Grace under pressure

Dear all, 

I wrote this last night and am just posting this now. Since I wrote this there have been more attacks, more hurt and killed (including two bothers, one 3yrs old, the other 9yrs old). 

I pray this is resolved completely very, very soon!  

Your tired friend in northern Israel,

Forest Rain  

Update from Israel July, 18th 2006

Grace under pressure 

Siren after siren went off today, yesterday too. Katushas rained down on Israel’s northern towns, including Karmiel where I live. It is now evening as I write this. This is the first time in a while I have been able to focus my mind enough to sit down and write you…  

Yesterday, looking out the window, I saw a katusha hit the street above mine. There was no siren warning of the incoming barrage of missiles (I guess there hadn’t been time to turn it on). BOOM! The impact was so startling! My heart raced as I watched the smoke rise. My brain told me I was ok, I hadn’t been hit. My body told me: “You are in mortal danger! Run!” It took a few hours before my body to decide that it agreed with my mind and that it was reasonable to be calm. 

More katushas hit Karmiel. One hit a house a street down from my grandparents’ home. Miraculously the people within survived with minor physical injuries. Today my mom and I drove past the house. I wanted to make sure it was not the home of a friend of mine I had been unsuccessful in contacting after the bombing (it wasn’t). From the road we could see through a (broken) window that the katusha had gone through their roof and through the floor underneath. We both felt a surge of pride to witness that a day after the attack the roof was well on the way to being fixed. Most stores are not open today as the army has directed residents of the area to stay in bomb shelters or secure locations. This family must have pulled some strings to get the materials necessary to begin immediate rebuilding. No rocket barrage was going to stop them from having their home sweet home to enjoy!

Yesterday my mother saw only two patients. The rest cancelled their appointments as the drive here would be too dangerous.  

The first patient who came told us that one of the men killed in the attack in Haifa on Sunday was her neighbors’ son, Asael. Asael was older than me and I did not know him from Karmiel but I met him while we were both in the army. He visited my office and his very good friend in the office nearby. Asael (which means made by God) was a very sweet person. He was funny and he cared about his friends a lot. In an interview Asael’s father explained that his son’s name was in commemoration of the miracle of victory God granted Israel in the Six Day war. Triumph and sorrow seem irreparably entwined in this country…

This was exemplified by my mom’s second patient of the day, a husband who came with his wife. Both are Holocaust survivors. Both are cheerful and pleasant, qualities not to be taken for granted in people who have experienced extreme horror. They relayed to us with some amusement how the wife calmed down a neighbor on the verge of hysteria after a katusha landed in the yard of a house across the street from them. My mother asked if their experiences in the Holocaust made the attacks we are currently experiencing easier to handle or more difficult. They said: “Oh no, we’ve been vaccinated against this kind of thing” and proceeded to describe how one of the metal balls placed in the katusha (with the intention of creating as much damage as possible on impact) flew across the street and logged itself in their car windshield, giving them a souvenir of the attack. Both my mother and I felt uplifted having met these two great spirits. Shortly after they arrived home they heard that more katushas landed, some by our home (which is right next to the clinic) so they called us to see if we were ok. People’s true selves tend to come out in times of trouble and stress. This couple’s attitude and behavior; their thoughtfulness, compassion, humor, obvious love for each other and love of life, speak volumes about who they are. 


There is nothing like times of trouble to bring out the best in the Israeli people. Many people who live in places not currently under fire have invited people from the north to come and stay with them. Friends and relatives invite those close to them but there are also those who volunteered to host strangers who don’t have anyone who can take them in. Phone numbers of volunteers are run on the news crawler so there is an equal opportunity for everyone interested to contact them and make arrangements to stay someplace safer. In such times one realizes that though we may not have met, everyone in Israel is family. I personally have received invitations from family, friends and even people I only know through correspondence, never having met them in person. Although I do not wish to leave my home I cherish these invitations. This genuine caring concern gives me a feeling of safety. My family has “got my back” and I love them for that. 


I am proud of my people. I’ve lived in Israel half my life and am still American enough to be able to look at Israel from a somewhat different perspective than that of the Israeli born sabras. Many take the enormous courage and heart of the Israeli people for granted. I don’t. Their grace under pressure can be awe inspiring. 


There is much talk of people leaving the north to stay someplace safer in the center of Israel but most northern residents don’t want to leave. This is our home. Yesterday an apartment building in Haifa received a direct hit from a Hizballah rocket which caused a huge section of the building to collapse. A woman was pulled out of the wreckage, shaken but intact, was asked by a reporter if she wanted to leave Haifa, to go stay someplace else. The woman, standing proudly in the street, the wreck of her home behind her, replied with the Israeli equivalent of “Hell no!” The reporter, stunned, said: “But your home is ruined” The survivor coolly responded: “Yeah, so? I’ll find someplace else to stay” I don’t know the woman and I will probably never meet her by I do know that I love her for her strength and courage.  

