I hadnâ€™t turned on the news and was working away in that zone of focused concentration that comes along every so often â€“ quite ironically on a tourism piece for a British website â€“ when Saar walked in the house, immediately turned on the TV and said, â€œHavenâ€™t you seen all the balagan?â€ And there went my totally focused concentration and with it any need to be writing tourism pieces for British websites.
Another two soldiers kidnapped on the northern border, the live news reports on every channel told me, then rumors about the ones who were missing, later the news that 4 were dead and 4 missing and then the confirmation that 8 were dead.
And then massive Israeli air strikes on southern Lebanon and Hezbollah started raining down Katyushas on the north, or was it the other way round, I canâ€™t even remember and canâ€™t keep up with just how fast things have exploded into catastrophe.
The next morning we wake, weary-eyed from a late night watching the round-the-clock coverage of the tragedy as it unfolded, and turn on the TV to see that rockets have hit Nahariya. Nahariya!
â€œCall Shelley,â€ I tell Saar, which he does after a couple of seconds it obviously takes his mind to absorb the information. Shelley, his sister, is already a good hour into her escape to Tel Aviv and launches hysterically into descriptions of whistling rockets, incessant booms, billowing smoke and fire and a house near her that was hit.
What the hell was going on? Katyushas in Nahariya? Bombs in Beirut?
A heavy depression hangs over the Haaretz offices when I come into work. Itâ€™s definitely a depression, not a panic, a depression, mixed with concern and a deep sense of confusion. Werenâ€™t things slowly, ever so slowly, maybe, just maybe showing some slight hint of a sign of improvement not that long ago? How could the rug have been so quickly swiped from under our feet?
More strikes on Beirut and the news that Rosh Pina had closed its airport and then that rockets had hit Safed. I was there last weekend.
Everybodyâ€™s cell phones keep going off as weâ€™re trying to put the weekend pages together, pages that normally attempt to bring some color for a Friday morning, maybe some art pieces, a few light features, but no oneâ€™s in the mood for cooking columns this week, and the pages are devoted to analyses and pictures of devastated buildings, blown up roads, rubble and fire.
â€œCan we call it war? Is this a war?â€ the editorâ€™s asking. â€œNot yet, we canâ€™t say war, throw that picture, change the headline.â€
â€œTheyâ€™ve hit Haifa!â€ someone shouts.
â€œMy sonâ€™s thereâ€¦â€, â€œMy daughterâ€™s there…â€ and all the cell phones start ringing again.
I MSN Lisa, who generally knows everything about everything: What the hell is going on?
Iran, madness, crazy, Syria, Nasrallah, world opinion, U.S., UN, she gives me her sharp analysis and it doesnâ€™t do anything to calm the slowly rising anxiety I am feeling in my stomach.
In the office, the discussion has moved on as to whether the suiciders on buses were worse (yes) and what would happen if they hit the oil refineries in Haifa, and general consensus settles on the word disaster.
But they wonâ€™t hit the refineries, right? Saar calls, â€œTheyâ€™ve never hit Haifa before.â€
Irisâ€™ phone rings, and from the long conversation that proceeds in German we gather itâ€™s her parents urging her to come home. And leave Elad? she says after hanging up. His army unit is based in the north and the emergency call-up orders for reserves are already in the post.
We send our paper to the printer and hand over the baton to the night desk.
In the morning, big headlines, red pictures.
All day we flick through the channels, CNN, BBC, Sky News, Channel 10, Channel 2, back again. We hit Nasrallahâ€™s building. â€œYes!â€ says Saar, his hands in the air. But the World Cup was last week.
The death toll rises, Beirutis flee, Nasrallahâ€™s still alive. I turn back to my tourism piece as the planes are flying overhead. A Canadian friend pops up on MSN. We chat late into the night.
Itâ€™s only been four days and it feels like months already. This is madness. I check Lisa isnâ€™t in the north and press her for more insights. Regional conflict or brokered ceasefire, Saudis, deep shit, things are BAD in Gaza â€¦.missile in Tiberias!
Nasrallah says that Tel Avivâ€™s next.
But they canâ€™t hit Tel Aviv.
July 16, 2006 at 10:24 am
If you think life in Israel is insane, you should visit beirut!
July 16, 2006 at 2:39 pm
Hey Mustapha! It could have been different – like turkey, with over 400,000 Israelies visiting annually and spending their money in casinos, holiday resorts, etc. But you guys thought otherwise, especially Narshalla and Co.
Well, now you’re learning the hard way!
July 16, 2006 at 5:03 pm
Sounds like “All Hell is breaking lose!” And I wish you all could be here instead!