The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to your brother Esau; he himself is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him. Jacob was greatly frightened; in his anxiety, he divided the people with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, thinking, If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, the other camp may yet escape.
A week ago I left home to spend the week leading a group of teachers from Philadelphia on a study tour in the Negev, based in their partnership region of Netivot-Sdot Negev, along the border of Gaza. It turned out to be a week filled with interesting encounters with people representing a broad spectrum of religious and political ideologies- as well as with the physical beauty of the desert. Before we went down there the teachers - and others - expressed concern about safety, as that is an area that has been repeatedly hit by Kassam rockets from Gaza, and this firing has escalated in recent weeks; together with the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, this has led to ongoing major actions by the army inside Gaza. As it turned out, we went ahead, and never really felt in danger; life in that region goes on normally. All we knew was that we heard the constant dull thuds of Israeli artillery firing into empty fields across the border to discourage Palestinian rocket crews, and were aware of air force activity now and then.
Shortly after I left the Galilee, ironically, the Hizballah rockets started to land all across the north: Haifa, Acco, Nahariya, Karmiel, Tiberias, Afula, Nazareth, Safed, and many smaller Jewish and Arab communities in between, including Majd el Krum, one of the Arab villages near us where we run a teen leadership program. Tami (home alone most of the week), experienced this period, like most of our neighbors on Shorashim, with a mixture of fear, annoyance, humor, and "snow-day." Her two main workplaces - Nahariya and Shlomi - both took early hits, and so she was home from the beginning, enjoying the opportunity to work in the garden.
Many places of work and businesses are closed, as are all day care centers and day camps, so for most people, the normal life of work, shopping, etc., is at a standstill. People with young children are tearing their hair out as the instructions from the civil defense authority, to communities in the north but not right along the border, are to stay at home, near (but not in) a shelter or safe-room (since the first Gulf War new houses are required to have one reinforced room). We were supposed to have a staff meeting yesterday, but some of our educators were stuck at home with their kids, while others had already left to stay with relatives in Jerusalem. Various communities and institutions in the center and south are offering hospitality to families and/or children from the affected regions in the north, to give them a respite from the danger and discomfort.
Starting yesterday, a warning system was set up, so that air raid sirens are sounded about a minute before the rockets are expected to land. This helps reduce anxiety, as one is not in a constant state of worry about being hit without warning. After two alarms within half an hour last night, we decided just to sleep downstairs in the den, which is the most protected room in our house. We did hear one faint boom; apparently the rockets fell in Karmiel and in the Arab town of Sachnin, each about 5 miles away in different directions.
Despite what it may look like on CNN, we are not experiencing a blitz, but rather random hits by small rockets, most of which fall in open fields; the hundreds that have landed in the past week (together with the thousands that have landed along the Gaza border over the years) have succeeded in killing fewer people in total than two weeks worth of traffic accidents. Yesterday, as I was touring in Tel Aviv with the Philadelphia teachers before they left for the airport, they kept fielding hysterical phone calls from their relatives in the US; as usual, I guess it looks a lot worse from there. The situation here is inconvenient, frustrating, and at times scary, but beware the TV journalists' hype.
Many friends and relatives have written to express their concern and support, and we appreciate this. In the case of these Hizballah attacks, even a soft-minded left-winger like me can feel that we have the high moral ground, finding no rational justification for this continued onslaught. Whether Israels massive bombing of Lebanon will turn out to have been the wisest response, of course, remains to be seen.