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Subject: under siege XXX: GREAT BALLS OF FIRE!
Date Sent to Zipple: Tuesday, November 28, 2000 3:33 AM
>I had intended starting this yesterday, but we were without electricity all
>day. No complaints, because til now we have been on the same grid as Khan
>Yunis and the electric company is putting us on a separate grid. We comfort
>ourselves, or delude ourselves, with the thought that the government now
>plans to squeeze our peace partners by cutting off their electricity.
>with this government, we are as likely to be cut off -- even likelier --
>than our Ishmaelite cousins.
>Yesterday I had a visit from two friends, farmers wives, who wanted to hear
>about our Hebron sojourn but then told me in emotionless tones of how
>anxious they are when their kids are transported to school and their
>husbands have to drive outside their respective settlements. These are
>stable, rooted people whose only bit of weirdness is their appreciation of
>my humor, and to hear them admit to being afraid left me shaken, not least
>because of the way they said it.
>Later I got a taste of what most parents with spouses and children who
>travel to and from work and school are going through. [actually we already
>had a taste when Tamar was living here.]
>At 2pm Rachel and some teachers got in a van to visit the family of Miri
>Amitai sitting shiva in the settlement of Ofra north of Jerusalem. At 3,
>when she should have been about halfway there, she called to say the van
>still at an army checkpost on the way out of Gush Katif. The army had
>the road due to shooting.
>It wasn't until 6:30 that she called to say she had arrived. And at 8, when
>she should have been on the way home, she called to say that the bus in
>front of her van had been shot at and the road out of Ofra was closed.
>She finally got home just before midnight.
>You will have noticed the ludicrous number of phone calls, only half of
>which I bothered to list. Then there were the calls from our various
>offspring, all married and with families of their own, who would not go to
>sleep until they heard that their mother was safely home. Then there were
>the calls from other concerned relatives and friends.
>We -- you abroad, as well as we here -- know there is an element of
>uncertainty, if not actual danger, every time you leave home. But the
>uncertainty here, the actual danger, is so great now that it is making
>emotional wrecks of us all. Some outwardly maintain composure, though I
>would bet on a geometric increase in their daily number of toilet flushes.
>Others give vent to outbursts of anger or hysteria. Most, like the farmer's
>wives, protect themselves by turning off emotion.
>We are reaching a critical mass of fear, caused in equal parts by enemy
>action and our government's inability or unwillingness to protect us. How
>react when critical mass is reached is unclear. Many will break and leave
>for an illusory safety away from "the territories". Others will opt for
>extra-legal self-defense measures that may bring us into conflict with our
>own troops. The one factor that can bring stability of a sort, however
>illusory and short-lived, would be the fall of this pathetic excuse for a
>government. New elections would galvanize us into action, give us an
>illusory hope, though in our hearts we know the differences between a
>smiling Barak and a frowning Netanyahu are cosmetic at best. And when the
>elections are done and the illusion of change is gone and we are still
>roasted over a low flame, what then? [you should realize my state of mind
>my use of illusory/illusion four times in one paragraph]
>I didn't want to go. I was almost paralyzed with fear. The whole trip
>take about two hours each way. The trip entails the high-risk though short
>duration -- fifteen minutes during which you are liable to be shot or blown
>up --exit and return to Gush Katif. The trip also entails the medium risk
>though lengthy -- forty five minutes -- trip through hostile territory
>you reach Kiryat Arba/Hevron. The exit/entry to Gush Katif didn't scare me
>half as much as the entrance/exit to Hevron. I have more or less faced down
>my local devils. It is the prospect of the unfamiliar that practically had
>me wearing a diaper. I repeatedly imagined myself making a wrong turn into
>hostile village -- the signs are notoriously, criminally bad -- and ending
>up as a week's worth of goulash and kebab for the locals.
>But my fear was outweighed by my shame before La Passionara, who really
>wanted to go. So we went.