Noam Shalit gives another example of grace under extreme pressure. His son Gilad is still being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza. Now that northern Israel has become a war zone it is to be expected that bringing about Gilad’s release is no longer the government’s top priority. Noam knows this and can talk about it calmly. In this terrible time for his family Noam’s heart is large enough to encompass the troubles of others, the families of the two other soldiers taken hostage, the recently bereaved, the wounded, the army that has to deal with a war, the government that has so many things on it’s plate right now and the worries of all those currently under attack by the Hizballah. The Shalit family live in northern Israel so while they are worried about the fate of their son they are also experiencing the rain of missiles. I can’t imagine being able to stand up under such enormous pressure. Watching Noam do it with elegance and dignity as he is interviewed on tv instills in me much admiration for him and intensifies my compassion for the Regev and Goldwasser families whose sons were taken hostage by Hizballah and for all the other families of Israel who had similar experiences. 

I love the IDF for being moral and differentiating between Lebanese and Hizballah targets. Israel is at war with Hizballah, not Lebanon and it is good and right to differentiate. Anyone who receives their news solely from CNN or BBC may not believe me but it is the truth and thankfully the Lebanese know it. The Lebanese government instructed all Lebanese truck drivers to remove the coverings over the backs of their trucks so that Israeli fighter pilots could see that they are not carrying missiles. They understand that Israeli fighter pilots are targeting those who are attempting to help Hizballah move armaments and that there is absolutely no desire on the part of Israel to hurt innocent Lebanese workers trying to make a living. The Israeli air force has dropped thousands of leaflets in Lebanon, explaining their actions and warning civilians to leave dangerous areas so they would not get hurt. Many Lebanese complied with the instructions on the leaflets. The IDF has always gone to great lengths to weed out the terrorists from the civilians and are doing so in this war too.  


I don’t know any Israelis who are not proud of this policy even though it often costs the lives of our beloved soldiers. It is very difficult to extract the terrorists from the civilian population as they methodically use their own people as human shields. They hide in residential neighborhoods, in schools and hospitals… They do that specifically because they are aware of Israel’s policy of not hurting civilians. International news sources don’t talk about the lengths Israel goes to differentiate between civilians and terrorists. For some reason it is more fun to portray Israel as the BIG BAD that kills innocents for kicks. They don’t, for example, talk about how many of the supposed innocents recently killed in Lebanon are people who stored the Hizballah’s arms in their own homes. The IDF is targeting stockpiled armaments so people storing arms caches are being hurt. It is unfortunate that fathers would agree to keep missiles in the room next to the one his own children sleep or play in. It is sad that kids so often suffer because of their parents choices. Unfortunately the children and relatives of terrorists and conspirators with terrorists often suffer as a result of the parents’ actions. No one in Israel celebrates the loss of innocent life, especially that of a child. Sometimes mistakes are made and the wrong people are hurt by accident. This is devastating to the people who made the accident and our army always takes responsibility for mistakes and apologizes to those deserving of an apology. It is very hard to hear that our army made a mistake but when this occurs I take comfort in knowing that our army’s standards of conduct are extremely high and that when innocents are hurt it is unintentional. There are many Lebanese who are completely innocent of any wrong doing and are currently suffering because there are terrorists in their midst. Israel has no wish fight the Lebanese, rather Israel wants a new reality where Lebanon and Israel can exist side by side as sovereign states with secure borders, free from terrorism.  


I am well aware that most of what I have said here is contrary to how Israel and the IDF are portrayed in the media but we know that morality, love of life and compassion for all (including our enemies) are core values in Israeli society. I love this about Israel. Even if no one outside of Israel knows about this I know I have much reason to be proud of being Israeli. 


There is a lot of stress and tension in Israel now. For those, like me, who live in northern Israel there is the worry of missiles falling on our home, place of business or as occurred today in Nahariya – killing one of us on a brief venture outside the bomb shelter. Other Israelis live in range of the kassam rockets being shot out of Gaza. The town of Sderot has been bombarded constantly for months now. All Israelis know someone who could be hurt in an attack or in a military operation. We are waiting with baited breath for the resolution to the hostage crisis, praying that our three beloved children come home, safe and sound.  


Israelis handle pressure well, responding with grace, dignity, strength and courage to very difficult situations. I find these qualities beautiful and yet I wish for more peaceful, easier times…  

Wow, I didn’t realize it was so late. I hear the muezzin calling our Moslem neighbors in the village across the road to morning prayers. I haven’t heard any katushas this night. It will be a while before I once again take the quiet of the night for granted. I think I will try to go to sleep now.

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