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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mihal Eliav: The war in Beer Sheva, first person

 Mihal Eliav, of Beer Sheva, is a teacher who made aliyah from the United States 30 years ago. She posted these thoughts on the Shomernet (Hashomer Hatzair alumni) listserv. Mihal previously wrote about her visits to Sderot and her plans to live there, including an account of a Qassam attack.


12/30/09 afternoon

Tonight, about half an hour ago, the sirens wailed for the first time in Be'er Sheva. About 40 seconds later, right on schedule, fell 2 bombs. So, we now know that the system works. I knew from the sound of the booms that these falls weren't very close, having had something to compare them to in Sderot.

When the sirens started, I was on my way to the phone to call a friend. I altered course and stood against the east-facing wall of my flat until a minute or two after the blasts. (Supposed to lie down but the floor is awful cold.) Then I went and made my phone call.

All this is not so scary as distressing and depressing….The radio is blathering about "how hard it is to digest the new status" but that is just crap - this is not new in the least, it was all too expected. and what, is Be'er Sheva in a different country from Nahal Oz and Sderot???

12/31/08 morning

Last night, a katyusha fell near a kindergarten here… During the 'calmness/rgiya' there were some days with no missiles came and some days when 5 or 6 landed. Now we're back to 40 or so a day. Some 200 kids in Netivot have been in shelters during the past 4 days. Those missiles don't have much aiming but we are taking shelter anyway…

In a few hours I need to go to the shuk (market) for fruit. Such a simple act.


12/31/08 morning

The gala opening of the theater in its new performing arts center was interrupted. Later we heard that the public, who were asked to leave mid-play, argued and wanted to continue. Management wouldn't go against the rules and closed the stage. The audience stopped for a bite at the catered buffet on their way out. (Why waste good food just because bombs are falling?)

Earlier today, there was a hit near Rahat (a Bedouin city) - Hamas claimed they were aiming at Be'er Sheva--not likely in my opinion.

Schools in most of the bombed places are closed today. Obviously, the powers-that-be think it's safer for the kids to be at home. I wonder how two-worker families deal with this.

In the morning, there was another boom, but without sirens. It's better when there is warning. Or no, maybe it's better when it's over before you even know it was.

A few minutes after finishing the above-- UPDATE. More sirens and more falls here in Be'er Sheva. I counted at least three bangs, one of them quite close.

This time I put a blanket on the floor and sat down. Everyone here is nervous. It isn't 9:00 AM yet. What kind of day is this? Shall I go to the shuk or not?

1/1/09 evening

Yesterday, I went to the shuk and got a healthy dose of ignorant, inarticulate and even shameful behavior… rocks on metal doors (sounds just like a small bomb) and certain car-alarms (sound like the sirens, if you're jumpy anyway). Not funny…

As I walked to the shuk, I noticed how much safer I'd have been in Sderot. Be'er Sheva is so spread-out: how did I never really notice this before? Sderot is full of little shelterettes. Not here... Be'er Sheva suddenly looks naked and low. The shuk must have a shelter, but lord only knows where it is.. Mostly, I could make it to some form to east-facing semi-shelter in the 60-second warning (from the moment the sirens go off). but I can see people around me who wouldn't have a chance to, the older in particular.

1/3/09 evening

(Another participant's) comments reminding us to keep the other side in mind are seriously and beautifully put…When the missiles are coming down, one does tend to get awfully self-centered. A friend was at Soroka Hospital for surgery last month--I feel all of us here are post-surgery: we talk about ourselves and our pains quite a lot.

The media have slowed it down a tad, a week into this now and we are starting to hear a bit of music in between the yakkity and the booms. But the call-ins are still mostly either the traumatized or the religious….

Every 15 minutes, the announcer reads off the instructions given by the Homefront Command: Stay close to shelter, etc. I asked around and found that just about everyone is following orders, if with a certain wry disbelief. Two friends described going into public shelters, orderly in both cases.

I sit here, my better nature too tired for considering the plight of anyone I've never met. Minutes later, your wise letter forces me to stop and balance for a while, as long as I can before the next rough interruption...Between a reality of personal fear and the ideal of personal empathy, it is no wonder self-absorption usually takes over but, please continue to remind me that better states can be achieved, at least potentially.

1/5/09 evening

Today…the media chose to give us a detailed look at the casualties on the other side of the border. Not '500 dead till now' but 'mother, father and their 5 children dead' and 'a grandfather' and 'two young girls in a donkey cart'. This (report is heard) in a country under fire. On one hand, I am proud that we can look directly at what is happening. On the other, I wonder what point is served by adding this psychological torture to our current burdens. The news is Hebrew, listened to by Hebrew speakers only.

I'm ready to bet that most Israelis do give a certain amount of thought to the innocents who suffer in Gaza; because I ask everyone I can, but while I write this there is 'red alert' in Ashkelon (two bombs fall). My handyman says we need all these details, that reality should never be swept away. I don't want to sweep reality away either, but just now, when my broom closet is also a bomb shelter, I'm not sure why the news editors are giving me such a close look at what is already all too close.

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