Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Israel Letters

Here are a couple emails from my family in Israel. My aunt is the first, my 2nd cousin (maybe even 3rd) is the 2nd. I guess this is more for me to remember than for you guys to find interesting.

Hi to all,
The news is no news or great news for now. No cease fire and diplomacy at this time doesn't seem to be working.
Today Eli and I are driving up North to meet Maureen (my cousin who's in the army) and give her cartons of food (cakes, cookies, snacks, etc.) that people donated in our supermarket. Then we are going to visit Eli's uncle in Kiryat Bialik.
There are alot of people in Hefziba - Bet Alfa from the northern areas.
Dad (my grandfather) and Erna (his chica) just called and they are returning either Monday or Tuesday (from Europe) and then we shall see. I think at first they will be at Ruthie's and then with us. But I plan to see them after they arrive.
Lori (my cousin) is in Beer Sheva - one more test and Lotan (my other cousin) is in Bolivia. He called a few days ago and keeping up to date as to what is happening here.
How are you and what have you been doing?
Keep in touch and enjoy your weekend.

Hi dear friends and family,

I have given in to writing one letter to all because I am finding it hard to keep up with all the emails coming in these days. Don't misunderstand me ….I am NOT complaining, at least about that. Your mails of support mean a lot to us and I pass the word on to Mickey (her son) too.

The situation these days just seems to be getting worse and worse. Each day more injured and killed. Yesterday a 15 year old girl was killed by a rocket in her own home and her 12 year old sister was injured. In Haifa a man had a heart attack and died while running to the shelter. This morning they're reporting 6 soldiers injured in Lebanon. It's not even 9 am.

We are learning about war in a way that we never understood it before.

First I should say, Mickey is still stationed on a base nearby. He is very safe.

On the other hand, Mickey is going crazy there. After their group (I still don't have the official army names down yet… division maybe? Unit?) finished training, they were divided up. Some stayed down south. Some were sent to various bases around the country for further training for specific jobs (like Mickey) and others were sent up north. The majority went up north. Those guys are in Lebanon or on the border right now. Mickey talks to them everyday but he eats his heart out thinking about being with them during these hard times.

One of his close friends called him a couple of days ago after taking part in getting the fifth killed soldier out of the village in Lebanon that they had attacked. Mickey told me about the telephone call. He said that he thought that his friend was severely traumatized and that he surely would never be the same. He told me the conversation, screaming out the words as he said his friend did…."We were running for the tank with the body of the soldier and they were firing at us as we ran. I keep seeing it in my dreams. We climbed up onto the tank and tried to put the body into the tank but we couldn't get him in. Meanwhile we're being shot at all the time. We're trying to get him in but we can't get him in. HE WON'T GO IN AND THEY ARE FIRING AT US!! THEY ARE FIRING AT US!!"

"Now it's really close, Mom. This is a real war. Just like in the movies. Real weapons. Constant fighting." And even with these thoughts, Mickey wants to be with his friends. I know that he does not want to fight in Lebanon but in this time of distress, these guys think that the only way to get through it is together.

For the time being, Mickey and another friend from their unit are here safe. Both spend hours guarding and during their off hours, volunteer for any activity they can to feel that they are "helping the war effort". Mickey has been preparing tanks going up north. He does not complain about his work and only complains about being where he is. He says that he has no right to complain because the guys up north are the ones suffering. Meanwhile, it breaks my heart at how torn up he is and how he doesn't allow himself to feel bad or scared because he is not in mortal danger. I thank goodness for everyday that he is still stationed here and a bit guilty about knowing how bad that makes him feel.

Meanwhile, there are so many implications of war that we never think of and that are not covered by the media far away. Yes, we have fewer casualties than the Lebanese but not fewer victims.

At work the other day I got an email from a couple from Haifa who are both deaf and they had no way of hearing the alarms. They asked for our help.

Because of the economic problems in the country, municipal workers in some of the areas up north – including Naharia – have not received their salaries in 7 months! Now, if they want to go anywhere and get away, they can't afford to leave. (Reminds me of the hurricane that caught the poor of New Orleans at home because they couldn't leave.)

There are the elderly whose home nursing care workers have fled with their families leaving their elderly clients alone, without medication, food, treatment.

There was a single mother on TV yesterday with her two adult handicapped children. Both kids are in wheelchairs. She can't physically get them in and out of the shelter on her own so they never leave the shelter even when they don't have to be there. They've been in that small room for two weeks now.

There are kids who hear the sirens and the rockets landing day and night and don't understand why they have to be locked up in shelters during their summer vacation.

And all those people who have lost their income because they can't get to work and are now very concerned about how they will pay their bills. One guy, teary eyed, was on the news this morning. He has workers that he can't pay, a mortgage that he won't be able to pay, bills… What will he and the families of his workers do?

And on a bit of a brighter note, it is heartwarming beyond words to see how the country pulls together. Everyone is inviting people to stay in their homes (including Jewish families in central Israel housing Arab families), people are sending packages of toys for kids, volunteering to go entertain in the shelters (Our organization sends its mobile unit to provide kids' programs to summer camps of the evacuated and to shelters that they can reach safely. Yesterday they were in Afula.), stories of doctors who go from shelter to shelter helping the sick and elderly, food distribution to the unemployed, etc.

There have been entire weddings that have been relocated to the central area by volunteers.

Tourist and recreational services are offering free services to those from the north.

There are endless examples of how we pull together.

Am I rambling?

There are just so many thoughts and emotions involved and all we have is time to think and feel them because it occupies our days and nights.

And now, two weeks into this madness, all I want is for it to be over. So many people have suffered for what? Why don't those Arab fanatics realize that nobody could possibly benefit from all this? We may eventually have to negotiate and release a few hundred prisoners, but was it really worth it to them to kidnap those three soldiers and lose so much along the way?

I know that for the families of those killed and injured, for those who must now rebuild their homes, for the guys who will continue to dream of what they went through – on both sides, the answer is probably no.

So that is the news here…. We're okay all things considered.

Take care.

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