Thursday, August 24, 2006

Back In The Heart Of My Congregation

On Friday, for the first time in six weeks, we drove to Naharia for Friday night services.

We parked in the street and looking round saw the scars of the war; chunks gouged from walls and pockmarks sprayed across concrete from the ball bearings in the warheads, broken shutters, shattered windows and black singe marks where the explosions had caused a fire.

It seemed illicit to be outside, vaguely reprehensible to allow my children to wander so freely.

The community centre where we normally hold services had suffered blast damage: Windows had shattered showering glass all over the hall and damaging the air conditioners. Instead we held services in Wizo.

We arrived early and the room was already packed. Even those congregants who attend less regularly had responded to hurried phone calls that had occupied most of our morning as we tried to inform every one of the renewal of services and the change of venue.

For most of us this was the first time we had been together for more than a month and for many it was an affirmation of their return home. We greeted one another with hugs and smiles and a few tears.

As we joined together in celebration of the end of the war we sang songs of peace and friendship and prayed for the dead and bereaved, the injured and the kidnapped and most especially for those personally affected within our community.

This loss was most symbolically represented by the two youth members who assist the Rabbi in leading services. One of them had just returned from a host family because their home had been destroyed in an attack and the other young member had lost his aunt in the first attack on Naharia.

Suddenly the prayers for peace that we say routinely every Friday held a more personal significance.

When it came time for the Drash and the congregation notices the Chairman and the Rabbi thanked the members of the congregation who had helped keep people informed and in contact with one another.

Deepest thanks was for our community coordinator who spent so much time and effort organising for people to leave the North and find host families. In his ‘free-time’ he gave many interviews to the Spanish-speaking media explaining Israel’s side of the conflict and showing them what was really happening in the North.

As the service drew to a close we all joined hands and sang the Tikva.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

It’s So Quiet

This week I have been as quiet as my surroundings.

On Sunday we went to sleep wondering what we would wake up to. The booming continued throughout the night and then just before 8am Monday morning there was quiet.
By midmorning the ceasefire seemed to be holding so I braved the outside world and took my children along the road to the shelter.
There were dome female soldiers running the activities for the children. One was demonstrating origami, which kept us occupied for quite a while.

An older lady who had spent the whole month in the shelter started to prepare lunch for all of us. The children were more than happy to stay.
After lunch the soldiers packed up and said they would be back at 5:30pm.
We cleaned the room and the children lay down on mattresses while we watched the news.
We discussed the abysmal organisation of the municipality. A couple of mothers phoned to inquire whether the next day’s trip had been cancelled. It had not been cancelled but there were shouted conversations as the women insisted they had signed up and the municipality insisted their names did not appear on the lists.
At 5:30pm the soldiers returned. They read a story out loud and then the children drew pictures. At 6:30 we all went home. It felt so strange to walk freely along the peaceful street.

Since then life has gradually returned to normal.
Tuesday my father-in-law picked us up and we spent an evening at their house.

Thursday I decided it was time for a trip out. The sheroot taxis (service taxis that run like a bus) were back in business and we bumped into Naharia. The town was slowly coming back to life with the shops and restaurant opening again. It was hot so we dived into the aircon in Hamashbir (an Israeli style department store). After sniffing the perfumes we made our way up to the children’s department where they were having a sale. With Israel’s 6 day week I normally can’t get to the sales accompanied by the children so I took full advantage and got the children some clothes they needed.

Opposite Hamashbir was a fancy children’s shoe shop. I had only planned on window-shopping but they too had a sale. A 1+1 deal, in fact. I bought some pretty, sparkly sandals for my daughter to wear on Shabbat and a practical pair for my son. He doesn’t need any sandals at the moment but knowing his track record he will by the time he’s been back at school a month.

Next we looked in a curio shop where my daughter discovered another fairy statuette she had to add to her collection.

After that we were hungry and had falafel and swarma at Lusky’s, the best falafel in Naharia.

The first time I eat here was years ago when I was in the army and a group of us ended up hungry and in Naharia. I was, as usual, the lone girl with a group of boys from the ‘fighter’ artillery base where I met my husband. In fact my husband was in the group and coming from Acco he is a bit of a connoisseur of falafel so the guy who recommended Lusky’s was trying to impress him. We were impressed; the falafel is excellent as is the swarma.

We arrived home tired and happy. I tidied up the house in preparation for the imminent arrival home of our family warrior. At about 9:30pm the door pushed open and there he stood. Tired and tanned he was demobilized and again a civilian.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Not a Lazy Sunday Morning

After the quiet of Saturday my husband was allowed a few extra hours at home, which we utilized to go shopping.

We travelled to Naharia in hopes of finding fresh meat. Several shops had their windows boarded up especially those near the bus station and none of them seemed to be open. However Naharia was showing signs of life with a few cars on the road and people walking around in particular near the clinic, which was open.

There were lights on in the large supermarket but the doors were padlocked and a young man working inside signalled that they weren’t open for business.

We headed in the direction of the ‘Arab’ shop. What had been a run down fruit and vegetable stall behind a petrol station tehn expanded into a dingy supermarket and had recently been refurbished into a modern supermarket with a delicatessen though they still kept to the unusual hours and low prices. It had stayed open through the conflict despite the fact that a katyusha had fallen nearby.

For one I had made a list and I managed not to forget anything.

