Friday, August 11, 2006

Our reserves

Thursday, August 10 2006

I continue to get worried phone calls and e-mails from friends and family overseas wondering what it’s like to have a war going on a few hours drive from home.

Some seemed to have the impression that something must be happening where I live, after all a war couldn’t be going on near Haifa and life be going on almost as normal a few dozen miles south of there. I apologise to those whom I tersely told to get a map, I wasn’t being rude, just making the point that to date the southernmost Katyusha struck Hadera, about an hour’s drive north of Tel Aviv, and I live south of Tel Aviv. There is no telling what tomorrow may bring – ceasefire or missile – but I can of course only comment on what is going on today.

However far away one is from Lebanon, the emergency “tzav shmoneh” draft notices have touched every part of the country. Reservists from every walk of life and every part of Israel have been called up to fight and in just about every workplace someone is away, serving at the front.

You can usually tell them apart from the regular army, the long hair and extra scruffy uniforms are usually a clear give away. These men are not young boys fresh out of school doing their national service, but mostly married, late twenty, thirty and even forty somethings, with families and jobs, putting their ordinary lives on hold to defend their country.

In normal times these men do a few weeks reserve duty a year, right now they’ve been whipped away for who knows how long – sometimes the draft notice has arrived in the middle of the night, leaving little time for contingency plans at work or home.

The huge number of reservists currently serving up north is reflected in almost every aspect of daily life, from casual conversations with shop assistants to finding out that your doctor or plumber has been called up to empty desks at the office and mounting backlogs as other workers are left to take up the slack.

Today for example I was working on an article about native animals. Calling a local zoologist I was surprised that as he answered his cellphone I could hear the radio chatter of an army patrol in the background. I had reached him on reserve duty.

My neighbour had planned renovations this summer. A couple of days after the builders began work her husband was whisked away by the army, leaving her home alone with a bunch of kids on school vacation to look after, a house being torn apart by workmen and no idea when her husband would be back.

A few of the women I met at my daughter’s jamboree playgroup told similar stories – suddenly alone, some pregnant, others “just” with a bunch of young children, trying to hold their lives together while their husbands go off to war.

Several people from my husband’s workplace have been drafted, including some he works with on a daily basis.

One of them, a 36-year-old father of two, was among the fifteen soldiers killed during Wednesday’s fighting.

The office chartered a bus to take everyone to the funeral. The driver himself felt as though he was on reserve duty. He spent much of the week ferrying firemen around the north, part of the effort to control the forest and brush fires sparked by Hizballah rockets and mortars. The other day as he drove around the corner a Katyusha flew over and landed only metres in front of him, gouging a deep hole in the ground as it planted itself in the pavement.

This evening, after putting the baby to bed I finally caught up with the day’s news. Yet another soldier lost from my town, and a few more from villages in the surrounding area.

Maps aside, the war certainly does touch us all however physically distant we think we are from it.

1 comment:

NY Nana said...

They just announced that President Bush will be giving a speech in about an hour on the war.