Daily Telegraph, 17 July 2006
THEY’RE going through a routine I know so well. Life in a concrete bomb shelter isn’t pleasant, but with Hezbollah rockets aimed at Israeli towns and villages it’s a necessity of life.
Food and water is always made ready. The walls inside the shelters for kids are painted with bright colours and stocked with toys to keep them from going nuts when living underground for days on end.
Overground passages between shelters are covered with concrete, though you still have to run through them because they’re not rocket-proof.
I milked cows for 2 1/2 years at Rosh Hanikra, a village just inside the Israel-Lebanon border. Hezbollah would send over a volley of rockets – usually 50 or so at a time – every three months or so.
It’s horrible to know people want you dead just because you’re alive. The rocket attacks weren’t – and still aren’t – about destroying infrastructure. They’re not even about putting pressure on the government.
They’re about killing as many people as possible.
When Israel kills a civilian, it apologises and launches an investigation. When Hezbollah or Hamas kill civilians, they dance in the streets. That’s the difference.
Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000 – from a security barrier designed to stop the exact thing happening now – and Hezbollah supposedly lost its raison d’etre. Despite the thousands of Iranian-supplied rockets pointed at Israel and bellicose threats from north of the border, we fooled ourselves into thinking that maybe there would be peace.
We were wrong.
Hezbollah has attacked Israeli troops inside Israel dozens of times since 2000. Once they even stole some bodies – but they’d never kidnapped soldiers before. And to do so under the cover of rocket attacks, well…
When the news started coming in, all I heard was a woman was killed in Nahariya, the closest town to my former village, and dozens were wounded. My friends work in that town. Their kids go to school there.
I tried but of course I couldn’t get hold of anyone – there’s no mobile phone reception in a bomb shelter. Besides, the networks were crashing.
Black humour in Israel holds that you know when there has been a bomb because you can’t make a phone call. Six million people with mobiles are ringing their friends and family to make sure they’re still alive, and the networks can’t cope.
It took me almost an entire day to find out if my friends were alive. Thank God they are, but it’s been sleepless nights and dozens of phone calls since. Telstra is going to love me.
* Bren Carlill was a volunteer on Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra for 2 1/2 years. He is now an Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council policy analyst.