They had no fresh meat but plenty of fruit. I didn’t hesitate to buy what I needed and then some. Who knew if the cease-fire would hold out?

As we got to the car with a trolley full of shopping the sirens started wailing. I herded the children back to the shop but the skies were clear so we loaded the shopping into the car.

My husband had taken the beach chairs with him to the army so they wouldn’t have to sit on the dirt but they took up a lot of space in the boot and it required some arranging to get all the shopping packed in.

About 5 mins had passed from the sirens sounding and we had heard no booms so we put the children in the car and raced home.

As we came up the hill to Shlomi we heard a loud pop behind us and then saw a group of soldiers beside their cars craning their necks to search the sky. We heard another pop and something like a flare dropped through the sky. As we created the hill we heard a third pop. And then the sound of helicopters.

At home we rushed the children straight into the security room and dragged the shopping inside as quickly as possible. Whatever had happened we had no electricity again. Not only could we not check the news the lack of electricity presented quite a problem for putting away the shopping as I had bought frozen items and other foodstuff that needed refrigeration.

I went through all the bags of shopping and sorted it into dry goods, fridge and frozen. I put away all the dry goods put the electricity still hadn’t returned. So my husband stood by to hand me the items and I opened the freezer for about 20 seconds and shoved everything inside. Then we did the same with the fridge.

I had left out the food for our lunch: fresh pita with humus and some delicious cherry tomatoes and the children didn’t object to lukewarm cola.

While we were eating I realised the standby light on the TV was winking at me: the electricity had returned. We turned on the news and they talked of sirens but made no mention of Shlomi.

We were about halfway through our lunch when the sirens started up again. The children marched to the security room pita in hand. We heard the loud ratat of helicopters firing and booms as katyusha fell in Naharia.

Swishswoosh BANG. A katyusha flew just over our heads and landed in the field nearby.

Several katyushas have landed in banana fields at either end of the valley but this is the first time it was so close.

My daughter gave a yell and I dashed in to the security room to find her crouched underneath the table cola in one hand, pita in the other and still chewing. She knows that the security room is safe but still feels the urge to dive for cover whenever there is a loud bang.

She climbed onto my lap for quick hug and them her maternal instinct kicked in and she had to hug all her dolls and teddies so they wouldn’t feel afraid.

My son stood beside us flexing his muscles to demonstrate why he wasn’t afraid. Then he climbed up to his bed and threw down more teddies to his sister so they could all participate in the group hug.

I returned to my husband in the sitting room and realised just how close the landing was.

The TV news still made no mentioned of Shlomi but the Internet told me that one man was killed.

After that it calmed down again and then my husband packed up his bag and returned to the army.


Monday, August 14, 2006

Shabbat Shalom

I woke at 6am even though there were no booms.
I checked the news, tidied up a bit, hung out some washing and played with the children.

My father-in-law phoned from Tel Aviv. He had given up on work on Thursday because, just like at my husband’s work, people turned up and then spent 8am to 5pm in the shelter.

With so many sirens we remarked on how difficult it is to get a shower. My father said that as he was about to get in the shower the sirens had gone off so he had run, stark naked, to stand in their entrance (closest to the stairwell so the safest part of the flat.). When he told his wife she had laughed that he should at least put on some clean underwear ‘just in case’. We joked that even though we are stuck in the house all day, wearing night gowns and house clothes, as soon as the siren goes off we make sure we are wearing clean underwear ‘just in case.’

I started the washing-up from the night before. Because we had eaten meat my daughter didn’t offer to help me although on Friday afternoon she had insisted I show her how to wash-up properly. She stood on the stool-steps and did most of the dishes, with me on hand for quality control and water rationing.
As I hung up the dishcloth I heard the sounds I had been waiting for. I dried my hands, rubbed in some hand lotion and opened the door.

After a few seconds my soldier-husband appeared at the bottom of the stairs. He had been put top of the list to receive a pass because of his birthday.

His hair had grown even longer and he looked less exhausted even though they hadn’t slept in the previous 24hrs. I kissed him ‘Happy Birthday’ and he handed me his dirty laundry. Then he stripped off his uniform so I could do all the laundry while he showered.

Once he was clean I sat him down with cheesecake and coffee and he told me about the wonderful Shabbat meal they had eaten. The parents of a girl in their unit had cooked for them all: carrots, cabbage, schnitzel, oven-cooked potatoes and chicken drumsticks – “All perfectly cooked and spiced. Just like you do.”

While my husband rested I watched an interesting war film with Natalie Woods, Frank Sinatra and Tony Curtis and a friend from Italy phoned to check how we are.
Then we enjoyed a black&white Agatha Christie film, which for once was quite close to the book. My husband doesn’t generally like black&white films but he particularly liked Charles Laughton.
Then I introduced him to the joys of Steven Sondheim with ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’. I couldn’t believe he had never seen it before. I still remember the first time I saw it I was about ten. It was late because we had come back after a day trip to London. Frankie Howerd was playing the lead.

The whole day was quite quiet with no booms from us, no bangs from them. In the evening I noticed there were quite a few people outside, walking around. There were even some children playing and on bikes. SO I called to my children and letter them run around on the street. There were almost no cars to disturb them and I kept them within eyesight. It is the first time they have played outside in Shlomi for a month.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

A New Experience

Friday morning was not so very different, a few sirens, the constant booming, email, news and, of course, house cleaning in preparation for Shabbat.

