War on the Horizon in the Galilee…Here’s my article in today’s Wall Street Journal.
- DIANA BLETTER
Shavei Zion, Israel
When four Grad rockets were fired from Lebanon on Aug. 22 in the direction of our village in northern Israel, about 70 miles from the Syrian border, my husband Jonny and I were talking to some of our sons’ 20-something friends in our living room. There was a rattling, and the windows shook. I looked at Jonny and said, “Oh no.”
“Oh yes,” he replied.
Seconds later, the village siren went off. It sounded like a wail—deep-throated and full of emotion—but instead of diving into our reinforced room, we all went outside to see what was happening. We looked up and saw two trails of smoke. The Iron Dome missile-defense system had intercepted two of the rockets, blowing them out of the sky.
One rocket landed about eight miles from our house, and the other landed a few blocks away, hitting a nonprofit hotel run by a German Christian charity that offers free-of-charge vacations for Holocaust survivors. The rocket blew out at least 60 of the hotel’s windows, sending shattered glass everywhere.
“It was a miracle that nobody was hurt,” said Dorit Bayer, who has run the hotel with her husband, Shmuel, for more than 20 years. As soon as Mr. Bayer heard the first explosion, he herded all the residents from the dining room into the hotel’s bomb shelter. The following day, village residents were helping the hotel staff to clean up.
The explosions and the sirens were eerily reminiscent of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War, when more than 30 Katyusha rockets fired by Hezbollah landed in our immediate vicinity. None landed within our village, although a few landed in the sea and in the sunflower fields near our house. During a lull in the bombing during that war, one of our sons rode his bicycle to watch as several sappers from the Israeli police bomb-squad came to inspect the damage. One sapper scooped up some sunflowers and said, “Wow, the rocket roasted these just right!”
Israelis are usually unflappable, but nobody is acting nonchalant right now. I dusted off our family’s gas masks in May, concerned that the civil war in Syria would spill over into our borders. Now the U.S. and its allies are considering a military response to Bashar Assad‘s recent gas attacks against Syrian civilians.
“If that is what they do to their own people,” groused a friend, Yohai, “just think what they’ll do to us.”
Israelis are currently in the midst of preparing for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. But in addition to buying gifts and extra food for holiday meals, people are stocking up on supplies in case Syria or Iran retaliate against an American-led strike by attacking Israel.
But why is Israel being dragged into a conflict that has nothing to do with us? The Brigades of Abdullah Azzam, a Lebanon-based Sunni Muslim group linked to al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for last week’s rocket fire. Their intent was possibly to spur Israel into entering a war against Assad.
“So, remind me again about who’s fighting whom,” I asked Jonny after last week’s attack.
“Well, the enemy of your enemy is your friend,” he said. I’ve lived in the Middle East since 1991, but I’m still as confused as ever by all the conflicts, which seem to stretch back as far as the Crusades. Jonny explained that the Brigades are Sunnis fighting against Assad, while the Shiites—such as Iran’s regime and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah—are defending him.
So since al Qaeda is fighting Assad, an avowed enemy of Israel, does that mean Israel and al Qaeda are now buddy-buddy? Hardly.
All I know is that our neighbors are cleaning out their bomb shelters and getting them ready. Reserve soldiers are being called up. Our gas masks are back on the highest shelf of our outdoor shed—out of sight but not out of mind. This week I invited some friends for dinner on Friday night. One friend RSVPed this way: “We’ll come at seven o’clock unless, of course, there’s a war.”