Day 12 of the war
Yesterday, Sunday, started out rough, but got better. After we send a brave lone soldier off, I got a phone call from a strange Israeli man, turning my brain on red alert. Call turned out to be recorded by a marketer from our new cellphone service (what they learn from America!), driving home hard what Israelis, who sadly have long experience in this matter, have been telling me daily: no news is good news.
As the day wore on, Jacques and I had a nice café breakfast at the innovative and organic Café Louise (in Tel Aviv and Haifa, highly recommended). We tracked the news over café afuch (Israeli cappuccino, Europeans have nothing over folks here in the coffee department), and the ceasefire, like a rocky romance, was on again off again, seemed fundamentally to want to stick.
Even better, I was surrounded by news from soldiers yesterday, mostly friends of Sara. They are at the front: men and women in green/khaki/blue/white see the war from a viewpoint I only wonder about. Here is what I gleaned from soldiers.
In Hebrew on Facebook an IDF combat soldier posted a paragraph to pass around. He was baffled by the ‘melancholy’ families and friends feel inside Israel. At the front he feels like he is getting the job done, slowly and steadily every day. The catch, and in war there is always a catch, beside the “hard fighting,” was the “use of children.” What does that even mean? I tried to match it to an account from a soldier Sara knows who, at the time the Haifa American combat soldier fell (still breaking my heart), was firing at the enemy when a 10-year-old boy was pushed into the arena. A Hamas son, a Hamas nephew. He was shot, according to our boy, by a Gazan. But really – it doesn’t matter, which is what the Israelis have been stating, even screaming, all along. Children in Gaza are war props put on offer by their own families, so no wonder we are melancholy, even in victory. Fear not, the Gazans did not waste the life of this 10-year old boy, they photographed his dead body for many long minutes. If they are lucky, you saw it on the news. When our boys come back home, and the war is over, the news will pour out and we will know more.
Israel isn’t saying how many tunnels are left, or what comes next, and there is wide speculation in the press. Follow the IDF on twitter. David Lerner, an Israeli and a Brit, is a clear spokesman and he has released several on-the-scene videos, in Hebrew with English subtitles. In them, all dressed in protective gear and armed, the Israelis look scary, fierce, but they are not, they are our sons, thousands of Eric’s, in a very trying position. Gazan sons start military training (instead of summer camp!) by age 10 so that kid being photographed was, in Hamas-world, a soldier. This is not a world to be emulated, or honored. It is a world where we see IDF soldiers in a video pointing out heavily booby trapped buildings set next to their schools, prepped for Israelis to enter, trip the wires, and blow up, school an all, for the benefit of CNN and John Kerry.
Our boys’ job is to not fall into booby traps. But the creativity of the juxtapositions is mind boggling. You know the U-pipe under your sink that always leaks, no matter where you live? One Gaza family does not have that worry. Under their kitchen sink is the entrance to a tunnel. Refrigerator, pantry, cutlery drawer, tunnel.
The ceasefire did largely hold during the day, if you discount relatively occasional rocket fire into Israel. Despite an imperfect calm, war news has slowed down since Saturday. Not stopped. 43 fallen. But indeed the job does seem to be getting done.
After 12 days, we understand kids aren’t calling home because cellphone batteries are long dead. Instead soldiers who get outside Gaza are sharing news of sightings. A soldier-to-soldier phone chain.
And someone in the chain apparently saw Eric on Friday! There were other good sightings, a FB photo of our re-equipped soldier back with his unit, enjoying spoils from home. A friend of Sara’s from the kibbutz. All this news from Sara’s soldier network did more to relax me than any blogging. They are connected, brothers in arms. And suddenly Gaza seemed like the University of XXX , with undergrad and graduate aged soldiers passing each other on the way to and from missions, waving, exchanging greetings, comparing beards.
The pulsing of a new Red Alert siren on my phone has started to feel shocking again, provoking a strong outrage that is really a gentle whisper that we expect a return to normalcy.