As I thought through the preparation for the meal I realised that my daughter would probably not eat much as all I had left were chicken pieces but no breast. The accompaniment didn’t take much thinking about rice, of course, and the only fresh vegetables I had left – some carrots and a cabbage. Also I realised I had no challah and no yeast to make any.

My daughter seemed to have lost interest in her favourite cottage cheese so before it went bad I made it into a cheesecake. Cheesecake was no use as a dessert for a meat meal and I hadn’t enough enthusiasm to make another cake but I remembered there was sorbet in the freezer. Unfortunately I didn’t check to see how much.

Arranging the table felt very strange as that is normally my husband’s job but the children helped and then we all showered and dressed.

We lit the candles said the blessing. I set extra candles out so both of the children could light them and say the blessing with me.

At the meal I sat at the head of the table and took on all my husbands duties: serving the wine, breaking the bread and leading my children in the blessings. It was all very quiet and strange.

They enjoyed the meal but when I came to serve the sorbet there was only a spoonful each.
Luckily in the afternoon my daughter had decided she wanted to make chocolate shapes using a sun shaped mould. She had wanted to use milk chocolate but it contained nuts, which I guessed would ruin the shape. Instead I directed her to the bittersweet (parve) chocolate I use for cooking.
So along with a sorbet we nibbled on a chocolate sun, which had set successfully and looked lovely, for a few moments at least.

After the meal I sat with the children on the sofa chatting and watching some TV. When they had gone to bed I found some enjoyably mindless films to watch and actually managed to stay awake. In fact by 3 am I had got my second wind and had trouble convincing myself that I really must go to sleep.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Almost famous

My husband phoned this morning.

They had a quiet night and he managed to get ‘3 good hours’ of sleep. The barbeque was a great success. The boys had visited several local companies (local for them) who donated the meat and all the other foodstuffs and then Fiat lent them a vehicle for 24hrs so they could transport everything up north.

There were more reporters visiting the encampment, this time from Latvia. Because my husband spoke the best English they interviewed him (he is a Sabra not an Anglo like me).
Of course we have no idea where it will be published.


My husband just phoned again.
Before they went back on duty he was called over to one of the tents.
Today is his birthday and they had got him a cake and a bottle of decent wine.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

I’m all ears

Ears in this conflict are very important.

Foremost I listen to hear if it’s a boom (outgoing) or a bang (incoming).
I listen to the jets overhead but if the whine is too slight I worry that it might be a drone sent to spy on us or worse.
When I hear a plane I know there is a fire raging nearby and the plane is carrying water to assist the fire fighters.

Right now I am standing close to the window and I hear helicopters whirring above us. But I am a little worried because they are staying overhead not flying towards Lebanon. The boom of artillery seems to be louder and I’m not sure but was that a pop of helicopter fire amongst the booms.
Has someone tried to infiltrate the border?
Suddenly there is the sound of heavy gunfire – they have found a target. The firing stops for a while and I hear an army vehicle chasing down the road. They fire again and again and another army vehicle rushes past.

I check Ynet but there is nothing.

Instead I watch the news leading with the sad story of 15 dead soldiers. As their beautiful young faces appear on the screen my heart seems to shrink.
Then more sorrow as they move on to the story of a mother and children killed by a katyusha that fell on an Arab village.


My Photos on Flickr

I have put some photos up on flickr:

- Old photos of Shlomi in quieter times.
- Photos of the affects of the war.
- Photos related to things mentioned this blog

The link is in the side bar.


An Army Marches On Its Stomach

After my husband went back to base yesterday he phoned to say he had arrived and then he phoned in the evening to say ‘hi’. He sounded tired and told me they had been too busy to eat all day but a woman had just arrived to make them fresh pita with zatar

My husband just phoned me and said that yet again they had been so busy all day they were going to eat for the first time at 17:00. At least he sounds less exhausted today.

The brothers-in-law of a friend we served with have turned up with meat, hummus and all the trimmings and are doing a barbecue for nearly 100 soldiers. Sounds delicious.

They may not eat often but they eat well!


Solider in the house

I was sure I heard the door while I was still in the shower. I yelled to the children but as usual no one paid any attention. Through the frosted glass I saw a dark shadow open the door, too tall for a child – and there was my husband.

At first he was quiet, just pleased to see us all and surprised by the normality of life on the home front.

With no time to shave he’d grown a beard and the dust had relaxed the curl in his hair. His eyes were brown with fatigue but twinkled from a tanned face. He looked extremely attractive. Ahh men in uniform.

He emptied his bag on to the sitting room floor along with some straw and a good deal of the gritty local volcanic dirt. The constant pressure surges from the blasts had busted the zip on his bag. He’s had the bag since he went to basic training 17 years ago.

He returned the snacks I’d sent with him 10 days ago – they don’t have much time to eat but when they do the food is excellent. They have a hot meal at least once a day and in between they snack on army rations, which are a great improvement on the army rations from our service days.

I shoved his clothes in the machine while he enjoyed a long shower. Although the IDF provides field showers the soldiers only get time to utilise them every couple of days.

