1: January, 1991
Title Page || 2: February, 1991 >>
Sunday, 20 Jan 1991. Saturday night.
After two nights of air raid sirens, jumping up to get to sealed room,
putting on gas masks. Two real ones so far; two false alarms.
A bit tiring - but relief that the weapons are conventional, and that so
few people are seriously hurt.
Schools were closed on Thursday and will remain closed. Since both
parents work here, one will have to stay home. Meanwhile most
non-essential industries and stores are closed.
The Patriot missiles that the US are giving us will be too late and too
The big question is "Does Saddam have chemical warheads on his
missiles?" There is little doubt that he will use them if he has.
The elimination of the missile launchers seems a difficult if not
Generally, morale seems high. People are told to stay close to home, to
have gas masks ready. They, for the most part, listen to instructions.
The peace rallies continue with the thoughtless, fatuous theme "No blood
for oil" playing a leading role. Has anybody rallied to protest the
attack of Iraq on Israel, the uninvolved? To protest the attacks on
civilian concentrations in cities? I doubt it.
Subject: Bomb Shelters and Gas Masks [eds.]
There is some lack of clarity in the reports about the use of bomb
shelters in Israel. As a matter of fact, there are now two rather
different kinds of bomb shelters in use in Israel.
The standard bomb shelter is built below ground. For the past 25 years
it has been a requirement to provide bomb shelters in all buildings
erected. Older buildings often do not have such shelters; their
residents depend on neighborhood community shelters which are also
found in public areas in the cities. These bomb shelters are [almost]
all vented to the outside world.
With the advent of the threat of poison gas attacks, it was decided not
to use these shelters [except in rare cases where special ventilation is
provided and the shelters can be closed hermetically]. The possible
damage that can be produced by poison gas, particularly the threat to
human life, is far greater than anticipated from a conventional war head.
Since the great majority of the existing shelters can not be
hermetically sealed, and since they are located at ground level or
below, where the denser-than-air poison gases concentrate, a new type of
improvised shelter was instituted throughout Israel.
The new shelter was a room in a home or apartment, located as high as
possible, that could be isolated and sealed, prefer- ably with only one
window. These shelters were prepared by put- ting sponge stripping
around the window and door edges, closing the windows and taping all
joints and edges and placing tape on the glass of the windows to prevent
splintering in the case of blast. In addition, a thick plastic curtain
was pasted over the windows to prevent splintered glass from entering
and providing a secondary defense against the entry of gas. The door
edges were provided with thick strips of plastic tape to be used to seal
them when the doors were closed. Finally, a wet towel was to be placed
at the bottom of the closed door.
It was estimated that the use of such a room would reduce poison gas
induced morbidity/mortality risks by a factor of 10 as compared to the
exposed condition. This safety factor would be greatly improved by the
compulsary use of gas masks [special models for children, incubators for
infants] and the presence of such additional measures as automatic
atropine injections and anti liquid burn powders - all provided to each
So some 8 times already, all of Israel has sat, sealed into their
anti-poison gas rooms, wearing masks and waiting. Some 20 casualties
from blast and shrapnel have thus all far been mild. Property damage
produced by the missiles has, in a number of cases - on the other hand -
been extensive. No one resents or regrets the choice of people over
property. Several elderly people choked to death by not pulling out the
plug on the mask - all on the first day. One Israeli Arab child choked
to death when parents forced her to wear the mask. No poison gas has
been used - thus far.
Learning to use the masks properly, not fastening the straps too
tightly, talking, breathing without hyperventilating has been a
universal experience. Initially large numbers of people found them-
selves sweating unbearably, clouding the glass so as to blind oneself.
Others, particularly children, vomited, for the most part after remov-
ing the mask. Learning and reuse helped in almost all cases. Radio and
TV instructions repeated over and over again helped.
A story: sitting in the anti-gas room, members of the family try to put
on a brave face, make jokes. How we all look like elephants; how an
elephant would approach one of us and mistake him/her for his mother.
Only the dog, a rather stately collie, sits quietly and does not appear
at all excited. We pity the dog, for he is the only one without a mask.
But then we remember that - without a mask - he is our pigeon in the
coal mine, the measure of poison gas that has leaked in.
Subject: Sunday: Further News [eds.]
Last night we slept the sleep of the dead. No sirens, no alarms, no
putting on gas masks, all the accumulated exhaustion and tension helped
make the sleep deeper.
Children seem to suffer the most. Adults are very good; the civil
defense services and medical support - including psychological - appear
to be first rate and improving all the time, learning from each
Schools are still closed, with fear of large concent- rations a major
consideration. The psychological comfort of the home is another factor.
One child asks - after being told that gas mask drill is to make it
perfect, if there is need - "Should we practice dying so that we can do
it perfectly when there is need?"
Children are frightened to go out, even in gardens next to the house.
The thought of having to go to school soon frightens other.
The peace rallies seem obscene here; it is the kind of empty headed
"fairness" that would have said, "Let's not give weapons to either the
fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto or to the Nazis." There IS a good side;
there is a bad side. The bad side is already armed and entrenched, the
good side is only beginning to get its act together. Don't the peace
rally participants understand that support for Saddam Hussein is the
major effect of all peace activity at this point? That this must be the
last thing that anyone should do?
The attempt to drag Israel into the war by sending missiles into
civilian concentrations is absolutely Satanic. In a speech yesterday,
King Hussein of Jordan insisted that Israel is responsible for the
Middle East crisis. Iraq had nothing to do with it. Cynical lying will
Israel will not lay down and die before Saddam Hussein. That is a
simple fact. The activities of the peace movements is perceived here as
both disciminatory and discouraging. This is not our fight, but Saddam
attacks our civilians. We dispise the situation, but we will not melt
away. We will not stop; we will defend ourselves. That should be clear
Subject: More News from Israel
Another quiet night; all of the SCUDs were directed - for the second
night - to Saudia Arabia and Bahrein.
The name of the game is sleep. So many people just can not sleep
properly. Fortunately for me, I am one of the lucky ones. A major
problem for the sleepless is what to do with the radio. If you leave it
on, it disturbs sleep. If you turn it off, you are afraid to sleep.
Why shouldn't some of us be neurotic? Wasn't the condition first
described by a Jewish doctor in Vienna? Examining Jewish patients? And
the other side of the coin is that - if it is not a Jewish disease,
i.e., a diaspora disease - why shouldn't we have it? After all, we are
now, in Israel, our new/old homeland, just like all other nations.
The noise of airplanes drones above us. This is quite unusual as the
Jerusalem skies are off limits to air traffic. We can not see the
planes, they are very high and the sky is very cloudy, with intermittant
light rains. The sound - to my unprofessional ear, at least - is that
of motors, not jets. I know that jets are constantly in the air, for
weeks now, to avoid being caught on the ground, to be ready to repulse
any air attack from Iraq. [We bombed them - a nuclear plant built by
the French - 6 years ago; they can certainly return the favor.] But it
still sounds like propeller engines. Perhaps these are the mother ships
which will be needed to refuel the jets on their 1000 kilometer trip to
Retaliation, national pride, perhaps strange concepts to most readers.
Some have commented on this to me after yester- day's posting. You have
to understand how we see - the nature of intergovernmental [and
personal, too] relations in that strange part of the world, the Middle
East - retaliation as deterrence. If we do not retaliate, this will be
seen by our neighbors as an invitation to attack us; alternatively, if we
do retaliate, they will be less inclined to attack us. Thus,
retaliation is still very much in the air here. We are praised by the
West for our restraint; this very same restraint is perceived by our
neighbors as a sign of weakness. And why this cruel word, retaliation?
It is defending our county. Which we will do.
National pride, the picture of Israelis returning to share our fate, to
be HERE, now, when the pressure is on. My youngest son, after 3 years
of army service in as a commando, now relaxing and touring the Far East,
calls in the early morning. He tells us that he is returning, cut- ting
his long trip short by months. We try to disuade him; what will he do
here? But nothing helps when he has made up his mind. I fear for his
safety but I am proud. He will come back, together with other Israelis,
together with immigrants from Russia who continue to come, with
immigrants from Ethiopia. I will be happy to see my son.
The news this morning is discouraging. It seems that much of the
coalition's successful bombing has been against dummy targets. Most of
Iraq's missile launchers are intact, almost all of their planes. The
communication facilities are still almost completely intact. It is
going to take much longer than we thought.
Life is slowly going back to normal. All are asked to return to work -
with gas masks. Schools will be opened tommorrow. Meanwhile some
factories are providing nursery services to children of workers in gas
proof rooms. The now ubiquitous gas masks are found on the shelves of
the nurseries. Radio instructions now include various less likely
scenarios [The Israeli penchant for inventing new words has not gone on
strike in the present emergency; the new word for scenario is now
universal - tarhish. There was a perfectly good word, tasrit. Perhaps
the association with movies or plays was perceived as being too
frivolous.]. What do you do when you hear a siren while in a car? If
you are in a built-up area, you turn off the engine, put on your gas
mask and dash for the nearest building, counting on there being a
shelter or on a good citizen who will take you in. [Actually quite
probable. I remember the bomb shelter hysteria in the States in the
50's, when guns to keep out neighbors was part of the standard
equipment.] If you are in an open area, stop the car, put on the mask,
keep listening to the radio. Life is going back to normal.
