Friday, July 13, 2007

War! What was it good for? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Life in Israel and Lebanon was irrevocably altered exactly one year ago. Illusions of calm were shattered and dreams lay torn, ripped apart by powers beyond our control. Physical recovery from the war has been difficult, harder in some places than in others. Emotional recovery has been equally fraught, as people attempt to gather the shards of broken lives and broken relationships, with some attempts being more successful than others.

A big deal is being made of this one-year anniversary in Israel. Special news reports abound (including several from intrepid fellow bloggers Lisa and Rinat, who are taking the Hebrew language news media by storm these days, following their recent trips to Beirut, as well as Rinat's harrowing journey into South Lebanon), and the Prime Minister toured the north yesterday, stopping along the way to make such unremarkable comments as, "I'm convinced as I was on July 12 last year that we took the right decision (by going to war) that this threat should once and for all be driven away from our border." Major Israeli websites replaced their main pages for five minutes yesterday morning with messages showing solidarity with the missing soldiers, and several local bloggers are also taking note.

Whether we want to or not, we cannot escape these images of the war last summer, and the big question on everybody's minds these days seems to be whether or not we'll have another one this summer, and indeed, it has been a popular survey question in the both the mainstream media and in the local blogosphere. I cannot help but remember how our world turned upside down, how the relative normality of our lives was blown apart. I remember the haunting sounds of the sirens signaling an incoming rocket (which fortunately, I didn't hear too frequently in my own area, as we were "only" in long-range missile range); I remember sitting on the train heading home in the evenings, wondering what would happen if the train were hit by one of these rockets, waiting to be picked up at the train station after hearing that a rocket had fallen in the vicinity. Rumors abounded as we all did what we could to find out where rockets had landed, and I remember how fascinating it was to observe how easily the collective national lexicon was transformed in order to include the words of our war; how every citizen became a military analyst.

To be sure, it was a frightening, tense time, and sadly, while I do not believe that we will have another war this summer, I'm rather inclined to believe that the regional situation is at least as bad as it was one year ago, and that important lessons have not yet been learned. Israeli society no longer believes or trusts its politicians to follow the right path, and Lebanon has not been this unstable since its civil war. Our soldiers are still missing, and we do not know whether they are alive or dead. Hizbullah is still entrenched in Southern Lebanon, and it is as though nothing has changed. Innocence is lost, replaced by cynicism and suspicion. There are no winners. We are all losers in this game, no matter which side of the border we live on.

And with that, I share with you the post that I wrote one year ago today - my first post about the war.

The Game of Life

“Due to the security situation, all trains heading north will terminate in Acco. No trains will travel to Nahariya under orders from the Israel Police. The Nahariya train station has been closed. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”

Granted, this announcement doesn’t affect me, as I am traveling south to Tel Aviv. That is, it doesn’t directly affect me. In a greater sense, it affects all of us here in Israel, a sign the times, so to speak. The situation is spiraling out of control at a frightening pace, and I feel like I just don’t know what to do with myself right now. Yesterday it was a series of attacks on the Northern border that left seven Israeli soldiers dead and two kidnapped into Lebanon. This morning a katyusha rocket slammed into Nahariya, killing one woman in her home and injuring tens of other people. Katyushas also hit near Mt. Meron. Israel has retaliated by hitting the international airport in Beirut and Hezbollah’s television station. Who knows what will happen next. Life is suddenly worse than it was a few days ago, and my pacifist persona has been abruptly shunted aside as I decide that nothing would delight me more than to see that arrogant smirk wiped off the face of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, preferably by an IDF explosives expert.

I think of the bloggers across the Arab blogosphere who have afforded me the privilege of making their acquaintance, exchanging comments and emails as we work together to break down barriers, barriers put in place by those whose greatest fear is the discovery that we are all merely people and not the monsters they make us out to be. We may not always agree, but there is both a mutual respect and curiosity that we have chosen to embrace. Despite the actions of governments and organizations in our countries, we are trying hard to make our neighborhood a better place. Now, as I sit here on this train heading south, I can’t help but wonder, is it all for naught? It is so easy to forget the big picture as we focus on the relationships, the bridges being built. We share the same interests, the same tastes in food (who would have thought that sushi is so popular throughout the Middle East?), similar musical tastes. Thanks to these bloggers, I have learned about life in Jordan, in Lebanon, in Egypt, and so on. Never before have I been in a position to see a trip to Damascus as something normal, or to discover the excitement and beauty of Beirut.

Fantasy trips between Tel Aviv and Beirut have been planned (*and one year later, some have even fulfilled the fantasy), and we eagerly drink in each others’ words as we enjoy getting to know one another. It’s almost like a drug, and it’s so easy to become addicted, as we get sucked into a virtual world where disagreements still exist, yet borders are there to be traversed and not fortified. Then suddenly, reality comes crashing down as those with the real power make their presence felt through violence and destruction, and you wonder if your dreams of normalcy are only childish visions that will never come to pass. Are we being foolish? Is our bridge-building mere folly, a way to pass the time while allowing ourselves to think that we can somehow make a difference? I have no doubt that for the most part, we are all quite sincere in our quest, but while the perfect sunny skies of summer in the Middle East are tainted with falling rockets and fresh graves are dug in the cracked, brown earth, I cannot help but feel that we are all very small and insignificant as the Nasrallahs of the world show us who is really controlling the game of life.

* Added today.

1 comment:

lisoosh said...

Maybe it is one of the advantages of distance but I am not nearly so pessimistic.
Lebanon is in turmoil, yes, but they that turmoil looks to be giving birth to something better. There is tremendous possibility that they are starting to take their country seriously and that has great potential for the future.