>The trip started badly. My weapon, encased in a hard plastic holster,
>pressed into my crotch as I sat behind the wheel. In other words, my weapon
>was pointed at my weapon, and I became gripped with the irrational,
>outlandish fear that the weapon above would accidentally discharge,
>resulting in the weapon below never being able to discharge again. While
>driving along my discomfort became so obvious that Rachel asked, and I
>blurted out the truth. La Passionara laughed and started singing "I didn't
>know the gun was loaded..." Then we did a duet on Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great
>Balls of Fire". She then assured me that in the worst case, we would live
>happily as brother and sister. Thus reassured, our journey continued.
>There are three main routes from Gush Katif to Hevron. The shortest is the
>most dangerous because it takes you over the Halhoul Bridge. If the
>residents of Halhoul were ever polled as to their primary recreational
>activity, procreation would run a feeble second to dropping large, lethal
>objects on Zionists attempting to cross the Halhoul Bridge. Naturally I
>chose this route.
>Rachel was growing increasingly nervous over the fact that we seemed to be
>the only vehicle on the road. She was slightly reassured when we came up
>behind several large trucks, but these soon turned in to a quarry and we
>were once more alone. Then we saw an army barrier. We pulled up to it.
>stood a soldier, no helmet, no flak jacket, spiked hair, unshaven face full
>of zits. He ambled over to the car and inspected us with no particular
>interest until his eyes lit up. "Cool gun" he said.
>"Magnum" I said.
>"You can't go through" he said.
>"Why?" I said.
>"Shooting on Halhoul Bridge" he said.
>"Cool" I said, and started to turn the car around.
>"Cool" he said, turning his back to us.
>We had gone some twenty kilometers out of the way.
>The next shortest route from Gush Katif to Hevron was less dangerous from
>hostiles than from being a lousy road, narrow and twisting with blind
>and sheer drops. It leads to the Etzion Bloc settlements, and we negotiated
>it without incident, taking on three hitch-hikers for the final twenty
>kilometers to Hevron. This was most fortunate as they several times
>prevented me from realizing my wrong turn/goulash-kebab fantasy.
>Our hosts in Kiryat Arba were a couple with five children, originally from
>Jerusalem, we have known for many years. The hostess practically grew up in
>our home and was a regular baby-sitter for our kids. Our host is a very
>guy who likes to think of himself as Lord of the Manor. Unfortunately
>pays much attention, which infuriates him. It is a noisy household. Our
>host, who insists on leading all prayers and songs, has an awful voice. So
>awful that he gets herniated trying to carry a tune.
>Fortunately they had other guests as well, and had to find sleeping
>accomodations for us elsewhere. Which they did, in the home of the widow of
>Dr. Baruch Goldstein and her children.
>Miriam Goldstein and her kids are exceptional people. If you think of her
>husband as a murderer you'll be disappointed to know that his wife and
>children do not have horns, and are doing just fine, thank you. If you
>of her husband, as I do, as someone who will eventually be viewed as a hero
>rather than a villain, it is good to know his wife and children are fully
>worthy of his memory.
>In truth, actually being there was anti-climactic. The real fun was the
>coming and going. The most disconcerting aspect was the pitying looks I got
>whenever I identified myself as being from Gush Katif. To hear the people
>Kiryat Arba and Hevron tell me how sorry they feel for me was humiliating.
>thought I was there to cheer them up. Before leaving they gave us cartons
>candies and letters from local schoolchildren to their Gush Katif
>We got back here near midnight Saturday night and immediately called our
>offspring to inform them we are safe. I forgot to mention they were upset
>with us for going, telling us more or less politely how irresponsible we
>and how thoughtless we are and how we should learn to act our age. We felt
>like misbehaving teenagers. It was great to get home.
>Early Sunday morning I hurried to the supermarket to tell my adoring fans
>about our adventures. Nobody laughed when I said how silly it was for them
>to be feeling sorry for us. The sole reaction was, "You missed all the
>It appears that in "retaliation" for the sniper killing of an IDF officer
>Friday morning, an army tank began shelling Khan Yunis Friday night. Thirty
>shells were fired, at ten or twelve minute intervals, so the firing lasted
>til dawn. Each burst was so loud, said my dim-witted neighbor, that "it
>you jump right out of bed". Few in Neve Dekalim slept that night, and there
>was widespread hysteria among the children.
