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1: January, 1991

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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 impossible task.

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 citizen.

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 experience.

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 continue.

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 to all.

Subject: More News from Israel

22 January

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 Iraq.

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 full schedules.

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 retaliation, now.

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. Poison gas.

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, say now?

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 goal.

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 urban area.

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 functioning.

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 masks.

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

False Alarm

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 the Kinneret.

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 around.

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 siren. Waiting.

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 prevent confusion.

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 speaker.

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 given.

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 dying? Maybe.

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 secretive.

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.] valuable information.

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 that.

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 activity.

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 year old.

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 interpretation.

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 us.

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 worried.

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 step.

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 damage.

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 guerrila attacks.

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 safety?

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 coalition aggression.


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 friendly.

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 for restraint).


It rains. We have had two quiet nights. Another night closes in on us. What will it bring?


Title Page || 2: February, 1991 >>