The eye of the Hurricane

After being busy with the submission of two research proposal and trying to stay afloat with the pretty heavy teaching load I have this semester, I decided I should take a short break and post something on my blog. I actually have quite a few things I have been wanting to write about, but it seems that the most relevant thing is the the mini-war which is raging not to far from here. So, I thought I'd stray from my usual and write about the middle east.

Anyway, living in Israel is like perpetually living in the eye of a Hurricane. Everything around is in a big turmoil, but Israel itself manages to keep life surprisingly peaceful. It means that if you learn not to listen to the news every hour, you have a pretty good life.

As things would have it, as I finished writing the lines of the previous paragraph I had to take a pause and run to the shelter after hearing the eerie sound of a raid siren! This made me think of a few things.

First, I don't know why it is so eerie, perhaps it is the idea that you're now a sitting duck or the fact that you actually hear it from several sources simultaneously, giving the sound a strange tone to it (plus, making it impossible to localize).

Second, It is the first time I heard this siren since the first gulf war, when I (and other Israelis) served as Scud missile targets. In any case, I think this is the first time since the early 70's that rockets were sent towards Jerusalem. It seems that Hamas tried to target the Knesset (at least so they say), though they missed it by about 10 km. Of course, I won't say to which direction, since it is not a good habit to do! (In The Yom Kippur war, for example, a stupid news reporter told all the radio listeners, including the Syrians, that a FROG-7 missile landed on Migdal HaEmek, the Syrians then corrected their aim and hit the Ramat-David airbase killing a pilot).

Third, this single incident (well, I hope it remains single) makes you realize what Israelis living next to Gaza have been feeling for the past 10 years, which brings me back to what I was writing about before the siren.

Although for the most part, most of Israel has been enjoying a rather peaceful existence, this is not the case for everyone in Israel. Residents of towns next to the Gaza strip have been living under a barrage of rockets for the past 11 years. During this time, about 5500 rockets where launched towards these towns (over 10000 if you count the mortar shells too). For comparison, London during WWII was on the receiving end of about 10000 V-1 and V-2 rockets.

So, it is not surprising that Gaza is finally on the receiving end. Although I am pessimistic about it, I do hope it will take the taste of war from the Hamas for a few years—that they will think twice before launching even a single rocket towards Israel, just like the 2006 campaign in Lebanon made that border quiet from Katyusha's ever since.

It is however always good to put things in perspective. Over 10 years, around 20 Israelis died from rockets. 3 During the present campaign. The number of Gazans who died over the past week is roughly 20, of whom quite a few were militants (e.g., setting up rockets). For comparison, the number of road casualties in Israel is roughly 390 a year (5.2 per 100,000 per year, compared with 12.3 in the USA! we have very few drunk drivers...). About 850 Egyptians died turing the over throw of their government. 2000 died in Yemen, and perhaps 30000 in Libya. The number of Syrian's killed by Syrian's in the present civil war has been about 40,000. So, even the little war is still part of the peaceful eye of the Hurricane.

Let me end with a link or two. Talking about hurricanes, if you want to know what some clerics think about Hurricane Sandy, check this link on memri.org. And if that didn't make you raise an eyebrow, look at this this link (That site is excellent. All it does is translate arab media into english, letting us westerners really know what Arabs really think).

I could make it a more scientific blog entry by calculating why it takes 1.5 min for a rocket to get from Gaza to Jerusalem, or something about the balistics of the .22 Baretta I shot today (yep I did, makes you wonder doesn't it?), but I'll go to sleep instead.

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Comments

Please keep safe Nir. God bless. Will be praying for you.
Robin

I feel very safe. Mind you, there was only one missile attack on Jerusalem (and even that almost hit a palestinian village in the west bank!). It would have been different if I would have lived within say 10 miles of the Gaza strip. There, people have had to endure the raining of 10000 rockets over 10 years, which to say the least is quite unpleasant. Also, the situation improved dramatically with the deployment of the Iron Dome system. In fact, yesterday the 5th Iron Dome system was deployed and two hours later it already shot down rockets aimed at Tel-Aviv.

Hi Nir,

Good to see you again in Munich! Sorry I had to leave on Friday night already. Trust your presentation Saturday was well-recieved and resulted in stimulating discussion - and that your return home was uneventful.

I was meaning to ask you a question: Is it true that the average resident in S. Israel, upon hearing a missile warning, will look skyward for the chance at witnessing realtime if Iron Dome makes a successful hit, instead of running for cover?

Kurt in Switzerland

P.S. Thanks for the Memri link (just in case anyone was in doubt where Salafist Clerics would take Egypt).
P.P.S. Good luck with getting further research funding!

Well... the average person does go to look for cover, at least those really close to the Gaza strip. Those further away could be less strict, but they're taking a chance! Anyway, the reason israel had so few casualties is because people did obey the requests by the civil defense command.

Nir,

I just found this post, where you talk about the real situation in Israel, not science. There are things that one can criticise about Israeli policies and actions, from an outsider's viewpoint, but here's what I think: Israel is the only liberal democracy that exists in the whole of the Middle East and North Africa; its foundation responded to the discrimination against Jews for nearly 2,000 years in Europe (where the Jews were forced to go by the Roman conquest), and specifically the Holocaust. My country (UK) played a dubious role during the foundation of Israel, and I'm sorry. Critics of Israel cite the number of deaths caused by its responses to systematic and long-lived aggressions, but fail to report properly those previous aggressions (rockets from Hamas, for example). I have nothing against Arabs or Muslims in general, I've been friends with various of them, but you (plural) have the right to live in peace in your own land, and the right to defend that. Stay safe! Shalom!

I think that this is the first time for a long while that it was clear among most rational people that Israel had all the right to respond forcefully. No other nation in the western world would have let rockets be launched into its area without a response.