Once he was clean my husband lay on the sofa and switched the TV to the news. They have almost no opportunity to keep up with the news and except for information about the missions they are involved in have little idea of what is happening. (In the Gulf war our communications officer gave us a news briefing every few days in case we didn’t have time to keep updated)

He was starving so I rushed in to the kitchen to whip up some delicacy. Instead I was confronted by a lamentable state of supplies. My fridge held a few yoghurts, jam, several bottle of waters, a dozen eggs and four pears. The freezer wasn’t much better. There were the chicken pieces I was saving for Friday, a pack of cold cuts and some frozen sauces.
My cupboards are filled with rice and pasta from the municipalities boxes and a rapidly diminishing supply of sweet corn but not much in the way of protein and soon I will been lacking all fruit and vegetables apart from 3 cans of pineapple.
The logistics of a shopping trip are a bit complicated but I will manage however I do wonder what is happening to people whose food cupboards were barely filled even before the war and who can’t get to the few shops that are open.

Finally I dug out some sausages and rolls from the back of the freezer which my husband devoured with plenty of mustard. Supper involved large quantities of pasta.

After his meal my husband dozed for a while in front of the news.
When he awoke he regaled me stories from the army; how much they fired and when and the triumph when they carried out a mission to perfection. He expressed his pride in the fact that such ‘old’ men, almost 20 years out of the army, were able to perform their duties with such vigour garnering much admiration from the younger soldiers.

He said that during breaks they discussed the war and put the world to rights or made quick phone calls to loved ones before they were called back into action. Sometimes they worked through the night or guarded. If they were on ‘rest duty’ they might be able to sleep for 3 hours, ignoring the noise and the blast, which can physically lift you in the air so you hover above your mattress for half a second.

There were lots of reporters and photographers visiting the encampment. He talked to two photographers one from Reuters and one from AFP. He wasn’t impressed.

He also mentioned the kindness of so many people. The group before had been given massage and aromatherapy under the trees at their encampment while my husband’s group received packages from a lady in Alaska filled with sweets, shampoo and underwear. One man came from the centre of Israel and made them all malabi (also known as sahlab) with the addition of sesame and it was, according to my husband, delicious.

In the afternoon we headed for Naharia, as I needed to find an open pharmacy. No one was answering my calls not even the number I been given by the municipality but there is one pharmacy that has a reputation for always being open and I had even seen a notice on the Spanish-speakers list confirming this. While I popped into the pharmacy my husband phoned a friend who lived nearby but he was at work.

As we drove off towards home the sirens started. We didn’t hear any booms but as we came along the road we saw smoke rising from one of the fields round Shlomi.

In the morning I woke early and finished putting the laundry through the dryer. My husband complained that some of his army socks were not comfortable. They are wool and when I checked most of them were felted and stiff. I threw the out and instead he took his thick cotton sport socks. They’ll doubtless be ruined by the time he gets home but at least he’ll be comfortable.
He threaded his belt through his army trousers, buttoned up his shirt and tucked his trousers into the ‘gumiot’ over his army boots. Then he slung his rifle across his torso and he was ready to go.

He gave both the children a hug and then I accompanied him to the car. When I hugged him I really didn’t want to let go but I forced myself to kiss him and let him get in the car.

I waved and blew kisses as he pulled out of the parking space and watched as he bumped gently down the road.


Not just in Israel

There was quiet until midmorning when the sirens started wailing. They continued all morning and my daughter is most put out that her favourite TV program has been interrupted 3 times. She is convinced Nasrallah is monitoring her viewing.

At 11am a friend phoned and told me to turn on the international news. British airports are in chaos due to a bomb threat and everyone is being searched and hand luggage is been severely regulated.There are pictures of terminals absolutely heaving with passengers due to extensive delays.
Simon Hughes is on Sky trying to blame Israel and the War in Iraq for Islamic terror. So what’s new?

All flights from Tel Aviv have been cancelled so it seems my Dad got to England just in time.


War photo

War photo, originally uploaded by levensohn_pascal.

“The Hizbollah organization places Lebanese civilians as a defensive shield between itself and us while the army places itself as a defensive shield between the citizens of Israel and Hizbollah’s terror. That is the main difference between us.”
Lt. General Dan Halutz - IDF chief of staff

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


My husband has just got home on an 'after'. This is what the IDF calls a very short holiday. In this case 24hrs.

So I won't be posting for at least 24hrs.


Food, art and sirens

Yesterday I woke to find two small mammals snuggling me.
Even with the ventilator I was rather hot and realised I had slept late – no bombing.
I felt a vague possibility form in my brain - maybe it was over? I ignored the thought before it was fully formed in order not to jinx it.
I took a quick look at my email and carried on with the improvements to my blog template that I started the day before.

My father popped in during the morning with something I’d left behind and to say a final ‘Lehitraot’ (see you) before he leaves for Beer Sheva.
He‘d heard from his sister in Beer Sheva that my cousin from Naharia was now living on a kibbutz because her house in Naharia had been destroyed. When I phoned she told me that her husband’s work is paying for the stay at the kibbutz for the meanwhile but afterwards they will have to live with family and friends until their house is rebuilt. It is the house where they brought up all their children and I remember it from my first visit to Israel in 1979.

I also phoned to see what had happened at the municipality. They said no deliveries had been made the day before because of all the sirens. When I inquired the lady confirmed that that there were no more toys or activity kits for children.

