Existential travails

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at a chemical warfare drill in Jerusalem May 29, 2013.On an ordinary workday last week, strident sirens pierced our routine and for a few jarring minutes reminded all of us, throughout the country, of the dangers that lurk ominously beneath our run-of-the-mill existence.

The civil defense exercise simulated massive rocket barrages on packed urban centers with an eye to practice responses to missile onslaughts from Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza – in every corner of Israel and at all hours of the day and night.

Air raid sirens sounded midday to test preparedness in workplaces and schools. Another siren in the evening gauged preparedness in the homes. In both cases, the public was asked to locate the closest secure room and/or bomb shelter.

In theory, this was a worthy undertaking but in practice much of this dry run missed the mark – most of the population ignored the appeals to drill evacuations to safe spaces.

But that was to be expected. Most folks prefer to put out of mind hypothetical perils, no matter how realistic or colossal these are. It is only human nature and all the more so in a small, besieged state that has to struggle for the semblance of normalcy.

At times, even our self-deception is tinged with the heroic – the ability to persevere and carry on regardless of our menacing environment. That, more often than not, means repression of apprehensions.

Finding the golden mean between preparedness and perseverance is predictably no mean feat. But worse than the nonchalance at home is the cold apathy abroad.

It is doubtful that more than a few opinion-molders throughout the international community so much as begin to comprehend the alarming dangers that surround us and under which we labor.

Certainly no country in the Western world is exposed to anything remotely resembling the threats we face, be they of nuclear attack from the ayatollahs of Tehran or of a rain of conventional rockets from Iran’s proxies – Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

It is also worth recalling that Syria possesses particularly terrifying arsenals. The bloodshed and chaos in Damascus only heighten the uncertainty regarding what would become of this weaponry of mass destruction or how it might be used and by whom.

No attention is paid abroad to contingency master plans here to convert underground parking facilities into multistoried mega-shelters outfitted to offer protection to thousands of Israelis in a variety of doomsday scenarios – nuclear, chemical and conventional.

These parking facilities are equipped with such seemingly incongruous features as decontamination showers in case of a chemical attack, filters against an assortment of unconventional WMDs and emergency medical clinics for triage and first-aid to casualties.

That such complexes are deemed necessary in the 21st century speaks volumes. Nothing like this should be plausible where meaningful peace processes are ostensibly considered credible.

The very fact that such dry-run rehearsals are indispensable, to say nothing of their specificities and scope, attests to the fact that we are highly endangered, live in a high-risk zone and have good reason to prepare for circumstances quite different from peace. Were we surrounded by sincere peace partners, no such dire maneuvers would be required, while genuine compromises and coexistence would be eminently attainable.

This should be obvious to all objective observers overseas. Were the family of nations as high-minded as it professes to be, it would direct its righteous indignation against the undisguised menacing of a tiny democracy whose civilian population is vulnerable as no other.

That would be a true measure of moral statecraft.

Instead, however, a blind eye is willfully turned to the lethal stockpiles amassed against Israel while simultaneously unconscionable efforts are intensified to tarnish Israel, ostracize it and turn it into a global pariah.

This is not merely an issue of image and of public relations. The slandering and censoring of Israeli self-defense efforts diverts attention from the existential travails with which Israel must contend. Instead of bolstering the sole democracy in the Middle East, fellow democracies often weaken Israel.

8 thoughts on “Existential travails

  1. I also believe there is a very real danger that if Assad feels he is losing against his rebels, he would attack Israël as a diversion and to attract the sympathy of other Arab countries.

  2. Even worse are our “fellow travelers” who have bought into the mythology of the West. They have proven the persistent insidiousness of the galut mentality (masquerading as the New Jew) – fear the nations, assimilate their values, believe in their hypocrisies, offer the neck to the knife “because we really want peace, and the neighbors do too – just buy them off with land”. Our fellow travelers are either corrupted spiritually, or financially, or both. We’ve been around for millenia – the secret was never in selling ourselves out, but in remaining strong and steadfast, believing in a higher purpose and a higher meaning to existence.

  3. Dear Sarah,
    When the sirens went off I was in a bus stop and didn’t even know where the nearest shelter was, let alone running around trying to find one. But look at the bright side, had that been a real attack and I didn’t make it out alive, you’d have a lot less goofball comments on your blog. There’s always a silver lining.
    שבוע טוב

  4. Even heard the sirens in London as I was talking to my son in Petach Tiqvah. I’ll bet that William Hague or the partisan “jobs worths” in the Foreign Office didn’t hear (or want to hear) about such exercises, or will concern themselves with Jewish security and concern in the future – either during a practise run or for real!!!!.

  5. I remember the Fall 1962 Cuban missile crisis, here in the United States; even though I was only in grade school. Many Americans were very frightened; they got a taste of existential fear. They responded by building bomb shelters in their basements, and stocking up on essential supplies.
    But some were just as nonchalant as Sarah’s description of present-day Israelis. John F. Kennedy finally did the right thing, and instituted a naval blockade of Cuba, and told Khruschev to get those missiles out of there. Unfortunately, this was so long ago; how many present-day Americans would relate their experience of 1962 to that of present-day Israel? How can the American Jewish community help?

  6. Reblogged this on Bipolar For Life and commented:
    This is the reality we live with in our tiny country, the size of the state of Delaware and home to half of the world’s 14 million Jews. Although ethnic Jews make up less than .01% of the world population and have a .2% share in world religions (as compared to 2.1 billion Christians and 1.5 billion Muslims), somehow we end up in the news virtually daily, either for praise or censure. Our tiny country, the ONLY Jewish country in the world (although it also welcomes people of ALL religions), produces a constant flow of innovations in every area of science and technology, as well as the fine and performing arts. We are surrounded by 23 nations whose official religion is Islam, in which people of other religions are either not tolerated at all (such as the Baha’i, who fled to Israel from Iran, and the Sikhs who have been decimated in what was once their native country in Pakistan). We serve as the United States’ unofficial military base in the Middle East. We are the ONLY democracy in the Middle East. Apartheid? If we were an apartheid nation, would we have Arab political parties and Arab members of Parliament, and full access to any and all parts of Israel for ALL of her citizens regardless of ethnicity?

    What about checkpoints, you say? Hear this: when I go to the bank, the bus station, the supermarket, the drug store, the mall–virtually any public building or gathering place–I must go through a checkpoint in order to enter. I am a white Anglo-Israeli, and I get searched just like everybody else. This is because some of the worst bombings during the Intifadas were carried out by females, who now have their names proudly displayed on street signs and

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