Suddenly in War
It was a routine Wednesday morning as I tried to make some phone calls to members of the gay community living in Jerusalem to coordinate portrait shots. Soon they will celebrate the first international gay parade in the city and this fact is irritating a lot of people around here. The religious Jews, Muslims and Christians where united to fight against the gay parade. While it was a good thing to see three monotheistic religions operating together, it was a shame the cause was against the freedom of the gay community to celebrate their day. I was at home that day when I checked the news on the Web; the headlines where in screaming red so I ran to the television to see if it was true. All the channels had the same headlines: "War is Unavoidable in the Middle East."
It took me half an hour to get my gear in the car and hit the road. It took three hours to get from my home to the place where it all started on the northern border. During the drive many thoughts ran through my mind. They all resolved into one question: How can it be?
How can it be that after Israel gave up land in Lebanon six years ago, the Hezbollah is still attacking Israel on every occasion they get and the Lebanese government doesn't wake up?
How can it be that less than one year after Israel left the Gaza Strip, evacuating 8,000 Jews from 23 settlements, the Hamas militants are daily shooting Kassam rockets into the Israeli city of Sderot and the Palestinian authority doesn't wake up?
How can it be that a few months after Israel chose a prime minister whose agenda was to give back most of the Occupied Territories in the West Bank to the Palestinians, our Arab neighbors still think Israel wants only to harm them?
When I arrived in the north, I met a great community of Jewish Kurds that arrived in Israel in the 1950s and were located on the Israel-Lebanon border in Shtula. The people are farmers and their settlement is one of the most peaceful in the country.
During a morning attack, a man was wounded and dozens of Katyusha rockets landed on this area. Despite the bombardment, the strength of the people helped me to relax. They were already very experienced with rocket attacks and for them rockets were part of life.
I was also chasing after IDF artillery units that were shooting over the Lebanese border. The initial sound and echo could be heard from any place around Shtula; we could hear rockets of the Hezbollah as well; they echoed for miles after hitting open land.
The results of the attack in Nahariya were pretty shocking: The damage done by the Katyusha rockets was much greater than that of the Kassam rockets used by the Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. For the first time it looks like real war.
The streets were empty and the downtown of this magnificent city along the shoreline of northern Israel looks like a ghost town at the peak of the tourist season. Touring the bomb shelters, I saw angry people who asked the same question that I had. Why, when you are looking for peace do you meet up with war?
I went back to the hotel to file some pictures with WpN, the agency I recently joined. The lobby was packed with journalists filing their day's work. Suddenly one of them said there was a rocket attack near Nahariya. It took 20 seconds for the place to empty as everyone started chasing the falling rockets.
Back in the hotel, I filed the pictures with the rest of the media and suddenly noticed the look on their faces. They were talking about how surprised they were that rockets were falling all around them—it was very different than the conflict with the Palestinians. Then I felt scared because I realized that almost everyone else was scared.
It's day 12 of the fighting, I'm at home now far from the rocket range (so far), getting my first serious rest since it all started. After three more attacks hit near my position at the front, I realized that I may be getting used to that. As of today, the rockets have hit the cities of Haifa and Afula, which means almost a third of Israel is under attack--one million people are now suffering. But I'm no longer asking, "How can it be?" I'm just asking, "When?"
When is it all going to be over?
© Ilan Mizrahi
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