Over the next few days, depending on whether this war continues, I’ll be blogging my experiences here in Israel on what I see, hear, feel and discuss.
Maybe, if calm returns, I and my wife can actually have a holiday and not spend our time as close to the nearest air raid shelter as possible.
Monday 4th August.
Manchester airport was relatively quiet. I was surprised. Maybe everyone is already on holiday.
I’m not sure why but our tickets indicated we had the privilege of rapid boarding. Maybe the fact that our original flight had been cancelled, or maybe just a mistake.
We sailed through security and into the maze which is the airport duty free area, designed to force you past every bottle of booze and every perfume sampler.
A very short wait and by no means a full planeload of passengers ensured we were sitting in our seats in record time. We were delayed for an hour due to air traffic control in Greece. Not a great start.
I was very impressed by EasyJet. To help with the kids’ boredom the captain opened the cabin door and invited them to come and look at the cockpit. An orderly queue formed. Brilliant PR.
The passengers were very calm and chatty. No indication that we were flying to a war zone. We found it inexplicable that anyone would want to take children on holiday to Israel at this time. I don’t think people understand what it is like. We don’t understand. But at least we have some idea, some sense of trepidation.
Well before the usual time, the pilot informed us that due to the security situation we should return to our seats and make ready to land. The request we should sit in our allocated seat was a reminder that if the unthinkable happened, we could be identified by seat number.
As we crossed the coastline, not the usual euphoria. I looked south toward Gaza trying to imagine the unimaginable suffering and mayhem just a few miles away. But there were no signs of warfare. Just some unexpected cloud cover.
The pot-faced immigration man – and usually they remain so – even managed a smile as he asked us if we had family in Israel and where they were as we reeled of a list of cities and kibbutzim.
My wife’s cousins picked us up from the airport , which was not empty, but certainly well below its usual bustle. It had taken us no more than 15 minutes from leaving the plane and walking through an eerily quiet airport.
Signs for shelters at every turn reminded us of the reality we had just entered.
I could immediately see the strain on our cousins’ faces. As we drove out of the airport, ‘Z’ turned to me and said he had to tell me something. ‘You are immature and irresponsible to come. There is a war. Everyone is in trauma.’
A typical forthright Israeli statement. ‘So you are pleased to see us, then’ I said. ‘Look, we haven’t seen our son for 18 months. We could not know if he would be called up for reserve duty. We had to see him’. The unspoken implication was ‘and what if then something were to happen to him, and we never saw him again’. But such thoughts remain floating in the air without articulation. But they are, nevertheless, understood.
We learned of a second serious incident in Jerusalem that morning, a shooting following the fatality of a man run over by a tractor which turned over a bus.
Later we discovered the driver of the bus was an Arab who wished his fellow Arab attacker should burn in Hell.
On arriving at our cousins’ home, their son told us that yet another truce was agreed starting tomorrow, Tuesday, morning, and this time Hamas had agreed to it and it could be permanent.
We soon found out what we already knew. Our cousins were not among the 90 something percent of Israelis that supported the government’s efforts in Gaza.
‘I don’t like what they are doing to Hamas’. This was a surprise. I was too tired to discuss. They thought that the way Hamas had been treated, the blockade and the economic pressure on Gaza was similar to how Arafat had been isolated in Ramallah. They should have negotiated.
Their son believed Hamas had shown signs of a gradual realisation that they had to make compromises and forgo their fanatical adherence to a genocidal policy. ‘They can see that they have gained nothing and the way they think is that Allah is not giving them any victory here. So they rationalise that to make concessions and convince themselves that it is His will.’
I had the distinct feeling that it was they who were rationalising their own beliefs that you can negotiate with an enemy that is ideologically hell bent on your annihilation.
‘The Egyptians will open up the border. They will be able to export via El Arish and not have to rely on Israel for their economic welfare. Fatah will come and supervise the crossing. Fatah have been doing a lot to stop terrorism in the Est Bank. But a 3rd Intifada is still possible .’
‘Gaza is like a prison. They need to be able to breathe’.
I write this Tuesday morning. It is 8.00 am. There is supposed to be a truce. I just heard my first explosion, I think. Some way off. No sirens. Dogs barked. Was that a second even further off?
Internet is down. I’ll post this later.