Yesterday, my wife and I go to visit a Russian family whom we have
adopted, our fourth. They are all wonderful people and each family is
different, each with fascinating stories. This is a new family for me;
my wife has already met them. We carry our gas masks and presents, a
carrot cake my wife has baked and a radio. We decide to walk, we need
the fresh air, the excercise. They live 20 minutes away, near the open
air market, Mahne Yehuda, in an old, religious neighborhood. The
apartment is large, newly painted but very old under the paint. The man
wears a kippa, bears a long brown, curly beard, is short and delicate
looking. His wife is short, fat and has dyed bright red hair. They are
from Perm, near the Urals. They were both teachers. I look at their
sealed room; it is a joke, totally inadequate. I point this out to
them, all in a mixture of elementary Yiddish [mine] and elementary
Hebrew [theirs], but they are only interested in employment. They have
a daughter with 3 children who came with them and is now living in a
Tatzpit [a small group of families on top of a hill] in the Galil]. They
are happy to be here; I am happy they are here: more good material for
Israel, one less family to suffer degradation in the USSR.
Life coming back to normal. We walk through the shuk, the open air
market. It is already dark, but the lights are brilliant and the shuk
is teeming with purchasers of the marvelous fresh fruits and vegetables
available, and nuts and dried fruit and spices. Some of the stands,
only a very few, are empty, closed. Where are the owners? Have they
fled? We buy some oranges, some cucumbers and smoked fish.
Back home. Another day in Israel.
The southern part of the country is now back to normal life; other than
carrying gas masks with them, it is back to work for the citizens of
Ashdod, Beersheva, Eilat and surrounding regions. Schools will probably
reopen there tommorrow. Some Universities are cautiously reopening,
although the end of the first semester was advanced a week. The
Universities are now in inter-semester and exams are to be given. All
trains - only a minor form of transportation here - are now running on
A fair number of Tel Aviv citizens have chosen to leave the city. They
are camping with relatives and friends in what they perceive to be safer
parts of the country. Kibbutzim are crowded with guests and hotels in
Jerusalem, Eilat and Tiberius are enjoying a small boom.
How do citizens of Israel feel about the governmental decision not to
react to Iraq's attacks by retaliation? A great majority appear to
think that this decision was correct; the left, of course, totally
surprised by Shamir's "mature" [as they see it] decision, are enamoured
of Shamir now. Government critic, MK Dadi Zucker of the Citizen's
Rights Party, spoke of wanting to embrace Shamir, but for Zucker's
self-confessed embarrassment. The hard line Moledet Party insists on
Most Israelis are for retaliation in some form. National pride demands
it. How can we passively accept an attack, gratuitous as it was, by a
foreign nation? The problems with retaliation are both distance and a
proper target. The choices seem to be between a massive attack or an
elegant one. There is a feeling that the airforce is capable of a
massive attack even at the distances in- volved which will require
refuelling in mid-air. But can we compete with the coalition? What can
we do that they can't? The possibility of an elegant retaliation seems
more attractive; it would involve limited risk - in numbers - and
achieve an important and visible goal. The killing of Saddam comes to
mind as a possibility. Is this feasible?
Meanwhile the threat of attack on us still exists. The missile
launchers have not been taken out action. The Iraqi airforce is still
intact, its performance capabilities a question mark. Anxiety here is
controlled, people are going back to work.
Another blow to Israeli pride has been the arrival of US Army personnel
to operate the Patriot missiles. Israel has prided herself by never
before using foreign troops to fight for her. There is some consolation
in the training of Israeli crews by the US teams and the knowledge that
the Americans are not here for long.
What we can be proud of is the performance of the Civil Defense, the
hospitals, the Army, the Airforce - airplanes are flying all the time so
as to be ready and not attackable on the ground - the radio and TV and
the general population, who have behaved - almost entirely - in an
intelligent, praiseworthy fashion.
Wed, 23 Jan 91 15:19 +0200
Subject: Israel Report: The 7th Day [eds.]
This is a particularly difficult report to write. I am not ordinarily
given to persistent, burning anger but that is what has happened to me.
It is in the air here, and I, too, have been infected. And - just to
show the extent of my anger - I feel no guilt about it, I feel that it
is the right response, the only possible response.
Last night was not a quiet night; between 8:32 to 8:33 PM an alarm was
sounded and we rushed to our gas-proof rooms, donned our gas masks [you
have to remember to take off your eye glasses], and turned on the
transister [What if the electricity goes! We have candles and matches
ready, too.] radio. Within a minute or two we were told that this was
not a false alarm, that there was a missile attack on Israel and that we
were requested to enter our rooms and put on the masks, to wait
patiently and to listen to further reports on the radio. Some 15
minutes later we were told that all people outside the greater Tel Aviv
area could take off their masks and leave the room, but to stay at home
with our masks handy. About a half-hour later, Tel Aviv residents were
also let out of the gas-proof rooms. We were told that a missile attack
took place but no details. Later, I hear that the missile struck at
8:37. I calculate, 4-5 minutes advance notice, just enough time to get
to the gas-proof room and put on the mask.
We learned the details through a long night's vigil, waiting for news,
waiting for another missile. 96 wounded, 4 dead [3 were old folks who
suffered heart attacks], 20 multiple family buildings badly damaged,
hundreds homeless. We watched TV, called relatives and friends, to ask
if they were safe. We could recognize the neighborhood from the TV
reports. The Patriots fired missed the SCUD, and the illusion of safety
disappeared. We watched the rescue crews at work on TV. Wounded, a
young man clutching his dog while being put a stretcher, collapsed walls
being raised by heavy equipment to free the trapped. It was terrible.
The 13th missile, the 3rd attack. All bearing conventional warheads -
so far. Should we use the underground shelters? We were told not to,
that the threat of poison gas was still real, that gas could do far more
damage to human life. We are not sure that Saddam Hussein has chemical
warheads for the SCUD missiles but we do know that he has chemical
weapons that can be dropped from planes. It is not possible to
guarantee that at least one plane with such weapons would be able to
penetrate our air defenses. So, we still will use our gas-proof rooms.
When Jonathan Pollard asked his superiors why the US did not protest at
the Soviets and Germany selling poison gas technology to Iraq, he was
told that the Jews, since the second World War, had become oversensitive
to the subject of gas. Oversensitive? These are bad guys, but not
evil, just dumb and insensitive, without fore- sight. The Peace
Demonstrators do not differentiate between bad and evil. They rightly
condemn both, but do not see the essential differ- ence. Saddam Hussein
is evil. He is not accused of making a fast buck by selling restricted
technology, but of raping a country, of callously attacking civilian
populations in a neutral country. Even if it is true that the US
stupidly supported Saddam Hussein in the past, are we to condemn the
Americans for coming to their senses? By the way, Pollard got life in
prison; Saddam Hussein is not even targeted by the coalition forces.
Something seems out of balance.
Poison gas? Yes, we are sensitive to the subject.
Yesterday, we were on our way back to normal life - except for carrying
a gas mask; the classical music station came back on the air, final
proof of "life must go on". Strangely enough we continue today to act
as if life must go on. The schools are still closed but almost everyone
is back at work, even in Tel Aviv, except for mothers [in some cases,
fathers] who have not been able to make arrangements for watching their
children. I meet a young woman on the street who tells me she is going
to an aerobics class. With her gas mask in hand. I ask myself, "Is it
possible to do aerobics wearing a gas mask?"
The matter of striking back is now in the air; everybody here feels that
we should do something to defend ourselves. Anger and frustration at
our inactivity are widespread. Our restraint until now has brought us
much approbation throughout the Western World. This condition is
unusual for us, and has even produced a certain sense of pride in us.
Approving Israel seems strange to the world as well. A friend tells me
that a Los Angeles commentator said, "The American government feels that
Israel's restraint should be condemned...Oh, I mean commended." A new
situation, the world approves our action. Or, really our inaction. We
have briefly enjoyed the approbation of the world; but we now feel the
time for inaction has passed. What will that fickle lover, the world,
What sort of an action? It would have to be elegant and pointed, to
show that we are not to be dealt with impunity. We want a response that
would involve limited risk in numbers and yet achieve an important and
visible goal. The killing of Saddam still seems to be an attractive
It is unlikely I that he dares to leave his bunker now. The bunker is
reportedly proof against anything less than a nuclear weapon. Could
gaseous explosives be introduced into the bunker through the air-intakes
and detonated? Or poison gas? The later would have an asthetic
advantage, poetic retribution, as in a Greek tragedy.
Another elegant action suggested in a letter to me would be a raid to
free the allied POW's. If the Iraqis do place them - as they have
threatened - at military targets, it be even easier, with no need to
penetrate a guarded POW-camp or prison, and no need to operate in an
We are angry, but we are capable of planning while we are angry and we
will defend ourselves. Restraint has its limits. Retaliation is not a
word that I like, implying as it does returning evil for evil. We
will not return evil. We are not evil, we are under attack, unprovoked
attack. We will defend ourselves in the only way understood in this
part of the world.
Thursday, 24 Jan 1991
Subject: Thursday's SCUD Attack
Patriots down a SCUD.
Thursday, 24 January
Last night another air raid alarm. Here is how it went, a few minutes
of hightened secretion of adrenalin which seemed much longer:
22:10 The radio is interrupted by a sisma, a code name for
call up of an army group, but in this case perhaps
the code indicating an attack.
