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Jittery Journey: The Grrl Returns from Israel (with grayer hair)

EilatAirp.JPG

“Enjoy Eilat” sign on the small airport for Israel’s Red Sea resort town, as seen from my hotel
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

It was difficult for me to “Enjoy Eilat,” the Red Sea beach resort to which my husband and I traveled at the end of our two-week sojourn in Israel.

As readers of my previous post and followers of the last 34 entries on my Twitter feed know, I endured a “frying pan-into-the-fire” scenario during these last three weeks: I had been happy to leave the U.S. on Nov. 4 to visit what was then a peaceful Israel, having spent six days at home in New Jersey with no power, heat, hot water or Internet (but also, thankfully, no damage), in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. But the last few days of my trip made me recall fondly those inconveniences, when the land of milk and honey became the land of rockets and mortar.

My beat is art, not artillery. I was too petrified to go to Petra, the spectacular archaeological city in Jordan, across the border, which was the goal of the few from my tour who had opted for the “Eilat Extension.” (The others must have considered themselves lucky, having gotten home just before the onset of serious hostilities.)

My husband, much braver than CultureChick(en), hopped on the bus to Petra, returning to our hotel much later than expected (causing me more anxiety), and sharing with me his eat-your-heart-out photos:

Petra.jpg
The Treasury at Petra
Photo by CultureSpouse

I fled Israel very early yesterday morning without any direct experience of sirens or rocket blasts, but with firsthand knowledge of the underlying tension that is a way of life for its embattled citizens. The places I visited and information I received also gave me a deeper understanding of why the Jews, oppressed and outcast repeatedly over many centuries, need and should support a homeland that’s ready to embrace them.

Because of the power of images, the Jewish state generally appears as the aggressor in media coverage of Palestinian-Israeli conflicts, even in situations (like the current one), when the first mortars are fired at Israel from Gaza. The seeming bias in many reports can be attributed as much to the journalistic appetite for sensational images of destruction and bloodshed as to the political proclivities of reporters and editors. That said, Israel’s bombing early yesterday of a facility housing production studios that were reportedly used by Fox News, Sky News, CBS and Germany’s ARD television cannot have endeared it to the media.

A side-effect of Israel’s superior firepower, military acumen and defense technology is that wrenching images of property damage and casualties are coming mostly from the Palestinian side and these are inevitably featured prominently in the media. The fact that there have so far been comparatively few casualties in Israel is attributable to that country’s superior defense capabilities, not to Hamas’ lack of trying.

In particular, Israel’s new “Iron Dome” rocket-interception system, deployed near Tel Aviv on Saturday, two months early, has helped neutralize rockets aimed at that major population center.

Isabel Kershner of the NY Times reports:

Iron Dome has successfully intercepted more than 300 rockets fired at
densely populated areas
[emphasis added], with a success rate of 80 to 90 percent, top
officials said. Developed with significant American financing and
undergoing its ultimate battle test, the Iron Dome system has saved many
lives, protected property and proved to be a strategic game changer,
experts said.

The ultimate “game changer” would be a ceasefire followed by an effective peace plan. Everyone ultimately wants peace. We just have different ideas of how to achieve it. An end to hostilities will never endure so long as one group achieves “peace” at the expense of another.

For now, this sign that I encountered on the beach of Eilat, expressing a sentiment that resonates in three languages, seems more wistful than real:

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Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

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