The Digital Journalist
Suddenly in War

by Ilan Mizrahi

August 2006

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."

An Israeli policeman blocks the road after a Katyusha rocket landed on a building in Nahariya, Israel, on July 13, 2006. Israel struck Beirut International Airport and Hezbollah's television station and killed 22 civilians in raids on south Lebanon, intensifying its reprisals after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight.

(Ilan Mizrahi/WpN)
Two Israeli soldiers where kidnapped by Hezbollah militants during a daily patrol on the Israel-Lebanon border. During the kidnapping, a few cities and community settlements were under Katyusha rocket attacks that wounded several people.

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?

A building that was damaged by a Katyusha rocket is seen through a shattered window in Nahariya, Israel, on Fri., July 14, 2006. Israel struck Beirut International Airport and Hezbollah's television station on Thursday and killed 22 civilians in raids on south Lebanon, intensifying its reprisals after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight.

(Ilan Mizrahi/WpN)
As an Israeli born to conflicts, it was as clear to me as the brightness of the sun that peace probably will come in future generations and that I will be obliged to cover the Jewish-Arab conflict for many more years. I started photographing when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish radical who didn't accept his plan for peace. Since then, I have seen the Second Intifada that consisted mainly of terror attacks by the Palestinian side and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. But now, it looks like I will need to face a real war in my homeland for the first time.

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.

Israeli security personnel look through a hole in a building after a Katyusha rocket landed in the center of Nahariya, Israel, on July 13, 2006. Israel struck Beirut International Airport and Hezbollah's television station and killed 22 civilians in raids on south Lebanon, intensifying its reprisals after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight.

(Ilan Mizrahi/WpN)
On the third morning, I watched the TV news with the family that had invited me to spend some time with them. It became obvious that I needed to get away from the border and go a bit southwest, closer to the city of Nahariya that was attacked during the night, killing a woman.

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.

An Israeli soldier covers his ears as a heavy artillery piece fires toward targets in southern Lebanon from a position near Kiryat Shemona, in northern Israel, next to the Lebanese border, on Tues., July 18, 2006.

(Ilan Mizrahi/WpN)
David, my friend, and I got into the car when suddenly a set of four rockets landed in a radius of 100 meters from us. We drove the car to the spot where there was black smoke. Arriving, I saw a cameraman from Reuters named Rami filming a building hit by a Katyusha rocket and on fire. In three seconds he started to shout when he realized he was wounded with shrapnel in his leg. I tried to run to him but a soldier blocked my way because the street was full of electrical cables after the blast cut them down. Security forces and paramedics were spread all over town in reaction to the early morning attacks. They evacuated Rami in less than two minutes after he was hit.

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

Ilan Mizrahi started working in 1995 as a professional photographer for the Israeli news agency Flash 90, which published his pictures in the Israeli newspaper of Ma'ariv, Jerusalem Report, Time magazine and others. In 1998, Mizrahi worked as a photographer for the weekly local newspaper Jerusalem. He became a freelance photographer in 2002 for foreign newspapers and magazines such as the Los Angeles Times, Time magazine, The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, News Day, Red Herring (USA), The Times (England), Asahi Shinbun (Japan), Le Monde 2 (France), Zone (Sweden), Valeurs Actuelles (France), Essen & Trinken (Germany), Dagbladet (Norway), and L'Hebdo (Belgium). Mizrahi is based in Israel and a member of World Picture News. The photographer is willing to travel for all assignments.

Contact Ilan Mizrahi at

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