22:10 I hear the siren, clearly up and down, the signal for
a true attack. [The local joke is that the up and
down wail of the siren signals our indecision; whether
to use the gas-proof room upstairs or the more safe
against blast shelter below.] I help my mother into
the poison gas-proof room and call my wife. I rush
to pee [There is no time to waste three syllables on
"urinate."] before I enter and we seal the door with
tape at all the edges and a wet towel below. We put
on our gas masks, my mother always needs help with hers
[The instructions are definite about always getting
yours on first; if something happens to you, you will
not be able to help anyone else.], turn on the
transister radio [The electricity might be knocked out
or fail.] The radio is reassuring, telling us that as
soon as something definite is known we will be told,
that the alarm has been given throughout Israel, that
we are to to go to the gas-proof rooms, put on our
masks and listen to the radio. The directions are
given several times in Hebrew and then briefly trans-
lated into English, Russian, French, Amharic [There
are new Ethiopian Jews arriving every day.], and a
Slavic language which I can not recognize. I notice
how much better they have gotten at this, the announcers
telling us how much they know, and promising to tell us
more as soon as they know. Instructions are given to
those caught in cars [Put on gas masks. If near a
building, to hurry to it after turning off car. If
not in a built up area, to turn off car and remain
in the vehicle, tuned to radio.] We are told that the
alarm was sounded because of an attack on Israel. We
remain tense, make jokes. There are some friends and
relatives who have told us they have difficulty in
hearing the siren. We have a telephone in the room,
their numbers, writ large, nearby. We remembered to
call them as soon as we were secured; they had heard,
but thank us.
22:17 We are told to remove our masks but to remain in the
sealed rooms. We breathe a sigh of relief; it apparently
was not a chemical attack.
22:21 We are told that everybody, except those living in the
greater Tel Aviv area, can leave the sealed rooms but
not to leave home.
22:43 We are informed that a SCUD missile was downed by a
Patriot anti-missile missile in the north [Later we
would be told that there were 2 Patriots, that the
north meant over Haifa.]. No one hurt [At 11 PM,
we would hear that a fair amount of broken windows
and door frame damage took place.]. What a relief!
And a new source of hope, the Patriots - They really
work! Attacks also reported from Saudi Arabi where
the Patriots were again effective. Everyone can
leave the sealed rooms.
Sleep is still a problem; everything is, of course, worse in Tel Aviv.
I call friends there, listen to their indecisions about whether to stay
or leave. I try to help with advice, usually by saying what they want
to hear. They wonder: Would leaving be desertion? Just for one night?
To get some sleep? On late night programs I hear psychologists give
advice on how to sleep. From a friend in Tel Aviv, I learn that one
does not shower or use a blower to dry your hair when you are alone - in
order not to miss the siren.
Yesterday, I went back to work for the first time since last Thursday;
most people are there, there is little talk of the war or the bombings.
Friends from Tel Aviv call, to talk a bit - they are much more in it
than we are. Their terror is still real, almost palpable. But they are
There is a debate on the situation in the Knesset, our Parliament. I
miss most of it but get the flavor: almost all of the members feel that
we should strike Iraq BUT not now as there is nothing we could do that
the Coalition is not already doing. Two Arab members of Knesset manage
to blame us for being bombed by Iraq's missiles. One member says that
there is one thing that will never be forgiven Saddam Hussein; that he
is responsible for one and a half million children having to wear gas
A Danish military expert claims that the payload of Tuesday night's SCUD
was too great for it to have come from Iraq. He suggests that Jordan is
being used to stage the missile firings. Could King Hussein be so
foolish? Is he under such great pressure from the Iraqis? His rule is
tenuous enough without inviting us to attack him. What ever could he be
thinking? Has he been trapped by the rhetoric of the situation once
again, as in 1967?
The Americans announce that they have definitely destroyed the two Iraqi
nuclear reactors. It is almost 10 years since we took out the French
built Tamuz reactor in Ossirak. We were con- demned [A typo: I type
"cohndemned".] by the world for this action. But we set back the war
machine that the West was building in Iraq by 10 years. Who will
remember to thank us for that? We do not need the thanks, as we too -
not only the troops fighting in Persian Gulf - are the direct
beneficiaries of that attack.
We are still looking for a new elegant attack on Iraq. A French
engineer who worked for Saddam writes, according to one of my
correspondents, that Saddam Hussein's bunker has two weak points: the
air intake and the exhaust shaft for a diesel generator. Those two
shafts are apparently camouflaged to protect them against bombing. They
might be easy to locate from the ground.
Another writer tells me that he is an expert in dust free environments
and that the filters in the underground shelters may be their weak
points. He suggests a number of common agents that he has shown can
destroy high grade filters.
Just at the beginning of the attack on Israel, almost a week ago, I
found an email address from Cairo on one of the intellectual nets. I
thought it might be fun and interesting to correspond with someone so
close, and yet so far. He responded favorably, and tells me that all is
calm in Cairo at the moment, but that "nobody seems to have any
information about the war." "Cairenes," he reports, "seem to be very
blase about the whole thing; their attitude is that they've seen it all
before." He sounds interesting; I wish I had more time to get know him.
After this is all over, I hope.
Friday, 25 Jan 1991.
Subject: False Alarm in Israel Last Night [eds.]
Jerusalem, Friday 25 January
Last night, at 22:32, the TV broadcast of the semi-final round European
Cup basketball game between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Pop Split, last year's
Champion's, from Yugoslavia was interrupted, early in the second half -
Tel Aviv ahead by 4 - by the flash of a shield in the center of the
screen. The strange medallion did not mean anything to me for a second
or two, until the message in the center of the shield finally - How
could I be so obtuse as not to realize immediately what was going on?
Was I not already a veteran of air raid drills? - began to register -
ALERT - written in several languages. I called to my wife and only then
did we hear a siren. We hurried into the sealable room upstairs, and
were all masked and seated, more or less calmly, even my 86 year old
mother - who had to be awakened and did not quite seem to know was going
on - listening to the radio tell us that the alarm was for all Israel,
when [FINALLY!] - at 22:35 - another siren was heard, this time a steady
blast [The alert alarm is an alternately rising and falling wail.]. The
radio confirmed that there was now an all-clear condi- tion. Did it
last only three minutes? It seemed much longer than that; how had we
accomplished so much in only three minutes?
After the all-clear was digested by us, understood: Yes, we were once
again "safe," we could now resume watching the game. How strange it
seemed, an Israeli team [Most have been devastated by loss of foreign
players who left with the onset of Desert Storm, but not our best team,
Maccabi, with 4 Afro-Americans who all stayed and played.]. How could
they go on playing? But they could not possibly know that there had
been an alarm here; after all, they were in Split, in Yugoslavia. Added
to our relief after understanding that what we had experienced was only
a false alarm - and added to the glow from the effective action of the
Patriot which still is felt - we were treated to a hair's breadth [Which,
by the way means something altogether different in Shakespeare.] victory
by Tel Aviv. Two points and Split had the ball!
We latch on to good things, to good signs, we need reassurance. Rain.
The rain that we have had for two full days, is another blessing. Or, a
bundle of blessings. It has been a heavy and hard rain. And we all
love it. For so many reasons. We have had a very dry winter and our
major source of water, the Kinneret, also known as Lake Tiberius or the
Sea of Galillee, has been drying up and is 3 meters below its normal
level. To make matters worse, we have had a scandal here with the
National Omboudsman [Actually a woman, extremely impressive 70+ year old
Miriam Porot, a former Supreme Court Justice.] revealing almost [?]
criminal waste and mishandling of our water reserves for years. Talk of
buying water from other countries has been depressing. We are a major
exporter of desalination plants but have none of our own. And now with
this glorious rain we are filling up the Kinneret again, only 2-3
percent of the lack thus far, but the rain has not ended. And now it is
also snowing on Mount Hermon, snow that will melt in the spring and feed
But the rain and the accompanying heavy fog are also pro- tection
against air attacks; not from missiles but at least from bombers. And
the threat of poison gas bombs from planes is seen as greater than that
from missiles. The American generals are convinced [Our experts
disagree.] that the Iraqis do not have a chemical warhead for the long
range SCUD which can and has reached us. We are told that there is
another advantage of rain in a poison gas attack; the rain will wash
away and dissipate the gas more rapidly than would occur otherwise.
This morning my wife stood in the rain in a demonstration against the
visit of the German Foreign Minister, H.-D. Genscher. He is here to
show German identity with us in our time of need; so he says. There has
been tremendous criticism of the German - and French and Soviet - arming
of Saddam Hussein with sophisti- cated military technology, in
particular in the fields of poison gas and missile warfare. With Zyklon
B in the background, the German government has been embarrassed, and the
visit is seen as an admission of guilt. Representatives of all French
political parties [except the Communists] are also visiting now,
identifying. In the demonstration, the women stood in the rain, felt
the first snow flakes in Jerusalem this year fall on them and heard other
women, survivors of the concentration camps tell how they had barely
gotten through the threat of being gassed to death and how, now, they
did not want this to happen to their grandchildren. Just as we are
sensitive to the subject of poison gas, the Germans are also sensitive
to the subject. Just not sensitive enough to desist from producing the
materials, from selling the stuff to the most irresponsible buyers
A little gas, even the threat of gas can do wonders: the European
Community has just cancelled all the sanctions they had imposed on us.
Genscher is taken to see the ruins of the SCUD attack on Ramat Gan
[greater Tel Aviv]; a little more guilt for the German role in
devoloping missile technology for Saddam Hussein is never out of order.
