By Barry Steinberg
For those rigidly adhering to civil defense instruction, a few hours are set aside to emerge from their cave-like existence, into the vast summery daylight. They can exercise themselves or their dogs, provision their pantries, or water their garden. In Eilon there are people who have a tough time breaking with routine. On these usually gray and overcast mornings, you can find them huffing up hill by the main gate, pummeling the air with their short mechanical aerobic rhythms.
Those hours put aside for essentials and self-ventilation are set by the military, who are reputed to know their business. They reasonably assure us that there is less certainty of a Hezbollah rocket falling in our vicinity. Fewer guns are expending their noisy ordnance and more citizens in and around Tyre can make their getaway north, unperturbed by the resumption of shelling.
Most of the batteries here probably raise their guns toward Tyre, the focus of increased rocket attacks in recent days. Sometimes the immense noise raised by these cannons abates for an unspecified time, and then just as suddenly they catch their stride in a relentlessness cannonade that lasts hours.
Yesterday, having consulted the vet, Debby and I had to be decisive about tranquilizing Zed, our dog. The constancy of the artillery fire which picked up yesterday at around ten in the evening must be traumatizing. We wonder will there be lasting effects? This was interesting because for most of the day, aside from your lazy casual lob into Lebanon, it was quiet. People phoning from overseas inquired, “How are things?” and we replied, “It’s been very quiet, at least for now.”
That sort of thing changes whenever there is an incoming wave of rockets. The gunners then get busy, and the shooting then becomes feverish.
The media has decided to set themselves up in Haifa and keep us informed of each siren alert. It is all very dramatic once the alert is sounded. They say that there is about a minute and a half, tops, to find some kind of shelter. This is, if there is no specific air raid shelter, a building and an inner room within such a building. We have learned that much of a building remains intact once a rocket makes a direct impact on the exterior walls. People are invariably saved from the maximum damage if they position themselves near an inner wall, whereas deaths have resulted for those located near the point of impact. The margin for life and death is measured in mere feet! The public is also reminded that the greater damage caused by these rockets is not the force of the explosion itself, which is considerable, but the shrapnel that is dispersed upon exploding. Many of these rockets are loaded with tiny ball bearing like pellets which are propelled and lodge in masonry, pierce automobiles and can cause considerable bodily harm at a fair distance from the point of impact.
Because of the media presence in Haifa, we can wait out the fall of an incoming salvo of rockets between television commercials. After the commercial we learn that it was a false alarm, but was it really?
Reports begin coming in to the studio of attacks in the north, where fewer sirens and shorter intervals for ducking into buildings exist. Sometimes the focus is taken away from Haifa, and reports begin to come in from various parts of the country, reminding me of the “old days” and the walkie-talkie check of guard duty positions in the watch towers, the children’s dormitories, and the patrol jeep. It was freezing outside; you were fighting off boredom, growing increasingly somnolent by each elastic minute.
During a lull, the authorities warn the public which often tends toward complacency, to become heedful and vigilant. One or two such attacks suffice to shut the city down. The authorities encouraged some people to go to work and yesterday one person was killed at his workplace while the other was killed en route to work.
Mohammad from Tamra is no longer insusceptible to these warnings. I saw Mohammad early this morning while he was making the fertilizer delivery.
He was on the road in Haifa yesterday when the sirens sounded. Thinking it nothing, he still decided to take precautions. He left his car in the road and hurried to the nearest house. As he reached the building a series of nearby explosions, striking hammer-like, jolted him from his lethargy. He spoke of a common destiny and the eternal demon that poisons relations between peoples. He made his position clearer and sharper than the corrosive chemical that he was pumping into our tanks.