Blogging the War: Still Life, With Missiles

by Brian on July 19, 2006

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

This article was posted on on Wednesday, July 18, 2006. The link is here.How Israelis go on with “normal” life while war rages all around them


It’s been almost three
years since I started writing “This Normal Life.” The goal when I launched the blog in August 2003 was to
describe how Israelis — and my own family in particular — could go
about their so-called “normal” life while suicide bombs were blowing up
in cafes and buses on a nearly daily basis.For the past two
years, though, the “normal” part of this blog has seemed almost an
afterthought. With terror attacks vastly reduced by the Israeli army’s
aggressive actions and never-ending vigilance, and with tourists
returning to our shores and cafes in sometimes startling numbers, there
was very little irony left to mine

All that has changed now.

war raging on two fronts — in Gaza in the south and from Hezbollah in
the north, the irony that was the modus operandi behind This “Normal”
Life has, regrettably and inescapably, returned. Soldiers have been
killed and abducted on both borders. Thousands of missiles have rained
down, unprovoked, on innocent Israeli communities.

So, in the midst of all the fighting, my wife Jody and I did what any good Israelis would do.

We went to a Wine Festival.

several years, the Israel Museum, the country’s largest and most
prestigious art center, has held a Wine Festival over several warm
Jerusalem summer nights. The main outdoor passageway leading from the
parking lot to the different pavilions of the museum is dotted with
tens of wineries — a veritable who’s who of both mainstream and
boutique vineyards in Israel.

For only NIS 8 (about $1.75)
more than a regular ticket to the museum, festival revelers receive a
large wine glass, which they take from stand to stand, refilling and
tasting different vintages. Buckets are provided to wash out your cup
between tastings.

Wineries present on the night we went
included the biggies like Galil and Golan and a range of smaller
boutique shops, from Binyamina and Tishbi to ones I’d never heard of
like Noah and Yogav. At the end of the passageway stood a large food
pavilion selling everything from duck and goose liver pate sandwiches,
to sushi and gourmet cheese platters.

It was a magical night,
and other than the rather mediocre Chinese noodles we mistakenly chose
to order, there was nothing to bar the carefree abandon in which
Israelis so expertly partake.

Except for the missiles, of course.

we were getting tipsy on our third glass of Zinfandel, missiles hit
Haifa for the first time. Earlier in the day, Safed, where I lived and
first fell in love with Israel 22 years ago, was bombed. By the time we
got home from the Festival, 1.2 million Israelis were under threat of
missile attack and cities like Nahariya and Kyriat Shemona were fast
becoming ghost towns.

What right did we have to be enjoying
ourselves — at something as licentious as a wine festival no less — in
the midst of a war of this growing magnitude, I wondered?

didn’t seem to be bothering the hundreds of wine aficionados strolling
the museum grounds, a glass of Merlot-Sauvignon or chilled Shiraz in
hand. People had come in from as far away as Tel Aviv to enjoy the six
kinds of cheese and modern art that this once a year event so
seamlessly mixes.

Didn’t anyone care about the devastation being
wreaked little more than a two-hour drive away? Sure, we lived through
years of suicide bombs, but missiles — these seem somehow qualitatively
different. Shouldn’t we be sitting at home, glued to the news, somehow
supporting our brothers in this time of need through … well, what could
we do actually?

Jerusalem doesn’t seem to be in any danger, at
least at this point (the irony of Jerusalem suddenly being one of the
safest places in the country has not been lost on me). Watching the
news might be engrossing but other than provide fodder for the water
cooler, not a lot of help. The army is telling people to get out of the
north, so volunteering is out of the question. The Association of
Americans and Canadians in Israel is trying to set up home hospitality
in the center of the country for those displaced from the north. Some
people might say now is the time for intensified prayer.

I think
the best thing to do, actually, would be to go a Wine Festival. Davka.
In spite of everything. That’s the most classic time-tested Israeli
response of all, isn’t it? To continue on with your “normal” life —
whether that’s going to school or work, heading out to eat for dinner,
riding the bus, or…not canceling an opportunity to drink a bit and soak
in the atmosphere that makes Israel unlike anywhere else.

not that Wine Festivals are unique to Israel. But that Wine Festivals
taking place in the midst of a war are part of how Israelis cope with
the never-ending matzav — the situation — that is unwillingly thrust
upon us every few years.

When suicide bombers were blowing
themselves up with near impunity on the streets and buses of Jerusalem,
did the residents of the north stop going about their daily activities
in solidarity with the beleaguered citizens of this capital city? Not
at all, nor should they have. Nor, for that matter, did we. That’s what
living a “normal” life is all about. It’s one of the things that I have
learned the most living in Israel these past twelve years.

rockets were landing in the Negev and minister Shimon Peres berated the
residents of Sderot with “Kassams Shmamams, quit your whining,” I
thought his insensitivity was completely unjustified. I still do. But
at least now I understand a bit more. The holy mix of concern, resolve
and resilience under fire is part and parcel of Israeli nature. It can
drive you crazy. But it can also be the greatest support.

ought to paint a picture of last week’s Wine Festival to hang in the
main hall of the Israel Museum. I can already give it a title: “Still
Live, With Missiles.”


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