After all, we are not Jewish for nothing. Genscher is intrigued to see
a completely destroyed apartment with a large Israeli flag flying from
it. The owner of the apartment, who has just finished hanging the flag
is brought to Genscher and asked what he was doing. A large, burly man,
he replies that he had to find a picture of his father, the only one
there is. Did he find it among the ruins? he was asked. He pulls out
the picture from his jacket pocket and kisses it. He is asked if he
feels any hate towards the Iraqis. No, he says, not unless hate means
feeling very bad; otherwise he is not sure what hate is.
The problems of lack of sleep and increased anxiety are still
very much with us, particularly noticeable in children. Teenagers
cringe in Tel Aviv, waiting for the sound of the blast that they have
already heard so many times. There is more bed wetting, whimpering and
even crying in their sleep among children. We hear psychological advice
over and over again on the radio, not only for children. Whole families
sleep together, to reassure one another, in a single bed. In other
families, a watch is set; one person stays awake to be able to hear the
One expert has advised fondling, caressing and even sex for anxiety.
When I ask a friend in Tel Aviv, he says "You must be made of stronger
stuff than me if you can think about sex at a time like this." Truth
is, I have not thought about it; I only wondered if sex might be used as
proof that you are still alive. On the other hand, fear does remarkable
things to your hormones, even producing amenorrhea. But then again, so
do anorexia nervosa and schizophrenia.
Speaking of anorexia nervosa and psychological counselling on the radio,
one psychologist advised eating for anxiety. Only in a Jewish country!
Last night's rain was associated with a thunder storm. Even though we
we were warned of thunder, my wife - and many others - awoke in fright,
fearing an explosion. There is now a radio station for sleeping; it
will broadcast nothing unless there is an alarm. The siren that usually
announces the Sabbath will not be sounded this evening in order to
An anecdote: following a kidney transplant operation, the patient awoke
in the recovery room to find the nurses and doctors all wearing gas
masks. He apparently was convinced by this strange sight that he had
died, not aware that an air raid siren had been sounded and he began to
cry bitterly. The staff attempted to reassure him by telling him that
his mother was waiting for him. Since his mother had died 4 years
earlier, this was the final proof he needed to know with certainty that
he was dead. The staff had mistaken the patient's father's second wife
for his mother. The ending was, I am reassured, a happy one - once the
confusion was cleared up.
Apparently I forgot, in writing about how inviting the American crews to
man the Patriots and teach Israelis how to use them was felt to be a
blow to our pride, to tell how thankful we were and are to America for
sending the missiles and their trained crews and to the crews
themselves. The crews were overwhelmed with home baked cakes [A radio
announcement pleaded with the public to stop; there was just too much.].
When a call was made on the radio for English speakers to entertain the
American guests, the response was over- whelming. It is possible to be
hurt and thankful at the same time. And all this was before the first
Patriot was fired. With the success of the Patriots in Haifa on
Wednesday night, our gratitude is that much greater. The mayor of
Haifa, where the Patriot downed a SCUD, brought champagne and a case of
whiskey to the American crew which had manned the Patriot launcher. I
hope they will not be drunk when we need them again. If we need them
again, as most of us are still convinced we shall.
Saturday Evening, 26 January
I spoke of the rain as a blessing. Sometimes it is less than
that. The electric connections in my neighborhood of old houses
are fragile and exposed to the elements; not infrequently there are
disturbances of the lines when it rains. Last night, we had such
a disturbance; result: a total blackout. [Well, almost total, for
some reason not clear to me, the heating kept working. My street
was totally blacked out, but not the houses across the street.]
All this with the threat of missile and plane attacks hanging over
us. We had a transistor radio going so that we could hear what
was happening; the Sabbath candles were lit and we had light in the
sealed room from a lamp that was charged while there was electricity
but only worked when the electricity was cut. But it was still not
very comfortable; the lamp worked for less than three hours and that
was not enough; it took almost five hours before the electricity was
restored. We still had a flashlight after the emergency lamp
lost its charge, long after the candles burned out.
And all this was after an attack; we had just sat down to
eat our Sabbath meal when the alarm went off. We went up to the
sealed, hopefully poison gas-proof, room, nine of us - including
two children, aged 2 and 5, and two refugees from Tel Aviv who
stayed with us for the Sabbath, to get some rest from the relent-
less bombardment that had frayed their nerves, slightly. A
brother and a sister; she writes a weekly literary column for the
second most popular newspaper in the country, he is a TV director.
We managed in the small room; even the incubator for the
two year old fit in. One of us, a diabetic, had just taken his
insulin injection before the alarm sounded. We worried about
him having to eat something, but he held out, wearing the mask
for the half hour before we were freed from by the radio instruc-
tions. When he removed his mask, we found him some crackers in
the box of food prepared for long stays in the room.
The attack was again real, and again relatively far from
us, centering in Tel Aviv and in Haifa. Seven SCUD missiles were
fired at these cities and Patriot missiles apparently damaged
some 5 or 6 of them. But one or two landed in crowded residential
areas again, only in Greater Tel Aviv. And the fragments of the
missiles - which? The SCUDs? The Patriots? Both? - are not
innocent either and caused property damage and lead to injuries.
One dead, the first directly attributed to missiles, from the
collapse of his house following a missile hit; his wife was
also injured. There were 63 wounded. And hundreds of homes
damaged, some destroyed. One two storey structure, inhabitated
by three Israelis, was completely destroyed; all three managed
to get out miraculously without injury. Miraculous? We are very
prone to use that word these days. More than a thousand more
homeless. Well, at least a minor miracle.
An El Al plane, bearing olim, immigrants from Russia was
ready to land when the attack took place. The plane was in-
structed to hover until further notice; when the all-clear
was sounded, the plane landed, the olim debarked, were
handed gas masks. Welcome to Israel! And then they were sent
off to temporary lodgings.
The rain goes on; it protects us - but not completely.
I ask the Tel Aviv guests how they have been affected by
the bombardment. Neither live in an area directly struck by
a missile or its fragment. But the noise of the missiles
approaching is clearly heard and the blast, even when at a
distance of miles, is felt, shaking everything in the house.
The sister tells me that the worst part is not being able to
get on with what interests her; she just can not concentrate.
That is in Tel Aviv; here, in Jerusalem, it seems we concent-
rate more than we should - on the wrong things.
Have Israelis ignored the instructions not to use the
classic bomb shelters? We still go upstairs to the sealed
room, accepting the evaluation of the experts that chemical
damage is still a greater danger than anything the blasts of
conventional weapons can do. I think almost all Israelis are
with us in that. We do know one family that has deserted
their sealed, gas-proof room for what they perceive as the
greater safety of their bomb shelter. The woman of the
family is one of those people - in addition to being a
successful musician, wife, mother and good friend - whose
major preoccupation in life seems - to me - to be avoid-
ing being taken advantage of and, as a corollary, beating
the system. She would love to survive just because of this
asocial action, if for no other reason than to point out
to us that, had she been as sheep-like as the rest of us,
she would not have survived. Ah, well, I hope she survives,
and her family as well.
I understand that sympathy for us has extended to a
form of identification; gas masks are selling throughout the
world, particularly in the States, like pancakes, I am told.
Someone wrote about one store in Manhattan selling more than
500, another in South Carolina selling 2400 gas masks, usually
an unpopular item. Others report that people are shipping gas
masks to friends and relatives in Israel. What we do with a
spare gas mask? The masks, even carried alone, without the
rest of the set [pads, anti-gas burn powder and an atropine
injection] are rather clumsy. They are now a universal sight
in the streets. Rich and poor, we carry gas masks now.
Peace demonstrations go on, I am told, although they may
be weakening. It is interesting that there were no protests of
this dimension when Iraq took over Kuwait, and commenced to
brutalize the population before annexing the country. Many of
the professional peace people are associated with the environ-
mentally sensitive. I wonder if they will respond to Saddam
Hussein's newest non-sequitar? If the driving of neutral
Israel into bomb shelters is not enough to move them against
Saddam Hussein, will his wanton dumping of Kuwaiti oil into
the Persian Gulf move them? Will they demonstrate against
this futher manifestation of the destructive nature of this
evil and powerful man? The sight of the oil-covered cormorants
on TV, barely able to move, their wings inactivated by thick
layers of oil, was particularly disturbing. Animals are
usually understood better and draw more sympathy in these people
than do suffering people.
Is it not strange too that the peace-at-all-costs people
are not demonstrating in masses against the Russian oppression
of the Baltic States? The fight to rid the world of this evil
oppressor, Saddam Hussein, does not move them. What does move
them? A desire to stay out of it? To save their skins? Well,
that is fair, too. But let them call a spade a spade, and say
just that. And that they are willing to sacrifice the dream of
Western society that we have a commitment to this world to
preserve democracy, at all costs.
Sunday 27 January
Double Attack; Four SCUDS, All Downed.
Saturday night, the 22:00 news program was interrupted, just after the
announcer said that "This is the news." A siren replaced his voice, and
this was soon followed by a siren heard outside of our house.