Fortuitously just as I finished speaking to her my friend from the Reform Movement’s Keren BeKavod phoned to ask directions to the municipality – they were making another delivery. She also asked for an update on our community’s needs. I replied that apart from the constant need for food staples and canned goods they had run out of toys and games for the children.

I went outside for a little while. The sun burned my skin and heat beat up off the road. There was no refreshing breeze and world seemed nakedly exposed to the unremitting heat. A couple of people were walking around and a group of old people were chatting under the building opposite. Suddenly there is the most tremendously clatter. One of our neighbours with a ground floor garden flat had decided to mow the lawn. He was not rushing and even stopped to have a heated discussion with his wife.


10:53am and there goes the first siren of the morning. My son scampers in to the security followed by daughter trying not to spill a bowl of cereal and grumbling that she is missing her TV program, yet again.

The first sirens went off about the same time yesterday. There were several loud bangs so I checked the news and sure enough someone in Shlomi had been injured. It said a man, though later this was corrected, and I phoned Dad to check he was OK.

My father-in-law also phoned. A work colleague lives near me and said one of his neighbours’ houses had played host to a katyusha the previous day. I hadn’t known.
I feel so isolated from reality. Being solely responsible for the children I can’t even leave the house.
My father-in-law reiterated his offered of help and added that his collaegues from Shlomi had also offered to help.
Also one of my husband’s colleagues phoned on his return North to work to remind me he was only a call away if I needed any assistance.

So far I am OK and not in desperate need of anything but it is comforting to know I have so many people on call – just in case.

Early afternoon the sirens calmed down a bit so I was able to give the children a late lunch. I made the Israeli classic - Schnitzel. No, not Viener Schnitzel. I couldn’t afford veal even if I did buy it, which I don’t on principal.

And a quick digression. I have tried to find out how veal is produced in Israel but have had difficulty obtaining any information. Anytime I’ve spoken with animal rights campaigners they just give me the usual dogma about becoming vegetarian. Waste of breath guys, waste of breath!

To digress even further I was pleased that Kashrut authorities have decided that fois gras can’t be kosher because it involves cruelty to animals and now the practice of force-feeding is banned.

But back to Israeli Schnitzel, which is chicken or turkey breast beaten into thin slices then breaded and shallow fried.
I don’t actually do it a lot because although the children like my homemade breading I find it a bit bland no matter how much seasoning I add.

Now I am part of the ‘slow food’ movement not because it is fashionable but as someone descended from a family of cooks it is genetic. I can remember first peering over the edge of the mixing bowl and my joy when at five my grandmother judged me old enough to help with the weekly cake making. I prepared my first roast dinner aged 9 and even helped my parents cater my own wedding.
I don’t quite understand the point so called shortcuts like cake mix – you still have to add most of the ingredients and it takes just as long – and ready made portions are so tiny I can’t regard them as any more than a snack, a very expensive snack. I cook at least one meal a day and save processed foods – like frozen pizza and those dreadful sausages the children love so much – for days when I’m pushed for time.
Naturally I regard prepared schnitzel coating with more than a little suspicion. It took a war for my will to weaken and last week I hurriedly threw a packet into my shopping basket before I could change my mind.
It was a great success. The children snaffled up their schnitzel with glee and I was pleased to have relatively little mess to deal with. I have to admit that I have been convinced but I still don’t see the point of a cake mix.

During the afternoon it was quiet enough for the man from the municipality to drive round and drop off a box of supplies. Of course I am grateful for anything to help eke out the rations I have at home but it is obvious that they are running low on supplies. Apart from the ubiquitous bagele and petite beurre biscuits there were some basic supplies like oil, pasta and drink concentrate and a positively industrial quantity of green tea with mint. But no treats for the children or anything that could provide the basis for a nourishing meal.

It was relatively quiet until the evening when so many sirens went off I lost count and it seemed that every time the children asked if it was safe to come out the siren went off again.
Finally it calmed down and we just heard the boom-boom of artillery in the background.

I made toasted cheese sandwiches which are popular with the children and so easy.

Later on my Dad phoned to say he’d reached Beer Sheva safely and was having a pleasant time with his sister and her family.

I decided to take a rest from the computer and watched a film about Modigliani. I hadn’t realised he was Jewish. I loved hearing all the Italian though I was surprised at how much I understood.
Just a question to anyone who speaks Italian – What is all this Mo DIG liani? Has Italian pronunciation changed since I learnt the language in the 1980s?
Mind you, my ears were too numb from all the bombing for the pronunciation to really annoy me especially as I was so swept along by Andy Garcia’s passionate portrayal of the painter.

I went to sleep dreaming of fine art.


Monday, August 07, 2006

A More Positive Note?

Here is a nice article on the local hospital - The hospital where my two children were born. Of course it is not nice that a hospital was hit but it was good to hear they were so well prepared and no one was hurt.

13 thoughts from Yair Lapid.

As I surfed around I happened on Pravda. I remember learning about it during history lessons on the Soviet Revolution so it seems almost anachronistic for it to be online. It definately has a quirky style and is not as vehemently anti-Israel as I would have expected. And who new llamas were part of the war effort? Maybe I could knit some llama wool army socks for my husband.

At least there is something positive going on in the Israeli economy. I think this is the computer chip they were talking about on the TWiT podcast ( 63).

Something sweet to finish? Elite is donating chocolate 'hugs' to our soldiers. Huggle Time!


