The Reality of War

Living in Israel, I know that war is a real possibility. However, until you experience it, it is hard to imagine war. This is obvious of combat, but it is also true of the effects war has on a civilian popultation.

During my first year in Israel, the Gulf War erupted in which I spent numerous nights in my sealed room wearing a gas mask. The first few days we spent under curfew and then when it was lifted, I witnessed a bread riot as the bakery truck pulled up to our corner grocery store. People stormed the truck before it could be unloaded, leaving their payment inside the truck. At the time, I was in graduate school at Hebrew University, living with other students. I did not have a family or a business to worry about as I do now.

Not long ago I asked my accountant about the consequences on my business should there be a war. He brushed it off saying that in reality, all my employees could work at home since we work on the Internet and I would not be effected too much. That assumed that we would be home with Internet access. However, my main programmer was called up to the reserves. Being in Jerusalem, our office has remained open and so we are in a much better position than businesses in Northern Israel. However, as a small country, everyone in Israel has been effected by this conflict. For a small business reserve duty is a very difficult cost to absorb. While the government reimburses the business for the employee’s salary, they do not reimburse the company for the loss of profits (the employee’s billable rate) and obviously work does not get done.

Reserve duty effects much more than businesses. It effects the general morale and puts a hardship on family life. At the same time it is one of those elements of Israeli society that unites us beyond most countries. Afterall our soldiers are our neighbors, our friends, our fathers, our husbands and our sons.

My friend Ari and I decided that we had to start exercizing so a few weeks ago we started walking together. During Shabbat morning services his wife came up to me to tell me that the day before he was called into the reserves. They called him in the morning and by that afternoon he was already in the north leaving his wife with their two small children. As I have continued walking, I have called him on his cellphone to check in. Speaking for only a few minutes at a time, he was grateful to hear a voice from home. I was grateful that cellular technology let me stay in touch as I received reports of casualties.

As I took my kids to camp one morning, I walked out with a neighbor in uniform who was on his way to report for duty. Married just a few months ago, he had been expecting a call since he is an officer. Later that week, I heard of two parents of my son’s classmates who were called, two more congregants from our synagogue and pretty soon every day I heard of someone else I knew who had been called up leaving a wife, leaving children, leaving jobs, leaving friends and our community.

Every Community in Israel has been effected by the events of the past few weeks.

On the home front, our synagogue has collected funds to send pizza to our soldiers, to sponsor fun days for residents of Northern Israel and to send them toys and activities for the children who stayed in bomb shelters for a month.

We have also absorbed many refugees from the north providing them with homes, blankets, pillows, towels, childrens games, books and videos, volunteers for activities and food.

Mostly we have sent our reservists. Ten percent of the families in my synagogue have someone serving in the Israel Defense Forces right now, in either the reserves or in compulsory service. Conditions have not been so good. To give you an idea. of my friend Ari’s unit, our rabbi sent out the following e-mail:

Ari’s reserve unit is in serious need of the following:

  • Pasta Products

  • Rice
  • Bottles of Mineral Water
  • Tuna
  • Towels
  • Ari’s unit is need of transistor radios and donations to buy phone call minutes from Lebanon to Israel at $1.00 a minute.

Contributions can be made out to Kehilat Moreshet Avraham and we will transfer the funds to the reserve unit.
Thank You for all your help.
Please bring these supplies to the Shul by tomorrow by 2:00pm.

The news may bring you images of how this conflict has effected the residents of Northern Israel, but all of us in Israel have been deeply effected. Beyond the temporary hardships, we have suffered sensless casualties.

I dedicate this column to the memory of Michael Levin who was fulfulling his dream after making aliyah from Bucks County when he was killed in action in Lebanon. May his memory be a blessing and a source of strength.