We rush into the sealed, gas-proof room, but our movements now seem more
practiced. Is it getting to be second nature? Putting on the gas
masks, sealing the door, helping one another. And then there are a few
numbers to call, friends who asked, saying that they have difficulty
hearing the siren. I sound very strange to myself, talking on the
phone, through a gas mask. The filter keeps banging against the
speaker; I have to remember that I can not bring my mouth close to the
We are now only 5, including our guests from Tel Aviv, who will sleep
over Saturday night before returning to their embattled city. The radio
keeps reassuring us, giving instructions, very little information, other
than telling us that this is a real attack. We are more tense than we
should be; there is evidence of a cumulative effect. The night of the
first attack - My God, was it only last Thursday night? It seems as if
so much more time than that has passed. - my wife and I were alone in
the sealed room and, wearing our gas masks, we played BOGGLE, a word
game. That now seems so remote, reflecting another degree of calmness,
no longer available to us. That was before we saw the pictures of the
wounded, of the destruction.
At 22:17, the southern part of the country, including us, in Jerusalem,
is freed from the alert. We take off our masks and reassure one
another. We are told a SCUD was fired at Riyadh and successfully downed
by Patriots. And then, before we leave the sealed room, at 22:20,
another siren is sounded on the radio, the sound of an attack, not the
expected all-clear. The announcer tells us that this is indeed a second
attack and that we are all to return to our sealed rooms, to wear masks.
This is the first double attack, a one-two punch as it were. Damn it!
Why don't they give us more information? This double attack is surely a
new tactic; is it meant to stretch us beyond the limits of our nerve?
The radio tells us about Saudi Arabia but not about what is going on
here. I start looking at my watch; I am now convinced that we always
have five to seven minutes between the warning and the actual missile
strike. I have been careful to note the times when these have been
At 22:28, confirming my estimate, the southern part of the country is
again freed from masks. Now they are checking to see if the attack was
conventional or chemical or biological. Biological too? At 22:37, the
eastern and far north regions of the country are told that it is all
right to remove their masks; at 22:42, the entire country is now told to
remove their masks. Only inhabitants of Tel Aviv and Haifa have to
remain in their sealed rooms. At 22:46, an all-clear siren is sounded
for the entire country. Later, we hear that all missiles were hit and
downed by Patriots [Other sources speak of another missile that landed
without exploding, the second dud]. Four missiles, aimed at Haifa and
Tel Aviv again, the regions of greatest population concentration, all
four downed. We are told that we can not expect 100% protection from
SCUD hits but that Patriot performance has been improved greatly. Yes,
we can see that. Amen.
We hear that there are no wounded this time and breathe a sigh of
relief. Later we hear that for the first time missile fragments have
fallen on Arab villages. I have mixed feelings about that, I admit.
Haven't the Arabs invited Saddam Hussein to attack us? Are they not
still supporting him? When the curfew, imposed on some of the more
unruly towns, is relaxed for an hour to allow purchase of food and
staples, the Arab youths climb to the roofs, scream "Allah Akbar", throw
stones. In other villages this has never stopped; the TV crews are busy
elsewhere these days, so we do not see it. A new feature, missed by the
absent TV cameras is that the masked Palestin- ians are now using gas
masks; they use them both to hide their faces and to defeat the tear gas
which has been used against them.
We hear about attacks on Arabs in the US, windows of Arab-owned
businesses broken is San Francisco and even fire-bombing of Arab- owned
stores in Detroit; a bombing of an Indian family in Florida, mistakenly
thought to be Iraqi. A Palestinian man beaten brutally, requiring head
surgery. The FBI has been investigating Arab Americans with an eye to
reducing the chance of terrorist activities. What a strange world we
live in, so subject to change, and yet so inflexible.
But then there are the Israeli Arabs, living in their villages of the
northern part of the country who invited Jews living in the attacked
cities to stay with them. Also Arabs, but ours, caught between their
sympathy for the desire of their brothers for an independent Palestinian
state and their loyalty to their country, Israel. In this time of
danger, they have lined up with us. They can make differential
judgements; so, too, for the most part, can we. Why is it so difficult
for so many others?
"Are the missile attacks making a serious impact on me?", I ask. I
think there is some change. A heightened sensitivity - which I admit was
always there, in a milder form - to criticism, yes. Preoccupation with
Before the attacks began, my wife insisted on trimming my beard, an
avocation of hers which has, I think, a sadistic element - as well as an
artistic one. A number of people have commented that I trimmed my beard
to get a better seal with the gas mask; large beards are a problem. Mine
was never large, certainly not bushy - even before trimming. Now, I
resent what I see as an implied accusation of cowardice [even though I
know that is not what is meant]. I also do not want to be caught in a
crowd now; the thought of a stampede in the event of an emergency has
now become very unpleasant to me. I never loved crowds but I have never
been agoraphobic. I ask myself if I am cowardly. Last night I dreamed
of dying, waking from a nightmare. I have never done that be- fore.
Preoccupation with dying must be common now.
Big numbers. 3400 homes in Greater Tel Aviv have been damaged. A very
large number, indeed. Another, number: 13,000 new immigrants thus far
this month, from Russia, from Ethiopia. Immigrating into a war zone.
They seem united in feeling it is better here, safer even, than in their
countries of origin.
Today school began for all 10th - 12th graders, except in the city of
Ramat Gan, neighbor to Tel Aviv, where missile damage has been
extensive. The Mayor of Ramat Gan asked that school opening be delayed
one day there to allow for handling of displaced families. All students
will study in sealed, gas-proof rooms. They are to bring their anti-
poison gas kits and masks to school. Instructions for what to do if an
alarm is sounded on the way to or from school are given. This is as
close to normalcy as we can get now.
Our guests from Tel Aviv leave this morning; has it been easier for them
here? They get into their car and drive back to the threatened city.
Monday 28 January
It is bright and sunny today; no sign of rain. Not even a cloud can be
seen in the brilliant blue sky of Jerusalem. There was no alarm last
night. A relief and a let down. Not a disappointment. No, not that,
but there is the waiting, as if for the second shoe to fall. The
waiting takes its toll, too. Irritability is up; this is obvious all
over the country.
We watch the first half of the Super Bowl game, not really paying
attention. Why do they keep talking about the Patriots? I hear this
out of the corner of my ear. No, this has nothing to do with our war; I
gather it is the New England [Boston] Patriots, a once great football
team that has fallen on hard days, winning only one out of 17 games. I
hope our Patriots, courtesy of the US government, do better.
Why have we not had a daytime attack? This is a question that disturbs
many of us. So many more people, those who live in the suburbs and
those who have fled to avoid the night time terror, come into the large
cities, Tel Aviv and Haifa, each morning to work. We are so much more
vulnerable in the daytime. It is now clear - beyond any doubt at all -
that Saddam Hussein's missiles are directed not at military targets but
at civilian population centers, both here in Israel and in Riyadh, as
well. Presumably, the major reason for not sending missiles at us in
the daytime is fear of exposing the missile launchers to the coalition
airforce. But there is an unpredictable element in Saddam Hussein that
appears to be a major part of his makeup, and makes him a continuous
threat to us. We still are not sure that he will not attack during the
daytime. Just as we are still not sure that he will not use chemical
weapons against us.
So we continue to carry our gas masks, or the whole kit, where ever we
go. Decoration of the kits has now become quite a fad. It probably
began in the improvised kindergardens that have sprung up and spread so
quickly. Certainly the first decorated one I saw was my 5 year old [on
February 3] grandson's. But the rectangular boxes and the black plastic
shoulder straps seem to invite creative enter- prise. Some of the more
striking creations include addition of four legs and a tail to the box,
an imitation of the ice cream containers carried by young vendors on the
beaches, an automobile with wheels added to the box, and the box
decorated to look like a movie camera.
The civil defense people announced that appreciable numbers of
anti-poison gas kits are being left in buses and other public places,
mostly by young people. They request that we write our names on the
kits, and addresses as well.
Striking TV clips now include a hospital obstetrics unit, where 4 women
in active labor are seen wearing gas masks during the last attack. So
do the doctors and nurses. One of the women in labor is interviewed.
It is possible to wear the masks during labor. We learn all the time.
The potential mother says that she prefers to wear the mask, that she
feels safer in the mask.
One of the regions hit is - in normal times - a well known staging area
for automobile centered prostitution. One friend asks if the
prostitutes are still at work. And if they now do it in gas masks.
Although the 10th - 12th graders are back in school, the great majority
of school goers are still out. Local, small kindergardens have sprung
up to deal with the youngest group and to free up parents for other
activities. [No, a court has ruled, both parents can not be excused
from work to care for children; the family must chose: either the mother
or the father may stay home.] For the intermediary grades parents and
teachers are organizing one room school houses, with teachers preparing
written assignments. University students are now in their
pre-examination period. Many report difficulties in concentration.
I heard the Chief of Staff of the Army interviewed on TV. Aluf
[General] Shomron left a very strange impression on me. He spoke of a
public opinion poll showing that 90% of the public here in Israel
approved of the policy of restraint. I wondered what a General was
doing with popularity polls and why would he be interested in them. I
would have thought that popularity polls were the business of poli-
ticians, not of the Army. If he felt that the best strategy for the
defense of the country was something other than restraint, would he be
inhibited from recommending that strategy to the government because of
the unpopularity of his strategy? Have we all become media people? Is
there not something unreal in all this?
The inevitability of retaliation grows and grows stronger each day; the
blood so casually drawn will be avenged. And the callous perpetrators
wil be punished. Is it really true that the US will not give our planes
their identification codes? Won't this cause them trouble as well?
