Friday, August 24, 2012


by Sarah Walton

Kibbutz El-Rom, Israel -- I’m sitting in my son’s kibbutz home near the Israeli border with Syria. 

Shelling took place near here yesterday -- shelling by the Syrian government upon rebel forces.

There are Israel Defense Force (IDF) tanks and mobile artillery units scattered through the area ... just in case.

What am I doing while Syria writhes in the agony of a civil war, just a few kilometers from where I sit?

I’m making a spinach quiche, that’s what!

I’m making a spinach quiche for my daughter-in-law to take on my granddaughter’s summer “camp” overnight trip to Lake Kinneret (The Sea of Galilee to Christians).

In other words, life goes on. No matter what, life goes on here in Israel.

This morning I read to my two older grandchildren, then we walked the littlest one, Avigail, to her pre-school. Next we walked the dogs and settled in to breakfast.

All the while, in the background, there were occasional deep booms. Judging from the deep, resonant sound of the booms, it was IDF tank cannons we were hearing, rather than artillery shells in Syria.

The irony of the situation was not lost on me; not at all.

I have been coming to Israel for 12 years. During those 12 years only a few weeks of my first visit in 2000 was Israel free of war -- either war with a neighboring country or people, or watching a war take place in an adjacent country.

In 2000 my younger son and I drove throughout the area known as the West Bank; we visited the neighboring country of Jordan; I wandered the narrow alleys of the Arab quarter of the old city of Jerusalem; we stayed at the American Colony in East Jerusalem (known as the “Palestinian” part of Jerusalem).

Then, on the eve of the Jewish New Year -- Rosh Hashonah, we moved to the King David Hotel in West Jerusalem, overlooking the old City. As our cab drove by the gate leading into the Arab quarter of the old city, the streets were bustling and appeared perfectly normal. 
By three o’clock in the afternoon, as we sat on the terrace of the King David, smoke began rising from tires that were burning outside the very gate we had just passed.

Yasser Arafat had declared his “second intifada,” what was really “Arafat’s War.” In the next three years hundreds of Israeli civilians were killed in suicide bombings, with barely an outcry from the outside.

Since then the state of Israel has been involved in actions against Lebanon (Hezbollah) and Gaza (Hamas). Recently Israel tensely watched virtually every Arab nation surrounding her or near her implode in what is now known as the “Arab Spring,” but should be called the “Islamist Winter!”

Over these 12 years, I have been up North three days after the fracas with Hezbollah in Lebanon ended. I have seen scorched earth (much of which were Israeli Arab or Druze fields), shelled buildings and newly-erected memorials to lost soldiers. 

I have watched robots sniff for bombs on Tel Aviv streets, narrowly missed being blown up at a bus stop in Rishon Lezion and spent time in my son’s bomb shelter room in Rehovot when a rocket landed in nearby Yavne.

Still, my son, his lovely wife and our three grandchildren are thriving and happy. Schools are good and the national health program is excellent. The kibbutz is lovely (we had a fine swim at a nearby pool and later picked ripe figs while the kids played in one of the kibbutz‘ playgrounds), the surroundings majestic and exotic. 

The whole nation is a fascinating mix of the totally modern and the completely ancient.

An occasional thud goes off in the background; a puff of smoke appears in the distance clearly telling us that things are not good in Quneitra, Syria.

Meanwhile, just a few kilometers away, I sit and prepare one of my specialties, spinach quiche.

So life goes on.

1 comment: