we have all heard enough!

What are you going to do now?

On Shabbat, I walked around Tel Aviv, and you could not help but notice the traditional background noise of traffic, and cell-phones, had been replaced with the dull thudding of the helicopters and fighter planes flying overhead… due North.

As I sat eating my lunch the news broke that a rocket had landed in Tiberius. There is no doubt that they have the capabilities of hitting central Israel. Reports come in that out of the 12,000 or more rockets that Hezbollah have, at least 30 have the capabilities of hitting Ber Sheva, never mind my little Tel Aviv. Nooman and I sat while waiting for the news to be updated and posed question upon question to each other…

So what do we do when the bombs land in Tel Aviv?

Do we still go to work?

Where is the nearest bomb shelter?

Should we be getting gas masks?

What happen if it never stops?

What would you take with you to the bomb shelter?

If your parents made you, would you go back to England?

Are we crazy?

When I moved to Israel I knew the situation was a volatile one to say the least, and whatever quiet existed at the time of my aliyah was only a temporary peace in the storm that surrounds Israel. I try and imagine the worst possible situation where I would have to leave Israel, and the only way I see myself leaving is if I was physically put on a plane out of here… and to be honest, I think they would rather push us into the sea than see us fly out of here on EL AL jets.

Am I crazy? Maybe I am, but the things that worry me most about the current situation are not the bombs falling on Haifa, Naharia, Tiberius and who knows where… perhaps I am a little numb to it. My main concern is the friends I have made who are likely to be called up to the army. I worry for them, even though most of them respond to my “have you been called up yet?” with a strong “Channah I am an Israeli… it is what we do.” I have such admiration for these young men, while at the same time I have an urge to grab them by their shirt collars and drag them to England, to ‘safety’. But this is truly ridiculous, because my biggest fear in this whole situation is the very same thing being done to me!

I heard that Jews in England were gathering in Synagogues and saying prayers for the State of Israel. I appreciate these prayers, and thank all those who have prayed and do pray for our welfare, but with respect, given the choice between sitting in a shul in England, and a bomb shelter in Tel Aviv, I would rather be sat with my brothers and sisters in a bomb shelter in Israel… I just need to decide what I am going to take with me…


DolceVita said...

top 5 items:
1)my dog
4)birth control
5)Nooman ;)

Anonymous said...

Nice piece!
Was just talking with my friend about the same. in '91 she left for London, just couldn't take sitting in the shelter anymore with her mom, etc....could you imagine that? I would probably kill myself if I was with my mom in a shelter for 24 hrs.
I don't know....
my items: 1) my kids 2) my honey butches 3)a mattress 4) valium 5) my brand new washing machine. :-)

Ranting said...

I pray for you and all in Isreal. Please take care of yourself. My family and I hope that it is over soon. I do not think that it will be. When news broke, I couldn't even speak...Stay strong. Ha-Shem will take care of you. You did actually pop into my mind when I heard. Take care.