This article was posted on Jewish.com on Monday, July 16, 2006. The link is here.
Residents in center of Israel comfortable, but apprehensive as war in north and south rages.
At about 5 p.m.
every Shabbat afternoon, the parks in the comfortable Tel Aviv suburb
of Modi’in start to fill up with families. The little kids head for the
slides and swings in the sandbox, parents kick around a ball with their
older offspring, while pockets of adults getting together to review the
week’s events spontaneously form on and off. Usually, the chat among
the adults centers on sports, entertainment, kids’ schools and camps
and – this being Israel – naturally just a tad on politics and current
This weekend in Modi’in, though, there was only one
subject under discussion: the war in Gaza and the north of Israel. And
the discussion was surreal to say the least.
Here were a bunch
of 30- and 40-something Saturday afternoon quarterbacks, lounging under
the palm and pine trees that the well appointed city of Modi’in has planted
everywhere, feeling perfectly safe and relaxing on what otherwise would
seem to be an entirely ordinary afternoon, while all the while trying
to second guess what Israel should do next in an all out war blazing
less than a two-hour drive away.
“We need to just pound Lebanon,” a 40-something man named Paul said. “Show them who’s got the upper hand.”
“But what’s the end-game?” Eliot, another of the park’s pontificators, pronounced. “What are we trying to achieve?”
need to rearrange the players,” Johnny, a third member of the
contingent, said. “Get international supervision in to buffer the
“And block the supply channels from Syria and Iran,” someone else added. “They’ll eventually run out of missiles.”
a lot of missiles,” Eliot said, referring to estimates that Hezbollah
has some 15,000 rockets of varying strengths and distances.
About half-way through the discussion, someone arrived who had overheard the news. “They hit Tiberias,” she said breathlessly.
stood shocked for a moment. Tiberias is some 35 kilometers from the
Lebanese border – a different kind of missile must have been used.
not any farther than Haifa,” Johnny said finally, breaking the silence
and trying to downplay some of the surprise factor that a hit on the
ancient Roman fishing village on the shores of the Sea of Galilee
“My kid is supposed to be going to camp near Beit
Shean,” someone else added as the crowd began to grow. Beit Shean is
just south of Tiberias at the northern end of the Jordan Valley. Would
it now be in range? What about Tel Aviv…or Modi’in?
reservations for next weekend at Kfar Tavor,” said Yvan
dispassionately. “I guess we’ll be changing those plans.” Several
people nodded grimly.
“We need to go after Iran,” Paul stated
emphatically. “That’s where it’s all coming from. Hezbollah, Hamas,
they all act on orders from Tehran.”
“Syria should be targeted,
too,” added Johnny. “This is an opportunity. And we’ll only have a few
days before the international community condemns us for
‘disproportionate use of force.'”
“They already have,” Eliot said. “Didn’t you see the front page of the International Herald Tribune?”
IHT’s banner headline called out “Israel hits targets in Lebanon.” A
subhead read “Lebanese brace for long siege.” Any mention of the
kidnapping and audacious Hezbollah attack on an Israeli army patrol
that killed eight soldiers was by now buried five paragraphs in.
any connection between what was happening in Gaza and the north was
also hard, if not impossible, to find. Those who are familiar with the
way things have a habit of playing out in this part of the world know
that it’s only a matter of time before Israel will be blamed for being
the “sole aggressor” in another war to “displace innocent civilians.”
despite the tough talk, no one in the park in Modi’in – which is only a
few minutes from Ben Gurion international airport with its flights to
presumably safer shores – was thinking of going anywhere.
for?” Eliot said in response to a question on whether he is feeling
anxious about the situation. “”Modi’in is probably the safest place in
the country. Next to Jerusalem that is.”
Now, that’s got to be
one of the greatest ironies of this new war. For years, tourists and
Israelis alike wouldn’t go anywhere near Jerusalem – the center of the
suicide bombing campaign. Now, it’s one of the few places out of range
of the Katuyshas from Lebanon and the Kassams from Gaza.
used to go to vacation at the Holiday Inn in Ashkelon,” Yvan mused,
still thinking of alternatives to his trip to Kfar Tavor in the North.
But when Ashkelon was hit by Kassams from Hamas following the
kidnapping of Gilad Shalit two weeks ago, tourism dried up there as
Eventually, the conversation turned to more trivial
matters. England’s defeat in the World Cup still weighed heavily on
some members of Israel’s expatriate Jewish community. And then there’s
synagogue politics, a topic to rival even the most intense war talk. No
gathering in Israel could be complete without a blow by blow of who
said what to whom in shul.
The sun started to go down. The kids
were getting hungry. There wasn’t much anyone in the park could do on a
Shabbat afternoon about events in the North and the South of the
country. But they could feed their kids. They could tuck them into bed
and give them a good night kiss and tell them that everything was gong
to be just fine.
Johnny and Paul and Eliot and Yvan all headed
indoors where, once their impressionable youngsters were safely asleep,
they undoubtedly turned on their radios and televisions and picked up
the phones to engage in more Saturday afternoon quarterbacking.