Aren't they interested in avoiding the disaster of a possible clash
between Israeli and coalition planes? I understand that these codes can
be installed in flight; I imagine that they would be transferred at the
last moment, if not before. What can we do? Well, one thing we can do
is a better job of bombing the missile launchers in Western Iraq, in
their staging areas, H2 and H3. How? Coalition bombing is done from
great altitude, to avoid anti-aircraft barrages. Even though their
accuracy is good, even excellent, it can never compare to what can be
achieved by low level bombing. We are less sensitive than the US and
other members of the coalition to the possibility of loss, particularly
when the threat is real - as it is now - and when the potential gains
are great. We are ready to engage in low level bombing and do things
the coalition is not willing to risk. That is one possibility.
Jordan remains a problem. I listen to the news from Jordan as we
receive their two channels clearly in Jerusalem. I also see the reports
from Jordan broadcast by various foreign TV sources. The Jordanians
believe there - not just the man in the street but even the
intellectuals - that the Persian Gulf conflict is a war between Israel
and Iraq with the US and their allies fighting for Israel. This kind of
distortion of fact is standard for the area, and it is not new to me at
all. But in the present circumstances I am afraid that Jordan may be
tempted to jump into what they see as a war between Islam and Israel.
They would attack us. I am sure we could defeat them, even handily.
But it is so unnecessary, so perverse - and will cost lives.
I had not payed any attention to the absence of weather reports. My son
pointed this fact out to me, explaining that we did not want to give
away valuable information to the enemy, in this case Iraq. My
experience with our weather forecasting, and it is not mine alone, is
that it is totally unreliable. Even believing the opposite of what is
said doesn't work. Some one showed that a better record of prediction
of tommorrow's weather than that of the meteorological service is
obtained by assuming that tommorrow's weather will be no different from
today's. With a record like that, it would seem to me that releasing
the weather reports would be a valuable source of disinformation, if the
Iraqis were stupid enough to believe the reports. We have given up
taking them seriously a long time ago.
Another no-no is mentioning the landing places of the SCUD missiles.
Supposedly this information would allow the Iraqis to correct their
firing and make more accurate hits. All this assumes that there some
way to increase the accuracy of the SCUD, which is not too good and has
low tech specifications and a very low reproduc- ibility, at best 1000
yards. Most of the firings can clearly be seen not to be related to any
strategic targets, even by the most wild extrapolation. They want to
hit the centers of population concentra- tion; at times they have
succeeded, at other times they were way off the mark, missing both
strategic targets and population concentrations. And all this was
before the Patriots entered the picture, cutting down the SCUD
effectiveness and success rate greatly. But the strangest part of all
is that the TV coverage is clear enough to identify the neighborhoods
clearly in most cases. Any self respecting spy should be - I would
thingk - able to do it. Certainly Israelis abroad identify the hit
areas without difficulty; many tell me in their letters. So we are
Perhaps it is a game. The first person abroad to identify the exact
streets hit wins a prize, a fragment of a missile.
On the other hand this information may be useful to the Iraqis not so
much for correcting their sightings but to evaluate the over all
effectiveness of their planning. One correspondent reminds me that
during World War II, the Germans used to launch their V1 rockets during
the BBC live concerts so that they could listen to the impacts of their
bombs. The location of BBC studio in London being known, this
information could have been useful to assess accuracy.
The same correspondent asks, "But what about other means of
communication, and I am particularily thinking about e-mail or
electronic bulletin boards? Are they monitored? Is it possible to
monitor them (the volume of data being huge)? Are the authorities aware
of them?" I am not sure if anybody in the censoring business here is
aware of what I and probably many others like me are doing, but they
certainly do not seem to be doing anything about it. Perhaps, short of
cutting off all these lines, there is nothing that can be done, because
of the volume, if for no other reason. I myself, despite trying to be
careful not to give away information, have been taken to task now and
then for "leaking" [Should it be"e-leaking" or "b-leaking? I hope not.]
The foreign TV people are frequently less scrupulous; their concern for
human life - which is indeed the consequence of broad- casting some
information - appears to be less important than getting the desired
scoop. A particularly crude example was the "humorous" - Why are these
jokers always Jewish, I ask. - effort of the local CNN correspondent,
who, in the immediate aftermath of an attack, reported live,
"I do not know whether I am allowed to say this. Am
I allowed to report that this is a residential neigh-
borhood? I guess I am allowed to report it."
CNN's Peter Arnett, reporting the bombings of Baghdad has made another,
less well known contribution to reporting in general, and to Israel in
particular. His Significant Other [I have just learned the meaning of
SO.], left behind, is now broadcasting the news on local TV in English
here; her fresh face and pleasant voice are indeed a contribution.
Tuesday 29 January
Are we Safe AFTER an Attack?
Last night, while watching the main news summary of the day on TV - Is
this repeated timing to be understood as a critical comment on the News
broadcasts? - we had, at 21:08, another alarm, with both the screen
showing the now familiar medallion bearing the warning in multiple
languages and a siren heard outside. We hurried to the hopefully - We
still [Thank God!] have not tested its efficacy. - gas-proof room, put
on our masks, seal the door, turn on the transistor radio. The
announcer tells us that all Israel is required to go to the sealed
rooms, put on gas masks and listen to the radio. At 21:16, Nahman
[pronoounced Nachman] Shai, the Army spokesman [see below] tells us that
we have been fired on, but that the South [not including Jerusalem] and
the North [not including Haifa and Acre] are now free to remove their
masks and leave the sealed rooms. At 9:20 we hear Shai tell us that
Jerusalem, Haifa and Acre are no longer in danger.
Hungry for news, I turn on my terminal, now in the sealed room and, with
my modum operating, I connect up to my computer and turn on IRC, a
protocol which connects me to the Internet Relay Network, where I can
always find 100 to 200 or more computer freaks from places as far away
as Korea, Japan, Australia, Europe, and the States, chatting or waiting
for someone to "talk" to them on- line [marvel of the technological
revolution]. I quickly ask for a list of current Israeli users and
locate one in Ramat Gan [Greater Tel Aviv, and the object of at least 2
attacks, with 11 buildings completely destroyed and 1600 apartments
damaged] and Haifa and ask each if anything has happened. Nati, from
Haifa, writes to me that he has heard a soft boom and that there was some
brief disturbance in TV and radio reception there. Ely, from Ramat Gan,
says that all is quiet there.
At 21:39, inhabitants of Greater Tel Aviv are instructed to remove their
gas masks but to remain in their rooms. Seconds later a general
all-clear is announced. At 22:02, we hear that the attack consisted
only of conventional weapons. Much later, we are told that the single
missile fired at us landed - No Patriots were fired, it seems. Why?
Because the missile descended too far from the coast, where the Patriots
are? - very close to the Green line, the pre-1967 border, separating
Israel and Jordan, and now separat- ing Israel from the Occupied
Territories. The missile produced damage to property in Arab villages
on both sides of the Line; luckily, nobody was hurt.
A popular sport among the Arabs of the Occupied Territories these past
two weeks has been to stand on the roofs of their homes and cheer and
wave, encouraging passing missiles eastwards, towards the centers of
Jewish settlement. I would suspect that this activity will now stop,
with the Palestinian Arabs joining us in sealed rooms. When Saddam
Hussein was interviewed before the war and questioned about the
possibility of hitting Arabs if he were to attack Israel, he replied
that he will not have time to sort out the pebbles among the dried
lentils. We again see that he meant what he said. Now, the Palestinian
Arabs who have supported him so enthusiastically until now can also see
A pattern to the attacks has emerged and we act - with reserva- tions -
as if these patterns are real and can be counted on. One pattern is
that there are no attacks in the daytime; so we act more freely and with
less care in the daytime. Another that is now clear is that there is
only one attack each night. Even the one double attack that came was
characterized by the firing of two groups of missiles separated by only
20 minutes, for our purposes not really different from a single attack.
Why is the validiy of this pattern of such importance? Because it
relates to the problem of sleep that has become so prevalent; even the
most hardened citizens of the Tel Aviv and Haifa areas report
difficulties in sleeping. Not only does this sleep disorder reflect the
relatively high level of anxiety prevalent, it also, at least partly, is
related to a real fear of missing the alarm when it is sounded.
It has therefore become important to discuss this pattern, to see if
others believe it. Can one trust it? Are we really safe AFTER an
attack? Will the Iraqis remember that they have had their one attack
this night? These questions are now central to our thoughts and the
answers we adapt will help determine the success of our getting a good
night's sleep, which seems so important to us now, or at least to
getting even a fair night's sleep.
We are now given instructions on recognizing poison gas attacks from the
symptoms produced. These are: 1] Generalized production of watery
secretions; on the skin, tears; 2] Strange movements or no movement at
all; 3] Difficulties with breathing.
Some of these symptoms are clearly symptoms that can be seen in hysteria
or with severe anxiety. But it is better to be safe than smart at times
like these. We are told that the medications available against poison
gas work very well and that it is imperative to bring the sticken
individual with any of these symptoms to a hospital immedi- ately. We
are reassured that stories of a new poisom gas that penetrates gas masks
is pure fiction; that the combination of a gas mask and a sealed room
provides 100% protection.
Turkey has also been threatened by Saddam Hussein and the threat of
poison gas attacks is being taken very seriously in Southern Turkey,
bordering on Iraq, at least partially because of the largely Kurdistani
population there. Kurds will not easily forget how a village of 5000
Kurds in northern Iran was wiped out by Saddam Hussein's poison gas.
Although gas masks are not available there, they have produced sealed,
gas-proof rooms. The TV pictures are not reassuring; the suddenly very
high price of plastic curtaining has forced families to use substitutes
which can not possibly be effective, such as blankets, to shield their
windows and doors. Some depressing effects of this activity are also
reported: families dying of suffocation after sealing the room but
leaving an oven burning within.
