International

Where is Jeremy Bowen when you need him?

My wife used to work with a girl who almost exactly 10 years ago was on her way to the Arndale shopping centre in Manchester when the roof came off in an IRA explosion. No-one was killed, but many received severe injuries and my wife’s friend, although only superficially wounded, was still picking bits of glass and plaster out of her hair and clothes a week later.

A bright, vivacious young woman was transformed into a withdrawn, spiritless soul who to this day is plagued by panic attacks and finds it difficult to venture outside on her own. An attractive 20-something never lacking for male attention, she has enjoyed no relationship worthy of the name since.

Her name does not feature on any “casualty” list. Indeed, no-one died during the attack on the Arndale. At least, not in the conventional sense.

There’s a reason they call it “terrorism”.

Malki Roth was murdered along with 14 others, many children and teenagers, in the Sbarro restaurant massacre in Jerusalem in August 2001. Her parents, Arnold and Frimet, maintain a blog covering all aspects of what they describe as ‘this ongoing war’. Given the recent discussions here concerning links and citations, I should say upfront that having looked at many of the posts, I’m likely to have differences of opinion with the Roths on at least some Arab-Israeli issues. But then my two daughters are currently tucked up in bed about 20 feet from where I’m typing, and not lying in a grave in Jerusalem’s Har Menuchot cemetery.

In one post on the Roth blog, they try to convey to their readers what it means to be part of the ‘ongoing war’, providing an account of what they call the “chaos and uncertainty that comes with the experience”.

Taking 10:30 on the morning of the Wednesday, July 19th as the reference point, here’s what they say is happening in Israel:

First, most of the country is without electricity at this moment. Jerusalem where we live was blacked out for about 15 minutes around 9.30 this morning, but power was restored and has stayed “up” for now. But we’re told to expect rolling blackouts around the country for an unspecified amount of time to come. Elevators are shut down and stuck in many places with hundreds of people stuck inside them. The firefighters and police are scattering to respond to rescue calls (as if they did not have enough to do already).

Since traffic lights need power, there’s traffic chaos in much of Israel.

There are tens of fires – mostly brushfires as far as we know – in various parts of the north. No immediate explanation. Maybe the heat, maybe missiles, maybe arson.

The entire Sharon region (basically the northern arc around Tel-Aviv) is subject to an immediate and concrete highest-level terror warning. There may be a pursuit underway right now of a specific individual or terror gang. One report (basing itself as always on news tips from its readers) says there’s a suspicion of terrorists having penetrated Tel-Aviv. (UPDATE: At 11am, the authorities in Kfar Sava, a tel-Aviv suburb, are urging people to stay indoors while the pursuit is underway.) As always, reports like this need to be taken with enormous care, but in this part of the world, you can never tell, never be too wary.

After absorbing about 120 Katyusha missiles yesterday, the north is on edge again and under attack today. In Nahariya (where a man running towards cover in a shelter after the sirens sounded, was killed) and Haifa, there are reports this past ten minutes of multiple Katyusha attacks, multiple booms and at least one direct hit in Haifa (on a residential building).

Some twenty Qassam rocket attacks pounded the area around Gaza during the night and early morning. The IDF is now moving into the central Gaza strip, with few clear details other than that five soldiers are wounded. It’s a developing story, it appears.

And on it goes. Of course, until last week, this was not the daily reality for all Israelis. At least, not for most living further than 30 kilometres from the Lebanese border. For those who do live in the northern regions, it has been this and worse for the six years since the last Israeli soldier left Lebanon. That’s six years of running to their children’s bedrooms in middle of the night to drag them down to the bomb shelter as the sirens wail yet again. Six of years of teachers corralling excitable classes into ‘safe rooms’, well-versed in the art of turning the umpteenth disruption into a child’s adventure that, hopefully, assuages the trauma of 6-year olds who live not by the grace of God, but because their attackers can’t get their hands on anything more deadly.

It’s not as though Israel hasn’t complained in all this time, but it seems that no matter how much noise she made, nor how many rockets fell, the foreign camera crews and journalists never came to Nahariya.

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