Naughty Reuters!

Reuters have been caught with
yet another doctored photo.
You begin to wonder how much the media got away with before blogs.

Cox & Forkum having an amusing cartoon.


Audio visual experience

If anyone would like a more audio visual experience of life in Israel under fire I found a couple of videos on Google.

Just a warning – turn down the volume so the sirens down freak out your neighbours.
In the shelter
An attack and the aftermath


Israeli soldiers on Lebanese soil.

Hizbollah leaders have sworn to fight as long as Israeli soldiers remain on Lebanese soil.

That’s fine by me. We’ll leave Lebanese with all our soldiers, including the two you kidnapped!

Just one question Hizbol – If you are so desperate not to have Israeli soldiers on Lebanese soil what exactly did you think you were kidnapping, Puppy dogs?


To Leave or not to leave?

Lebanon urges UN to demand Israeli withdrawal

On the one hand I have no problem with a withdrawal from Lebanon.

We withdrew once and we can withdraw again.
If this time it is not only Israel paying heed to the UN resolution and it is actually the Lebanese, rather than Hizbollah, on our border I have hopes we could live in peace. The Lebanese know how to enjoy life and would doubtless be more concerned with turning Beirut back into ‘The Paris of the East’ rather than destroying The State of Israel.

Our soldiers would much rather be this side of the border. Despite stories about the beauty of the Bekaa Valley there are too many sour memories for Israelis not to dread a permanent presence there.

On the other hand an Israeli withdrawal gives me a mental image of Lebanon, the UN and Hizbollah forming a secret club and closing the door in Israel’s face. A club door on which, like so many club doors before it, hangs a notice ‘No Jews, No Blacks, No dogs’. Of course an exception is made for Kofi Annan, as Head of the UN, on condition that he doesn’t try to interfere and do any real peacekeeping. That shouldn’t be a problem, it never has been before.

From the other side of the door Israel can hear what sounds suspiciously like smug laughter and the stockpiling of weapons but when she demands that a UN observer explain what is happening the observer smiles indulgently, pats Israel on the head and replies “Don’t get everything so out of proportion.”
Finally Israel is sure she hears gunfire coming in her direction and forces the door open to witness a familiar scene:

Kofi has his back to the room pretending he doesn’t see what is happening. He is talking into his mobile saying ‘Just dismiss it all as Israeli aggression’. Lebanon, dressed in an elegantly tailored suit, is backed into the corner and sporting a black eye. He is pulling ineffectually on Kofi’s jacket tails while silently mouthing some plea. His terrified gaze is transfixed by Hizbollah who - dressed in a wig, headscarf and heels - is trying desperately to look like a civilian woman but is falling miserably due to the nuclear weapon it has balanced on its shoulder aimed directly at Israel’s heart.


Another Sad Day

This morning started quietly with a few sirens although I felt rather groggy and the heat didn’t help.

In the early afternoon my husband phoned for a few minutes to say hello and tell me he was safe and sound. I hadn’t looked at the news for a couple of hours so I wasn’t quite sure what he meant but a quick surf through the news and I began to see the terrible reports from Kfar Giladi.

As the afternoon progressed the sirens went off several more times and there was one sky splittingly loud crack right above our heads.

Late afternoon my Dad came to pick us up for a visit as tomorrow he is off to Beer Sheva. He is making a quick visit to pay his condolences to the wife of my cousin who died a month ago.

My cousin died on the first day of this war and although my father couldn’t go to the funeral, he had hoped to make it to the Shiva. However as the hostilities progressed it became obvious that he couldn’t leave my mother alone with all their animals in the middle of such chaos. Once my mother had gone to England he couldn’t go because Beer Sheva entails an over-night trip and although I would normally volunteered to animal-sit, in these circumstance – No Way Jose!

Eventually it occurred to him that animal-sitter might be able to stay an extra night. That was arranged and so my father will travel from Beer Sheva to Ben Gurion for his flight to England.

With my husband in miluim (reserves) and public transport almost non-existent my Dad was contemplating the expensive of a taxi to the other side of Haifa, which is the farthest north the trains run in the present situation. However the man who is animal–sitting for Dad has kindly offered to drive him there, in my Dad’s car. Luckily he is over 24 so that poses no problem with the insurance.

Anyway before my Dad arrived I wanted to shower but the telephone caught me just as I was getting ready and I was still dirty when my father knocked on the door. Naturally I had another 3 more phone calls before I could get in the shower. It is as if they could smell the soap and water!

The same happens with my Dad. The roads are practically empty – hardly any cars – but as soon as he arrives at a junction we have to wait for half a dozen to pass!

We got to my parents house and I photographed the damaged done to the new house opposite when a katyusha landed there a couple of days ago. That wasn’t reported in the international news, which was a relief considering how anxious it would have made my mother. What was upsetting was the fact that almost no one in the international media bothers to report the deaths of three women in a local Bedouin village.

Bloggers have been keeping their eye on the mainstream media noting their bias and the fact that Hizbollah seems to have turned them into its own propaganda machine. Little Green Footballs has caught Reuters red –handed.

We ate supper with my Dad, played monopoly and I popped round to the corner shop for some basic supplies. I walked close to the houses in case the siren went off and I needed to dive into someone’s stairwell but the only noise I heard was of outgoing though that was scary enough.