My wife is an inveterate and indefatigable matchmaker; for her, the
sight of an unmarried man - marriage is still the most common mode here
- is like a red flag to a bull. Well, there is a certain young man,
bright and sensitive and - above all - unmarried. She has finally found
the perfect girl for him, bright and good looking. And they both agreed
to meet. So far so good.
My wife finally got a report on the meeting; they were sitting in a
popular Jerusalem cafe, having onion soup, when the alarm went off.
They spent the next hour huddled against the wall in the cafe's sealed
room, together with the other customers and the employees of the cafe,
including some Arabs working in the kitchen. A new form of social
Oh? What happened? They seem to like one another.
Brigadier General Nahman Shai, the new Army spokesman, is now a national
hero, the subject of long reports in all of last Friday's - the weekend
here; there are no newspapers on Saturday - papers. He came to our
general attention on that memorable Thursday night of the first attack,
almost two weeks ago. The initial radio instructions were characterized
by unclarity, a slight sense of panic and no sense of authority and
knowledge. Until Shai came on the air; his soft voice registered
concern and knowledge and that impression has persisted. The news
reporters have improved immensely, are now models of calm and clarity,
but the whole country waits for our Nahman. When he speaks of allowing
children not to be masked if they are panicky, he speaks of his own 5
Usually, at least in the early stages of an alarm, he offers no hard
information other than telling us it is a real attack and not a false
alarm - there have been any number of these, usually local and
reflecting both nervous and inept fingers as well as technical problems
- and that we are to enter the sealed rooms and don our masks. But we
know that the information that he will eventually give us will be
accurate - if sparse - and meanwhile all Israel continues to love Nahman.
He is a thin, bespectacled young man - younger looking than his 44 years
- in an Army uniform who speaks with a soft voice that radiates
certainty - or certainty to come - and confidence. He bears some super-
ficial resemblance to Pete Mitchell, the Pentagon spokesman but makes a
much softer impression; he is both less incisive and less quick in his
responses. None-the-less, Nahman Shai continues to radiate believability
and remains our hero, at least for the time being.
In response to my questioning Aluf [General] Shomron's appearance on TV
to publicly announce a 90% level of support for the policy of restraint,
one of my readers reasonably points out that he might have been saying
something like "We are doing what we have to do, and thank you (or at
least most of you) for agreeing."
I stand corrected; but it would have been better - if that was his
intention - that he had said it explicitly.
Wednesday, T'u b'shvat, 30 January
After the War
We had no alarm last night; at 3 AM I finally - in a state of exhaustion
- went to sleep; I slept three hours. Waiting for the siren.
Waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for the SCUDs to reach us
from Iraq has become a national sport. You finally get to sleep at some
hour early in the morning; the second Army radio channel, the one that
is silent at night UNLESS there is an alarm, set at high volume, so that
you will not miss the siren. At 6:00 AM, the radio starts blaring the
regular morning broadcast and you are shocked into the semi-awake state
that will last all day. These are not, however, normal times and 6:00
AM is just too early.
Today is T'u b'shvat, the New Year for trees; we are used to plant trees
today. We also have parties where we drink white and red wines and eat
dried fruit. Usually, not this year. Our minds and hearts are
elsewhere. These are not normal times.
Someone writes to suggest a fitting "punishment" for those strange Jews
- E. Alexander calls them "Arafat's Jews" - who are so active in
movements that oppose every action of Israel, those who are sure that
Israel is so intrinsically bad that any action - even seemingly good -
of Israel's must be condemned. These same perverse Jews seem also to be
convinced that any action of the PLO - even the most heinous - should be
excused because of the suffering the Palestinian Arabs have undergone
[even that which is not our fault at all]. The "punishment" is to plant
a tree in Israel in their name and to mail them a certificate of the
"gift". A truly mild punishment, so gentle, perhaps much too gentle.
He only regrets, he contin- ues, that he would not be able to see their
faces when they read the certificates.
I recall the wanton destruction by fire of 8000 trees in the Carmel
forest last year. I presume the Arabs who lit the fire considered the
trees to be Jewish trees.
The flight of 100 of the best Iraqi aircraft to Iran is particularly
disturbing. These aircraft will be spared the bombings of the coalition
and this frightens us, now that we know that we are indeed high on the
Iraqi agenda; that more SCUDS - by one - have been fired at us than at
Saudi Arabia, where the coalition forces are mainly based. The obvious
collusion of Iran in this flight for preservation of the Iraqi
aircraft adds an other element of uncertainty. We speculate on the
meaning of this flight; none of the scenarios are encouraging, from
the Israeli point of view.
The coalition views the picture differently; from their point of view,
the straight forward, pragmatic conclusion is operative - these planes
have been removed from the war scene, guaranteeing coalition air
supremacy. This difference in viewpoint indicates that Israel and the
coalition may have very different goals in the present conflict and
raises the issue of what, exactly, are the minimal goals for the
coalition. Since Israel is a neutral, except in the eyes of Saddam
Hussein and his supporters, both in Iraq and elsewhere, it is not strange
that our goals should be somewhat different from those of the USA and
its coalition partners in this conflict.
There is little doubt that the death of Saddam Hussein, the destruction
of the Iraqi military machine, and even strip- ping the ruling minority
party, the Bath, of power would please President Bush, and perhaps his
partners as well, even Arabs - President Mubarak of Egypt, for one. But
these do not appear to be goals that must be obtained in order to
satisfy the coa- lition, always worried about the ephemeral nature of
home sup- port for so distant a war, particularly if the price in casual-
ties is too high and if the war continues behind the brief attention
span that characterizes mass opinion. The added burden in real cost
must also be taken into account; Britain, already burdened by a
recession,is now anxiously debating the cost of the war and where the
money to pay for it will come from.
What then are the minimal goals that the US and its coa- lition powers
accept? There is good reason to believe that if necessary - read:
wavering home support - Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait and paying some
sort of fine will be sufficient. It is clear that the damage to the
country's resources and supply lines, heavy equipment and armament will
prevent Iraq from entering into another similar adventure for some
reasonably long time. This worst case goal, however, cannot be accept-
able to Israel, which of course has no say in the matter.
Israel's goal - of necessity - includes destruction of both Iraq's long
range missiles and their launchers and the air- force, the sources of
Iraq's capability of attacking Israel. In addition, Israel can not rest
unless Saddam Hussein is eli- minated [killed, imprisoned for life,
permanently exiled - preferably the first, the only irreversible method
among these]; we remember too well the reemergence of Nasser after his
dramatic resignation speech in the aftermath of Egypt's defeat by Israel
in the Six Day War.
The scenario that sends chills down our spines is one that begins after
the war, with Saddam Hussein and his airforce - more than 700 planes -
intact. A call by a postwar Iraq, with Saddam Hussein at its head, for
a Holy War of all Moslem nations, includ- ing Iran - a long time leader
in the Islamic campaign to destroy Israel - as well as the Arab states
in the region, lead by Syria and financed by Saudi Arabia and the
oil-rich Emirates is a reason- able possibility. The blow to Arab pride
that will follow any suit for peace by Saddam Hussein, even with Arabic
nations represented in the coalition, is predictable; Muslim right-wing
elements, in Iran and even among the Arab nations in the coalition
continue to undermine cooperation with the Western powers in the fight
against Iraq. Syrian, Jordanese and Lebonese newpapers do not hesitate
to suggest that the war is really between Israel and Islam, with America
and its partners fighting for Israel.
A combined Arab air assault on Israel, with the participation of an
almost intact Iraqi airforce may or may not be repulsed by Israel; but
there is little reason to doubt that the cost in lives and property
damage will provide - even in the best case - cause for Jewish tears for
generations to come. Coalition forces will probably be far from the
scene by that time; even if not, why would they interfere?
Are these nightmares unwarranted?
Can we rely on Israel's new popularity to galvanize world-wide support
to prevent such an attack by the Muslim airforces?
As a Jew, and as an Israeli, I am suspicious of our newly gained
popularity. As pleasant as it is to be the sudden recipient of such
welcome warmth and approval - after so long a time in the cold, after so
much disapproval - from the nations of the world, something is wrong.
In view of our recent history all the expres- sions of admiration for
our restraint do not quite ring true.
The Pope himself has even joined in the chorus of praise, although his
court, the Vatican, still does not recognize Israel's existence.
Why is our popularity dependent on our suffering loss? Is this the
requirement for winning the approval of other nations? Or are other
nations judged by different rules, by their actions and inactions alone?
When the Israeli Airforce attacked and destroyed Tamuz, the Iraqi
nuclear reactor at Ossirak - whose French nuclear engineers NOW freely
admit was built for military purposes alone - we were condemned by all.
Were we better off, some ask, with the disfavor of the world weighing
heavily upon us, with confidence in our being in the right and our
ability to defend ourselves? Better off than today, with our dead, our
wounded, our homeless, with the status of an obedient client state and
the favor of the world?
Is our blood, we ask in Israel, worth the favor of the world? And how
ephemeral is this favor? Will it continue when we stop bleeding? Will
it continue if we finally act to defend ourselves?
And even if we behave, bleed silently, show restraint, we ask, how long
will the favor we have found last? The very same politi- cians and
governments that praise us so fulsomely now were those that condemned
us, placed economic sanctions on us, when was it? Why, only yesterday.
