Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Walter's Israel journal (Part 5): An odd sense of normalcy

Away from the war zone, Walter finds life goes on in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Like almost every Israeli to whom I spoke, Magen (see previous post) said she supports the government’s decision to press on with its military offensive to the Litani River, some 20 miles north of the Israeli-Lebanese border, although, like nearly all the others, she is dubious the expanded offensive will bring lasting peace or end the missile threat that had turned their lives upside down. When the cease-fire was announced several days later, there was an almost unanimous feeling that it would last only a matter of hours or days and then violence would erupt again.

The three quarters of the Israeli population that lives south of Hadera in the region where the missiles have yet to penetrate live in a jarringly different reality than their compatriots further north. In Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and elsewhere in the center and south of the country, life goes on more or less normally. People sit in cafes or to the beach as though the whole nightmarish scene happening a few score miles to the north simply does not exist.

A slogan emblazoned on an electronic billboard overlooking the main Tel Aviv-Haifa highway proclaims, ‘Residents of the North, we are all with you’, yet the slogan seems at least partly hyperbole. When I informed friends in Jerusalem that I had just spent two days in Afeq and Haifa before coming to the capital; most responded with comments to the effect of, ‘You were brave to have done that, but I wouldn’t go there myself in this situation.’

Most of those to whom I spoke seemed to feel they are in enough danger and under enough stress given the reality they are forced to live with in relatively peaceful times as well as times of war—that they don’t need to go in for false heroics. It is enough that they go to work every day to keep the economy running—not to mention being ready, if fate so decides, to sacrifice their children for the good of the country. In addition, many have opened their homes to refugees from the north. So why, they ask, should they go north and dodge missiles themselves?

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