>What really riles people is that the shells were all fired into an empty
>lot. The structures that loom over us and serve as firing positions were
>untouched. More virtual retaliation. "What did they accomplish?" a friend
>mine moaned, "except to make us crazy". He also said a soldier told him
>after the first two shells, when the Arabs realized we weren't shooting at
>them, they came out by the hundreds to watch the display.
>I guess we were lucky to be away.
>Rachel and I have just returned from a memorial service for Miri Amitai in
>the catering hall under our local shul. I hadn't wanted to go but Rachel
>scheduled to play a flute solo as part of the program.
>There must have been a thousand people: all the students from the Ulpana,
>the teachers and their families, all of Miri's relatives who got up from
>shiva this morning, people who knew her or knew of her, and the curious. At
>first there were only half as many chairs as needed, but more were brought
>in and finally everyone who needed a seat had one.
>There were three initial speeches: a short one by the murdered woman's
>husband, and two long ones by the school rabbi and by Rav Kook, Chief Rabbi
>of Rehovot who is apparently a relative. All spoke very well. A corner of
>the large room was occupied by about a dozen pre-teen boys, apparently Bnai
>Akiva, who sat on the floor for lack of chairs. The floor being highly
>polished the boys, restless, were able to slide about with little effort,
>kicking each other and even butting heads. Neither this lack of decorum nor
>the occasional howling infant had any effect on the atmosphere.
>Eight girls then alternated reading short poems, personal reminiscences,
>Psalms, farewells to their beloved teacher. It was so moving I began to
>weep, as did most of the Ulpana girls. At one point the recitation paused
>and Rachel played "The angel who protects me from all harm". Her playing
>so deeply felt, so clearly from the heart, that tear ducts went into
>overdrive and sniffling was heard around the hall. The recitation resumed,
>and the sniffling was overshadowed by several large explosions followed by
>sustained machine gun fire that continues to the time of this writing.
>Two more speeches, including one by Miri's mother, mercifully short but
>mercilessly incoherent, closed the proceeding except for kaddish by Miri's
>fourteen year old son. The tears now flowed freely, mine especially, but my
>tears were not for Miri.
>When I was wounded [ I can hear that "here he goes again" groan] and
>literally at the point of death, I never lost consciousness. I couldn't see
>for the bandages on my face, but every sound registered clearly --
>more Katyusha rockets exploding -- and I followed conversations quite
>dispassionately. At first I spoke with those working on me but then I
>silent, and they assumed I had lost consciousness. From what they said, and
>from what my own body was telling me, it was clear I was dying.
>And I didn't care.
>Death has always been at my shoulder, not as a menace but as a potentially
>exciting inevitability. I had seen my arm fly away, thought I was blind,
>knew I had other serious injuries, and saw no purpose in living as a
>The voices from outside started to fade and I knew with absolute certainty
>that I was letting my earthly existence slip away. I was calm. Even happy.
>Then a picture appeared in my mind. Sharper than any reality I saw Ari,
>seven, standing at my seat in shul. Next to him was my brother. And I heard
>Ari saying kaddish. For me. And I said "NO!" and drew back from the world
>You can interpret this any way you want. You can accept it as I described
>it. You can say it's all manufactured memory. Or outright falsehood.
>[weeks later I was visited in hospital by one of the people who worked on
>me. He told me that those around me were shocked when, out of a seeming
>unconscious state, I suddenly yelled "No!" and then began talking to them
>before. "We had written you off" he said.]
>There are very few things I know. But this is among them. G-d gives us free
>will. And at the moment when I stood between what we call life and what we
>call death, G-d let me choose. And though what we call death beckoned, the
>image of my seven year old son saying kaddish was unbearable to me. And I
>chose to return to the mess that we call life. And hearing Miri Amitai's
>saying kaddish for her brought me back to the moment when I had to choose.
>And to this day I am not sure if I made the right decision.