Since this current round of fighting began, I’ve been overwhelmed by the concern shown in emails, messages and chats – friends, relatives and acquaintances checking in to see how we’re doing, voicing their love and support (both for us personally and for Israel as a whole) and reminding us to “stay safe”. And yet, no matter how many times I tell friends and loved ones abroad that we don’t live within missile range, it continues to sound like one of the most surreal statements I’ve ever written. Even after living here for more than twenty years, it’s still jarring to have to talk about one’s life in such terms, especially when our usual state of normal isn’t much different from the way my peers are living abroad.
There’s something very unnerving about day-to-day life under these conditions. On the one hand, a large portion of the southern part of the country is essentially under siege, being hit with barrage after barrage of missiles. Friends in the central part of the country have gotten a small – some would say very small – taste of what that’s like too, as Hamas tries to flex its muscles and show off its capabilities by periodically firing rockets in the direction of the greater Tel Aviv area and even towards Jerusalem. Yet here in the relative north, aside from noting the absence of colleagues and friends who’ve been called up for duty and a difference in the traffic on the roads, life continues as usual. It’s been so “normal”, in fact, that I haven’t felt the need to actually explain to my eight-year-old son what’s going on, instead preferring to follow his lead and address his questions as they arise.by Liza Rosenberg
I had the television news on this afternoon, but only for a little while. With my face buried in my computer screen and my ears picking up bits and pieces of the ongoing live reporting as I typed, every time I heard a siren, I jumped a little, momentarily startled and wondering for just a sliver of a second if it was coming from outside instead of the news report. We live far away from the rockets and missiles being fired at the south and now the center of the country, but in Israel, “far” is merely a relative term. Tel Aviv is just under an hour away by car, and Kiryat Malachi, the town where three people were killed by rocket fire on Thursday (and also the town where my husband is from and one of his brothers still lives), is just over an hour away if we take the Trans-Israel highway (known locally as Road 6), the country’s only toll road.
It’s sadly amazing to me how we always manage to seamlessly slip back into the jargon of war. My Facebook feed is filling up with words like rockets/missiles, sirens and booms, and people in “safer” parts of the country are letting friends and family know that they’ve got room for guests if anyone feels the need to get away. The “situation”, as times like these are always referred to, is discussed over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at a bat-mitzvah in a resigned, almost casual manner, simply because over the years, we have grown so used to periodically doing so.by Liza Rosenberg
Sometimes you hear a blast, but other times, the first thing you hear is a siren. You pause. You wait. Do you hear another siren, perhaps several? And then you sigh sadly and pick up the telephone to place a round of calls, because you know that more than one siren usually means a terror attack has taken place and you need to make sure that everyone is accounted for.
Sometime in either 2001 or 2002, during the height of the second Intifada, I upgraded my cell phone package so that I’d be able to make international calls. I was working in Netanya at the time – a preferred target of terrorists due to its relatively close proximity to the Green Line – and needed to be able to ring my parents in the US whenever an attack occurred somewhere close by; I wanted them to hear the news from me first. Those were frightening, stressful days, when lunchtime venues were selected based on whether there was a security guard at the door (and we were all quite happy to add an extra shekel or two to the bill to ensure that the guard remained) and people eyed each other warily in the streets, looking for signs that something might not be quite right – perhaps someone wearing a jacket or coat on a warm day or carrying what looked to be an unusually heavy bag.
Adding to my stress was the fact that bombs were also exploding around the area in which I lived (and still live). Not only was Hadera – another frequent target of attacks – only 10 minutes away, but buses and shared taxis were exploding on the main highway that passes near our home. And these weren’t even my closest brushes with terror. Once I missed a bombing at my train station by mere minutes, finding out what had happened from friends and relatives calling to find out where I was, knowing that I was often at the station at that time, waiting to be picked up. Another time, I waited for a bus at a bus stop in Tel Aviv, where 24 hours later, a suicide bomber blew himself up.by Liza Rosenberg
Against a backdrop of terror attacks being perpetrated by Hamas, Israeli and Palestinian leaders are currently meeting in Washington DC for the first direct talks in almost two years. Yesterday, I was asked by a producer at the BBC World Service radio show “The World Today” to address Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She asked me to speak from the heart, sharing my thoughts on the current situation and letting them know what I thought needed to be done.
