And the word of the Lord came to me a second time: What do you see?
I replied: I see a steaming pot, its opening from the north.
And the Lord said to me: From the north shall disaster break loose upon all the inhabitants of the land.
Two weeks now into the current conflict on the northern border, and what seemed at first like an adventure and a chance to feel heroic is beginning to have the depressing weight of still another long-term and morally ambiguous campaign.
The Hezballah is said to have over 10,000 rockets stockpiled in Lebanon. We are told that over 2,000 have already been fired at us, and at least that many destroyed by Israeli counterattacks. These rockets do not have large warheads, so that generally only a direct hit does serious damage; and they seem to be impossible to aim with much precision, so the vast majority of them fall in open fields; and the Hezballah has been able to launch at most about 100 in any given day. Thus, the actual amount of physical damage and casualties is not large. Still, the psychological effect on a population that always saw itself as living in a safe area, far from the border, of living day after day with this prospect of random hits of never knowing just how much to shut down your everyday routine to avoid the very slight chance that you will be in the wrong place at the wrong time is wearing especially on families with young children, or on the elderly. Despite Israels massive bombing and shelling of Hezballah positions for two weeks, these random barrages have continued day after day. Many people have left for the south, to stay with relatives or even to stay in hotels or camp on the beach in Eilat. Some have simply gone to calmer regions for a couple of days respite from the uncertainty and from the burden of having to entertain small children full-time indoors, day after day and in the case of those who live in cities like Karmiel or Nahariya or Safed of running several times a day to the safe room or bomb shelter.
Here at Shorashim we have received no hits, though we have heard the sirens and the explosions in Karmiel, Majd el-Kurum (one of Arab villages where we run a teen leadership training program and whose kids were supposed to meet with the American teenagers scheduled to visit here in the next few weeks), and other communities all around us. Tami stayed home to garden for the first few days, but her main employer, Nahariya hospital, required all workers to report, so she has been going in every day even though her clients (she is an early-intervention speech clinician) are not allowed to leave their homes to come in for therapy. I have had mostly uninterrupted days to work on projects in the office and the house; all the other members of our staff have young children, and are either stuck at home or have gone south. All the American teen and student groups have moved their programming to the south or decided not to come to Israel at this time.
There was something refreshing at the outset about for once having the undisputed moral high ground; however one might sympathize with Palestinian suffering, and agonize over and debate over Israels policies in the West Bank and Gaza, it is pretty hard to make a case for the Hezballahs attacks on Israel. Indeed, one is left wondering just what do they want? What is their grievance? What have we done this time? And there is pretty near unanimity in Israel, left and right, that the answer is nothing. We can justifiably feel aggrieved and righteous, and free to defend ourselves with whatever it takes. And for a great many Israelis, that feeling is a kind of return to the good old days of playing David to the Arab Goliath. Yet, as the days go by and the destruction of Lebanon continues as do the Hezballah rockets - the voices of those who question the wisdom our response are being heard a little louder, though of course they are still dismissed by just about whole political establishment, by public opinion, and by most of the media. I really hope they will be proved wrong, and that what we are doing is what we have to do, and really have no choice. But I have to admit Im not sure.