In my house the artillery blasts seem close so you can feel the blasts in the air pressure and the rattling windows. To make it worse Shlomi is built on terraces up the hill and we are at the bottom. Almost opposite us is a 4m tall retaining wall for the next level and this wall creates a noise tunnel in which the blast reverberates with a strange metallic echo. If you are outside you can sometimes hear the whoosh, almost like a jet engine, as the missiles forces through the air and then the dull thud as it lands on the target.

At my parent’s the valley seizes the sound and it reverberates around you coming from no direction and all directions at once, so close I feel the need to duck and lasting for long, eerie seconds.

As we come home, say goodbye to my father and wish him a safe journey we began to hear the terrible news about the attacks on Haifa.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Preparing for Shabbat

This morning was pretty uneventful, a siren, a lot artillery fire and too much TV.

In addition there were Shabbat phone calls to friends and the usual excuses from the municipality that despite the fact that I had been told I only needed to sign up once and I had in fact signed up on Tuesday and on Thursday I wouldn’t be eligible for a Shabbat food delivery because I hadn’t signed up on Wednesday.
Activity kits for the children had been handed out in the shelters. What about children stuck in security rooms who couldn’t get to the central shelters? “Oh…”

During the afternoon the wailing of the sirens became more frequent each time followed by a loud bang. The news reports make no mention of Shlomi but auditory evidence and the inevitable gossip of a small town informs me otherwise.
I try to take a shower all afternoon but every time I get ready the siren goes off again. The children have given up on TV and are playing in the security room with my son’s train track. He is bored with a level track so lays in across my daughter’s recumbent body - to create hills. She has nothing better to do so she finds it amusing.

About 4pm the sirens start wailing yet again and there is an almighty crack overhead. Everything shuts down – the blast must have taken out a transformer so we have no electricity.
In the security room the windows are closed for safety and with no ventilator it is too hot even to read. I play a game of rummicub with the children between answering phone calls.
I warn my father that the cordless isn’t working due to lack of electricity and my mobile battery is almost out if juice. He also doesn’t have electricity and says we might have to eat cold food – cooked but cold. My father-in-law phones to say my husband is worried because I’m not answering. I try calling my husband but his phone is off to conserve energy. After a few minutes my husband calls me to assure me he is OK and to wish me Shabbat Shalom. I call back to my in-laws to wish them Shabbat Shalom. It seems my father-in-law has something important to say but my phone is fading and while he is momentarily distracted by my mother in law sending her love my phone dies. Back to the silence and rummicub with my children.

After more than an hour the electricity came back and we have finally managed to shower.

Shabbat Shalom


Media bias

Another well written article about the media bias against Israel

(Thanks Bobbi!)


Thursday, August 03, 2006

The ceasefire is over

I woke just after 6am to the pahom of artillery. A sign that things were back to ‘normal’, at least normal for this summer.
As I padded barefoot around the house I detected the addition of a distance rumble of fighting from inside Lebanon. Mid-morning I was hanging laundry out the window of my utility room and heard the judder of heavy machine gun fire. War was raging just a few miles across the border.

The sirens sounded and I called for my children to get in the security room. The siren is new, before we were expected to stay inside all the time. Now it sounds every so often - every time a barrage of missiles is spotted heading in Israel’s direction, I assume. It is instead of the guy from the municipality driving round making unintelligible announcements over a megaphone.

I joined the children in the room, gave my daughter some math worksheets and practised English reading with my son. Then I read to him a bit. I read from picture books thinking that when I asked questions he could guess the vocabulary from the pictures rather than struggling with the reading. However I discovered that unlike his sister, who has developed a relatively wide English vocabulary through chatting with my mother, my son doesn’t immediately remember such words as candle or flag so he ‘cheats’ by reading the caption! Strangely enough he did remember the word for juggler.
Really I shouldn’t be surprised - his vocabulary also includes ‘income tax’ and ‘house repairs’ as his acquirement of English reading skills has been driven by his urge to read the ‘Chance’ and ‘Community Chest’ cards in Monopoly, at present his favourite game.

After while my father-in-law phoned to ask how we are. I assured him we are safe. He told my mother-in-law came back for a few days to work but the renewed bombardment is not to her liking and he is taking both her and her mother back to Tel Aviv.

I made lunch for the children and while they were eating remembered that our pet guinea needed to have his cage cleaned. I took apart the cage and allowed him to wander round our sitting-room with my children. I went to empty all the dirty litter from the bottom of the cage straight into the communal skip-sized rubbish bin which crouches at the roadside about a dozen strides away from our front entrance. As I stepped outside there was a loud crack above my head – definitely not outgoing artillery fire. I checked the sky for falling shrapnel and waited awhile, debating whether I wanted to leave smelly guinea pig litter in the house. After a minute of quiet I trotted up to the large bin and upturned the cage bottom. As I smacked it against the side of the bin there was another loud crack. I decided to forgo a thorough cleaning and trotted back to the flat, sluicing the last few remains of dirty sawdust into the toilet.

Throughout the afternoon I having been listening to podcasts (to distract me) and scanning the news(to keep me updated) with the pahroom, pahroom of a war going on in the background and the occasional wail of sirens. My eardrums are numb with the incessant surges in air pressure and on hearing the first rising tone of the wail my children automatically rush to the security room. I check Ynet to see where all the katuyshas have fallen.


My children have given me a handwritten invitation to a performance. Their little bodies maybe confined to 7msqr of security room but their imaginations are not. The sirens have gone off three times within the last half hour and there is no TV within our security room.

At first I lay on the sofa until there was a loud boom above us, which shook the whole house. I joined the children in the security room and even when I stepped back to the computer I reiterated that they were to stay there until further notice.

The rumbling in the background is like an extremely aggressive thunderstorm and although there have been a couple more forceful bangs there is no ‘whoosh’ to signify a landing nearby.

My husband has just phoned from the army to check we are OK. They had a short break and he heard there were civilian causalities. I refresh the page I was looking at and see that 6 people have been killed - 3 in Acco where my husband was brought up. His parents and brother still live there so I give them a ring. They are unhurt though they think one kutuysha landed near my brother-in-law’s house. My mother-in-law worked for a few hours but has come to gather a few things before they set out for Tel Aviv.

It has quietened down a bit and I can hear a few cars go past outside.

And now I have performance to attend.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Silver Lining

Yet again this Saturday we travelled to Tel Aviv, this time to visit cousins of my mother in law who live in Ramat Gan.

My husband’s parents and grandmother have been living with one cousin for several days so that was our first stop. Last time we met this cousin was about ten years ago.

This cousin has a beautiful house with a small pond and water feature in the back garden. There were lilies and goldfish in pool with a swing that swung out over the pool.

Her husband also has a passion for wool carpets and although I don’t understand much about carpets I could see they were fine examples. One in particular would have looked stunning in my sitting room!

We sat on the patio. The tinkling of the water was relaxing but it began to feel strange not to hear the constant ‘boom-boom’, as if without the sound as a reference point I had become detached from reality and felt slightly lost, disoriented.

My mother in law described how she had finally had enough when the sirens sounded eleven times in one day. Living on the 3rd floor she had run up and down three flights of stars each time in order to reach the communal shelter under the building.

Our cousin reminds us that her sister has plenty of spare room and would love for us to stay, even though I have never met her.

My children amused themselves on the swing and our cousin’s husband taught them to ‘tickle’ the goldfish and we immediately make friends with their lovely old dog.

There are two older boys in the family, one in the army and the second about to join. There is also a younger son about the same age as my son. They make great playmates though unfortunately my daughter feels a little left out and bored. I begin to feel a little guilty and consider that maybe if we stayed in Tel Aviv she would have a better social life. On the other hand most of our relatives children are older boys so wouldn’t be much of a solution.

After a while another cousin arrived with her boyfriend and they took us all out for a meal.

We followed them in the car and after much twisting and turning we realised that we were in Yafo.

The parking was horrendous so the boys dropped us off in front of the restaurant and joined us a few minutes later.

The restaurant is quite well known – Big Itzik – so our curiosity was piqued. The problem with all the popular restaurants is that they are.... popular. And therefore crowded.

The table were jammed in so close we had to breath in to squeeze past and that became problematic as my mother in law and her mother sat down and got up trying to decide where to sit.
The children had to use the bathroom and by the time we returned everything was settled. Once we were seated the table was wide and spacious and the chairs are large and comfortable. Most importantly the food was delicious.

We dropped Grandma back at the house for a siesta and decided to go to Arena, a shopping mall in Hertzelia Marina.

We had heard a lot about Arena but it was just an ordinary mall. Quite nice but nothing special. However we did meet some family from Acco who were also escaping from the sirens and one of the people who works with my father in law and had disappeared without a trace after the first bombing.

We continued from Arena to the cousin’s apartment. It is not small by Israel standards but not enormous. I really liked the way it was arranged. The sitting room is a big square with room for three sofas and a large central space for the children to play in. Best of all was the kitchen. Nothing fancy, a normal modern kitchen but with a wood table big enough to a comfortable eight, and a TV on the wall.

The son was at home and our cousin invited her daughter with her husband and children. We have already met both the son and the daughter and we get along very well.

After catching up on news in the sitting room we all sat round the kitchen table. The TV was turned on for the news while in one corner there is a huddle discussing ‘the situation’, in a another huddle we discussed ‘life' meanwhile the children sat at the table eating some supper. It was friendly and enjoyable. The kind of informal family meal I love.

It began to get late so we took some photos and gradually moved towards the cars.

Back at the first cousin’s house we checked on Grandma, heard what everyone had been up to and then freshened up before the drive home. My father-in-law had to return to Acco for work but my mother-in law and her mother decided to stay on.

Even though we set out much late we yet again got snarled up in traffic on the coast road, which made my husband extremely tired. We got home in the early hours of morning to the familiar boom-boom.


As I write this the sirens are going off and my children are running into the security room.

Yesterday was quiet but the 'booming' started last night and continued intermittently into the early morning.

I started the morning with email and news and was surprised to find: Lebanese website blames Hizbullah for Qana deaths.

Here is the link to the Ynet report about the time discrepancy in Qana.


Soldier Soldier

This morning I woke up with a soldier in my bed.

Yes, my husband has been called up to Miluim (reserve duty).

It is not a surprise. He has been in touch with his commanders for the last week and yesterday evening he got the official announcement . Then he spent the next hour on the phone with his army comrades arranging who would travel with who, when, where and how.

His chimidan (army bag) was already packed, this morning he added a few last minute items and then kissed us all good bye.