Why are we to trust them now?
Today, in a rush to appease the Arab nations, to prevent premature
dissolution of the coalition, just as our restraint is meant to do, the
US and Russia announced - without consulting us - that they will lead a
conference to settle the Middle East problems immediately after the
successful resolution of the Persian Gulf crisis. What do they mean by
this? I do not know. But the Muslim states in this region will
understand it as a promise to create a Palestinian state, all our
objections not withstanding. And they will not allow any other
Did our restrain earn us the right to consultation before making so
untimely - for us - a decision and announcement? No, not even that.
No linkage, we were promised. The Iraqi conquest of Kuwait is not
linked to the Palestinian problem, we were told. Has Saddam Hussein
already won one victory, so early in the war?
So to what end do we toil? The PLO, despite its committment to and
support of Saddam Hussein is to be punished by having its dream
realized. And Israel, after behaving "well," showing restraint,
absorbing loss to life and property quietly, will be rewarded by being
forced to swallow the poison we fear most. Is there any question that
we have a right to be skeptical?
Moreover, the position we find ourselves in, characterized by complete
dependence on the US - only some of the military information obtained by
satellites shared, refusal to give Israel aircraft identi- fication
codes to prevent clashes with coalition aircraft - and restraint where
we would usually punish attacks on us, is both un- natural and perhaps
dangerous as well. We have invested heavily over the years, since the
founding of our state, in the development and strenghthening of our
ability to defend ourselves. Our environment is hostile; all the
surrounding nations - both those in the coalition and those opposed to
it - have signed a compact to root us out of the Middle East, to destroy
It appears that our good behavior has brought us one step closer to
realization of the Arab/Muslim goal to rid themselves of us.
This is too heavy a price; we will not remain passive.
I have been asked if this is a good war? I do not think that there is
such a thing as a good war. War is bad. Killing can only be justified
to prevent wanton murder. [By the way, the seventh commandment - in the
original Hebrew - does not read "Thou shalt not kill" as it is usually
renderded, but "Thou shalt not murder."] That is the case with this war;
it is a justifiable war, born out of necessity. Out of the need to
prevent wanton murder.
Thursday, 31 January
Cautious Return to Normalcy
It has rained and the winds continue to howl as winter finally comes to
us. For the second night, we have had no attack. Those of us who
succeeded, myself among them - I thank all those concerned readers who
wrote, worried about my loss of sleep - slept well. I managed a solid 7
hours. It helps. The rain has been plentiful and it has again snowed
on Mount Hermon, all needed to replenish our waning water supply. And
there have been loud thunder storms, as well.
In Tel Aviv, many were frightened by the thunder and thought that they
were under attack, with bombing quite close. The radio kept
broadcasting reassurances. This morning, life in Tel Aviv is beginning
to return to normal. Cafeterias at places of work, empty until now,
were filled. Appetites had returned. It is wonderful what two days of
quiet can do to frayed nerves.
Women tell me that they have undergone a change in their sense of time.
Women who used to feel that there never was enough time now find
themselves sitting down to watch TV early in the afternoon. If - as
they had formerly believed - 24 hours is not enough time to do all they
had to, how is now possible for them to waste time? Men feel the same,
but do not admit it.
People speculate on the effect of our exposure on world TV. Will we now
be more acceptable, less strange? Even more attractive in their eyes?
We think that we did not do too badly on CNN. Does this mean that -
once this all over - more tourists will come, that more people will want
to meet us, face to face?
But life is still not normal. Yes, we can see joggers once again, a
few, but we had not seen them for two weeks. A few brave people in Tel
Aviv have returned to the empty swimming pools. What a place to be
caught in a raid! In a bathing suit!
We are - with some embarrassment - a bit proud of ourselves. All Tel
Aviv thought of leaving the city at one point or another. Only
relatively few actually did so. We have survived [for the time
being]! It is as if we went through the Blitz. We have faced the
unknown and survived - and that is a very good feeling. But there still
is uncertainty as to tonight, and tommorrow. We do not talk about that.
People actually look better. You can see it. Less haggard, less
No, it is not yet over. But we have had a breathing spell, a much
needed breathing spell. And we are stronger now. That is good to know,
important to know.
People go home earlier than they used to. As early as 14:30 the major
roads in the cities begin to fill up; trips that took only 15 minutes in
normal times now take an hour - the congestion.
Sex? Even that. We have begun to talk about it; that must be a first
An unpredictable increase in the purchase of training suits has taken
place here. People do not want to be caught in their pajamas,
nightgowns, or underwear if an alarm is sounded at night. The training
suit is the solution to that problem.
Tommorrow, my son returns from the Far East. We had worried about his
wandering alone in such strange places, but when the war began, my wife
and I, his sister and his brothers all agreed that he was much safer
there than he would be here. When he called and said that he wanted to
cut short his trip - it has been "only" 4 1/2 months - we tried to talk
him out of it. We were proud that he felt he had to return; after all,
he had been a severe critic of Israeli policy, what he saw as
intransigence. But we were worried about his safety. "There is nothing
for you to do here", I said. But he was adamant, and is now about to
return. We still are proud of him - but wish that he had stayed.
Palestinian Arabs in Lebanon have been bombarding us with rockets for
the last three days. Most of these rockets have landed in the security
zone in the south of that country, where a local militia of Lebanese,
aided by us, has become a buffer between the waring factions in that
unsettled country and us. The motivation of the militia is not to aid
us but to keep out these guerrilas who do not hesitate to kill local
citizens, steal and occupy villages. We share interests with the
militia, which is strongly supported by the local population, a very
workable relation. Luckily the rockets have caused insignifi- cant
West of the security belt is another, less effective, buffer zone,
policed by troops of various countries, under United Nations auspices.
In the past day and a half, three Palestinian guerrilas, attempting to
reach northern settlements in Israel have been killed. The mission of
these Palestinian Arabs was to attack settlements, kill settlers and
prove Palestinian identification with Saddam Hussein. Thus far, they
have not succeeded. We retaliated by bombing staging centers for these
What was the UN response? Why, naturally, it was to reduce the number
of soldiers under United Nations supervision in the area. Just as the
UN did in 1967, in Sinai, when Nasser threatened Israel. Is it not yet
understandable to the rest of the world why we are so loth to rely on
the promises of external agencies or countries when it comes to our
Meanwhile Peter Arnett's staged interview with Saddam Hussein has been
released. We can understand the Palestinian drive to actively identify
with Saddam more easily when he says that he "sees through the plot; he
knows that it is Israel who is fighting with Iraq" and the US and its
coalition partners are only doing Israel's work.
Saddam Hussein did not forget to thank the peace demonstrators, whom he
characterizes as agreeing with him that Iraq is fighting a war against
I have suggested that Israel might be more effective than the coalition
forces in eliminating certain strategic targets - especially the SCUD
missile launchers - because of Israeli willingness to engage in
low-level bombing and our expertise in that form of bombing.
There is good reason to believe that US satellites can,at the time of
firing, pick up the launch heat flare and thereby localize launchers.
The US - we believe - will not take full advantage of this knowledge
because of a policy not to engage in low-level bombing runs, a
hestitancy bred by an attempt to minimize US casualties. There is
reason to believe - as part of US desire to keep Israel out of the
conflict, at least as an active participant - that the US is not sharing
knowledge of these launcher sightings with Israel.
Twelve US Marines dead. Sad. War is a process which increases the
chance of dying. "Will the US stand fast?" we ask.
The F-117 videos that have been shown are indeed impressive, showing
pinpoint accuracy during night flights. Most bombing, however, is
carried out from high altitides, where US smart bombs are reported to
have a 60% accuracy rate, meaning that 60% of the bombs land within 10
feet of their target. Misses are usually the result of failure of
sophisticated aiming devices; for example, if the bomb is unable to
follow the laser beam into its target - as the result of malfunctions or
weather disturbances - the bomb may land as much as 5 miles from the
target. The American decision not to engage in too much low-level
bombing has been reinforced by the excessive losses suffered by the
British Tornados, which specialized in low-level attacks on airfields.
Moshe Arens, the Israeli Minister of Defense, in a TV inter- view,
seemed to indicate that Israel was being inhibited by US refusal to
share the identification codes used in their aircraft. Israeli jets, as
do the coalition aircraft, carry the IFF (Identify Friend or Foe)
transponder. This device, when used by the coalition, allows allied
planes and even Patriot missiles to determine whether to attack or not.
Modern planes can shoot down enemy jets which the pilot can- not even
see; moreover, if we are talking about night bombing, the pilot must
depend completely on his instruments. Thus, any plane not broadcasting
the proper IFF codes might be shot at. The Patriot missile was
originaly designed to shoot down planes, and it still can; it too looks
for the IFF signals. Even though Israeli planes are different from
Iraqi planes, if the Israelis launched an attack,the US planes would
have to intercept the Israeli planes and confirm that they were indeed
Moreover, it is likely that Israeli planes, not equipped with IFF codes
would not be able to differentiate between French and Iraqi [Guess where
they came from.] Mirage aircraft. Thus, the likelihood of someone
beginning to fire, with everybody joining in, is real. Furthermore,
coalition interceptors would be diverted from their other missions in
order to check out the Israeli planes, whose presence would be
unexpected (both to surprise the Iraqis and to circumvent American calls
It rains. We have had two quiet nights. Another night closes in on us.
What will it bring?
Title Page || 2: February, 1991 >>