The text below is the “letter” I wrote to President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu, which I recorded and sent to my producer at the BBC last night. It aired shortly thereafter. This piece was written specifically for the BBC World Service radio show “The World Today“.
If you’d like to listen to the recording, go to this link and click the “Listen Now” link. Go to the 20:35 minute mark or so, ignore the fact that the presenter gets my first name wrong TWICE, and try to remember that I’m a writer and not a radio person.
Dear President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu,
In the grand scheme of things, I am not important. I’m an Israeli, a writer, a wife… Right now, though, I speak to you as a mother – a mother whose greatest desire is simply to raise her son in an atmosphere that doesn’t breed hatred and fear.
Mr. Netanyahu, I am so, so tired of the actions of your government, which seemingly serve only to further isolate this country from the rest of the world. Trying to fix the situation with eloquent words doesn’t work. The problems don’t lie in the explanations, but rather in the actions themselves. Nobody believes that we are the victims anymore; they mock us for continuing to act as though we are. We cannot continue to say that we want peace when the actions we show the world are so clearly to the contrary. The occupation is eroding our collective moral compass.
Mr. Abbas, I don’t envy your position as leader of a fractured people without a country. That being said, when you and your colleagues continue to blame Israel for all of your problems, when it seems that you prefer not to take responsibility for the predicaments of the Palestinian people, it does nothing to build any trust on the Israeli side.
I do not pretend to understand all of the fine nuances of the security situation, nor do I entertain any illusions regarding the achievement of a solution. All I know is that the current situation is untenable. We need you to be strong leaders. We need you to make courageous, difficult, even painful decisions; decisions that will likely provoke outrage in certain sectors. Photo opportunities and joint press conferences are useless if nothing comes out of them.
When it comes down to it, I don’t have high hopes for this current round of direct negotiations. Experience has made me cynical, and neither of you seems terribly enthusiastic to be there. I dare you to surprise me and prove me wrong, if not for me, then at least for my son and his generation on both sides of the fence.by Liza Rosenberg
Late last week, I posted two blog entries about a rather disturbing error on an official UN web site. I mentioned the story to a journalist friend, who agreed with me that it was indeed newsworthy, and promptly wrote an article about the unfolding of these events.by Liza Rosenberg
Following yesterday’s post, I’m happy to announce that I received a follow-up email last night from my contact at the United Nations, letting me know that the text in question had been fixed. It now reads,
“The Lebanese Republic is a small, mostly mountainous country in the Western Asia, on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered by Syria to the north and east, and Israel to the south.”
So, dear readers, we have effected change.by Liza Rosenberg
Looks like the UN (or, to be more specific, the United Nations Development Programme) are at it once again. According to this link, passed on by friend and commenter Nicole,
“The Lebanese Republic is a small, mostly mountainous country in the Western Asia, on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered by Syria to the north and east, and Palestine to the south.”
The UNDP purports to be”the UN’s global development network, an organization advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life,” and it would seem that some of their colleagues on the ground in Lebanon are advocating a change of their own, taking liberties with regard to content by listing Palestine as its neighbor to the south.
While such text may be the work of local writers with obvious interests, the bottom line is that the UNDP is a UN-affiliated program, and as such, one would expect that content on an official UN website would reflect the official position of the organization (the official position being, of course, that the country bordering Lebanon to the south is Israel), and not local biases on the ground. It is disturbing (though sadly, not terribly surprising), that such content should be displayed, either as the result of oversight or other, more questionable reasons. In any event, such “mistakes” are simply unacceptable.
Let the UNDP know your thoughts on the subject. I have…
UPDATE 1: It seems that the above text about Lebanon is rather similar to the Lebanon entry in Wikipedia. Similar, but not identical, given that Wikipedia mentions Israel as the country to Lebanon’s south. (Thanks again, Nicole!)
UPDATE 2: The response I’ve received from the UNDP is as follows:
Thanks for your message.
We appreciate your interest in our work and thank you for bringing this error to our attention.
We have taken immediate action and I have been assured that corrective measures will be taken soonest.
Needless to say, I’ll be keeping a close eye on this to see if they follow through.
Update 3: The text in question was fixed as of Thursday evening, Israel time. I’ve written a new post on the subject here.by Liza Rosenberg