Blogging the War: Camping…with Katyushas

by Brian on July 28, 2006

in In the News,Living Through Terror,War with Hezbollah

This article was posted on on Thursday, July 27, 2006. The link is here.

Does living a normal life including sending your child closer to the border?

For weeks, 12-year-old
Merav has been buzzing about summer camp. On Friday, she heads off for
her first overnight camping experience – two weeks at the “Kayitz
” program at Kibbutz Shluchot, just south of Beit Shean in the
Jordan Valley.Much of Merav’s excitement has been about what to
bring. She’s spent hours and not an insignificant number of her
parents’ shekels buying new gear – pajamas and a new bathing suit, a
better sleeping bag, two disposable cameras, bug spray, suntan lotion,
snacks for the bus ride, and many more items I’ve long since lost count

She has busily consulted with her friend Shayna, who was a
camper the year before, on everything from what to expect on Shabbat to
the type of boys she might meet. Together they have looked at pictures
posted by the camp on its Web site. By this point, she knows just about
all she can before actually getting there.

Except for one thing, which we haven’t had the heart to tell her. We’re not sure she should go.

You see, her camp is a two-hour drive north of Jerusalem. Which puts it potentially in Katyusha range of southern Lebanon.

the war with Hezbollah enters its third week, there seems little
indication the missile barrage that has blanketed the north of Israel
will let up any time soon. As of Wednesday, an estimated 1,402 missiles
have been fired by Hezbollah – with Wednesday being the worst day of
all with 119 rockets landing in Israel. Four people were injured, one

The day before, on Tuesday, some 90 missiles were
launched, killing a 15-year-old girl. The Northern District Police’s
spokesperson reported a total of 19 Israeli civilians have been killed
and 1,262 wounded – including 46 who are still hospitalized. Officials
in the local authorities estimate that 30-50 percent of northern
residents have left their homes over the past week.

Thus far, in
Jerusalem we’ve felt mostly isolated from the fighting, watching the
news just like our worried family members back in the “old country.”
Whether it’s because we’re out of range of the majority of the terror
arsenal, or due to the (misplaced?) assumption that Hezbollah would
never fire on Jerusalem with its many Muslim holy sites, we have felt
safe here in Israel’s capital. We’ve eaten in our regular cafes,
attended jazz and wine festivals and gone about “business as usual.”

Kibbutz Shluchot, where our daughter’s camp is situated, is not all
that far away from Tiberias, the vacation resort on the Sea of Galilee
that has been relentlessly targeted. And although no Katyushas have
fallen that far south yet, they have landed in Afula, slightly to the
west and nearly as deep into Israel.

And Hezbollah leader Hassan
Nasrallah has made it clear that his group’s “surprises” are not over.
The ambush of elite Israeli army forces in Bint Jbail early Wednesday
morning that left eight Golani troops dead and another 22 wounded was
just one of a string of unexpected setbacks for Israel in the 16 days
this war has raged.

On Wednesday, in a televised statement,
Nasrallah fumed that Israeli incursions into southern Lebanon would not
stop Hezbollah rocket fire into northern Israel and that the conflict
was moving “to the stage of beyond Haifa.” Fuad Dirani, a Hezbollah
commander, went one step further and called for the residents of
Netanya to evacuate their homes because “soon the range of our rockets
will reach 100 kilometers (62 miles) into Israel.” After everything
else we’ve experienced, we have no reason not to believe them.

week, the “Kayitz b’Kibbutz” staff informed worried parents that the
camp was taking all precautions, including rerouting day trips that
normally include bicycling in the Hula Valley (a few miles from the
Lebanese border), a trip to the Banias waterfalls and an outing at the “Luna Gal” water park (in the
aforementioned Tiberias).

The kibbutz has bomb shelters and
the campers can be expected to be instructed in their use. Which only
intensifies the dilemma: The tang of guilt my wife Jody and I have over
sending our daughter two hours closer to the front is not the type of
worry most parents have when sending their children off to overnight
camp for the first time. Less bittersweet and more bitter lemon.

not the only ones grappling with questions about coming closer to the
“action.” On Tuesday, I received an email from my cousins Richard and
Dori who live in Toronto. They are supposed to arrive in Israel next
week with two of their children. Their plan was to tour the north and
Jerusalem before heading south for a few days relaxation in Eilat.
Clearly, the vacation in Haifa and the Galilee would have to be
cancelled. But what about the rest of the trip?

“We have been
agonizing as to whether to come now or not,” Richard told me. Their
daughter,, Cindy, is worried about the possibility of Tel Aviv getting
hit by rockets. “She is saying that even Israelis are telling people
not to visit now. It’s not like me to cancel out. But do you think we
would be taking unnecessary risks by coming now?”

How do you
answer a letter like that? On the one hand, I can tell him all about
our “normal” life in Jerusalem. I could say that it’s not necessarily
any safer in Canada. A gang of terrorists was recently arrested for
plotting to storm Canada’s parliament and behead officials, including
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

But could Tel Aviv (and Jerusalem) be targeted? Of course, we are at war.

then there’s Marla. Three years ago, our cousin Marla Bennett from San
Diego was also agonizing whether to return to her Jewish studies
program in Israel after spending a month student teaching in the U.S.
This was in February 2002, at the height of the suicide bombing
campaign, just prior to the horrific March that concluded with the
Pesach massacre at the Park Hotel and the launch of Israel’s Operation
Defensive Shield.

She, too, sought our counsel. Four months
later, she was murdered in the terror attack at Hebrew University on
July 31, 2002. So what right do we have to advise anyone about anything
when it comes to visiting Israel in time of war?

But giving in
to fear also means giving up and giving a victory to our enemies. We
received an email this week from the embattled town of Safed in the
Upper Galilee. The son of a friend of ours who lives there was driving
into the woods as he does every Friday to meditate before the Sabbath.
As he got into his car, he encountered an old man who was hitchhiking.
The man was going in the opposite direction but when the son tried to
refuse, the man had already got into the car and there was no arguing
with him.

The man then insisted on making another stop before
their final destination; again there was no arguing with him.
Eventually, it became too late and the son was forced to give up on his
weekly meditation. As he returned to his house to prepare for Shabbat,
the son looked out into the woods from the window in his living room
and saw that a Katyusha had fallen exactly in the spot in the woods
where he usually meditated.

Is the story true? Apocryphal? A
miracle? I’m not a particularly religious man, but the son’s experience
reminds me that not everything is under our control. We can let fear
rule our actions and keep our children locked up at home where we hope
it’s safe. Or we can continue living that “normal life” for which
Israelis are so famous, knowing that sometimes you’re in the wrong
place at the wrong time, sometimes you’re not, and there’s little one
can do about either.

In the current conflict, I’ll opt for the latter. Which for us means sending our daughter on Friday off to camp…with Katyushas.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous July 28, 2006 at 8:20 pm

I am not quite sure what drew me here, me, a 41 yr old american catholic mom of 2 , ages 7 and 8. But I just wanted to tell you, that here in my home in upstate ny, we are praying for you, and your family and all of Israel. May God bless you all as you strive to lead “this normal life”.
Rochester NY

2 Anonymous August 1, 2006 at 6:45 am

I was thrilled to read Kathleen's comment, because finally, non-Jews are seeing the necessity of this “war”. The terrorists must finally be dealt with, once and for all!
Adrienne, Flushing, NY

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