Monday, June 26

'The Byrds,' abductions, and blogging too close for comfort

Woke up with the blues before sunrise, reading, and listening to the morning news.

Army Radio played The Byrds' classic "Turn, Turn, Turn." Israel. Army. Radio. Robin Williams' Good Morning Vietnam is a damp squib compared to radio coverage here. Israeli broadcasters are a helluva' lot more irreverent than that Hollywood burnout. And the Palestinians are not the Vietnamese. And the war's all around us, and not an ocean away. Well, you get the drill, right?

That came just after the 0700 news report about the last 25 hours. About a soldier kidnapped into enemy hands, and funerals of two others later today. And Fatah threatening chemical weapons attacks against any Israeli attempt to to enter Gaza to free the abducted Gilad Shalit. As I wrote below - ok, cynically enough - been there, done that.

Following are personal reflections (yes, I know this blog is nearly all personal reflections...) written late last night, over covering news here, as a journalist, a blogger.
Unfortunately, with too much of the latter and too little of the former, lately. It's not comprehensive; it may even sound unbalanced, and a bit too self-absorbed in the morning light. But, there it is.
Excuse me while I belly up to the bar here and suck down my first arak of the evening. That strong shot allows me to tell you that, personally, my own nerves are tired and gone from covering the Gaza assault and Israel Defense Forces soldier abduction story since early Sunday morning.

So here we are again, back to somber music on the radio. Tunes usually reserved for Israel Memorial and Holocaust Day. Watching stressed-out TV and radio reporters doing their hastily-organized stand-ups and stake-outs from assorted locations throughout Israel. Listening as they read off flimsily jotted notes, and grasping for clarity in the censorship blackout as to what they can say and what they can't, alluding and hinting to the rest, using a shared language every Israeli knows by heart, by din of overuse, but can't precisely define in terms clear to those beyond the shared group, despite professed heartfelt support for Israel's security predicament. Listening to breaking news of how Hamas may now launch Kassams from Gaza into Israel with chemical payloads.

The personal intestinal fortitude and national gumption required of Israelis dealing with ongoing terrorism on a daily – if not hourly basis, redlines the needle.

Bloggers, here and abroad are no less susceptible to that language of the heart, of a shared fate an Israel experience that binds Jew and gentile, hassid and secular, Muslim and Christian, sometimes far too painfully across seas and continents. Sometimes, just across town.

A hurried early morning call to a flustered representative at the IDF Spokesman's Office in Tel Aviv for a breaking news podcast, I implore the young-sounding, English-speaking soldier to let me know exactly what I can and cannot say on-air to the blogosphere, to family, friends, strangers - and enemies, only a mouse click away.

I worry about saying something that might be easily read and communicated to a family member, frozen in grief, frozen, waiting for the IDF to tell them that it was their turn to give a child to a needless death, to to a hospital or psychiatric ward, into terrifying captivity for the sake of “protecting the Israeli people and nation.”

Israel has one of the world's highest levels of broadband Internet connectivity per capita, and, in comparison to the worldwide assumption of “six degrees of separation” between any two people in this spinning, clattering, beeping global village, in Israel, it's only one, maybe two degrees on a slow day.

Israel have become used to the sense that the Israel Defense Forces, if not able to stop the lethal steel Kassam rain into Israel for the last several years, were at least capable of thwarting almost any infiltration into Israel from the heavily-guarded, state-of-the-art electronically monitored security fence.

Until today.

Until 20-year-old 1st-Lieutenant Hanan Barak of Arad, 20-year-old St.-Sgt. Pavel Slotzker of Dimona, the latest names and passport pictures flashed across our shared Israel reality; of 19-year-old Gilad Shalit of the Galilee community of Mitzpe Hila near Carmiel, one of three siblings, and now “shavui,” in the ancient Hebrew term, a wounded captive fallen into enemy hands.

A term redolent of Biblical antecedents, of fervent prayers of Jewish communities across the ages, across the world for members taken into captivity, in Babylon and other locations inscribed into antiquity, and hearts.

A particularly ghoulish aspect of the current incident is a Palestinian claim that the captors are holding body parts of the slain Israelis, to increase the pressure on the Israel government to accede to their demands, among them, the release of Palestinian security prisoners held in Israel jails.

IDF Special forces searching for Shalit also discovered the entrance of the nearly kilometer-long Gaza tunnel, which extended some 300 meters into Israel territory. IDF spotters said that that they'd had intel warnings for over a month of a tunnel in the vicinity, although massive army backhoes criss-crossing the football field-sized sandy field were unable to find it in time.

Israel Channel 2 News reports shortly after 20:00 this evening that the Israel security cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has decided upon a large-scale, graduated operation against Palestinian targets in southern Gaza. However, the extent and aims of the IDF operation were not revealed.

Local bloggers in Israel may know, but, so far at least, can keep this military secret – a secret. Such a people, such a country. Blogging, recording, uploading again and again for nearly 15 hours I feel I stumble through the words, as the night wears on.

Hoping overseas correspondents will somehow, this time, "get it" about how it's all so close to home: Gilo, Jerusalem Tel Aviv, Mitzpe Hila, Gaza, all in an area smaller than New Jersey. Bringing up painful memories of IDF soldier Nachson Waxman, abducted and slain by Palestinian captors near Ramallah in December, 1994.

I interviewed his mother not long after the IDF killed the man behind his abduction and death. So harrowing. So close to home. Please God, let it not be that way again.

(Cross-posted, in part, at Israel News Agency, and Little Green Footballs)

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