Monday, August 7

Israeli summer camp: Katyushas and color wars

  • (Colleague Brian Blum and I have something in common far beyond mere blogging: we both have 13-year-old daughters who are best friends - Merav (L) and Shayna (R) who are in summer camp together. I am Shayna's father mentioned further down in this post, who was on the way to the north to cover the war, when I got the update mentioned below about a Katyusha strike near her camp in the Jordan Valley.

  • I opt for honesty here and will tell you that the "irate reader," Brian notes further down is actually an American Jewish relative of mine who has often blithly remarked that I have thrown away my life and the assured riches of America by coming to live in Israel, and needlessly endanger my children - with his crass note to Brian serving as a stand-in for telling me directly. I am pointing this out to show you, the international reader, the complexity, nuances and depth of experiences making and loving a life here - "Normal," or otherwise, engenders in families and the Jewish world. As the sages tell us (I think it was Moe Howard)"Two Jews = Three Opinions = Four Synagogues."

  • The girls, along with the rest of the campers are, well, "happy campers," although Shayna complained to me in a phone call Saturday night that she didn't like hearing four rocket alert sirens and bomb shelters messing with her idyllic summer camp experience. Bet color wars in your
  • summer camp were never like this...- DB.)

Last week I wrote that my 12-year-old daughter, Merav, was scheduled to depart for two weeks of camp at Kibbutz Shluchot, just south of the town of Bet Shean in the northern Jordan Valley. In my post, I questioned whether it was irresponsible to send Merav that much closer to the front, despite the fact that nothing had happened at Bet Shean nor was anything expected to at the time. In the end, we decided to continue with our "normal life" and Merav climbed happily onto the camp bus that Friday morning.

Imagine, then, my concern last week, less than a week after camp had started, when I received a frantic call on my cell phone from the father of Merav's friend Shayna who was at the camp with her. "Did you hear?" the father asked breathlessly. "Sirens just went off in Bet Shean."

A minute later, the phone rang again. It was another parent who had just spoken with his daughter. "She said she heard a big boom," he said and asked if I had any more information. I didn't - there was nothing on any of the Internet sites I've been monitoring constantly since the conflict began.

After several tense minutes where I incessantly pushed the "refresh" button on my browser, a headline finally appeared: a long-range missile had penetrated into Israel the farthest of any to date, landing in Bet Shean proper, while another hit an open field somewhere between Bet Shean and the West Bank city of Jenin.

Bet Shean is 10 minutes north of Kibbutz Shluchot - a veritable gulf in this war of missiles. Still, that didn't particularly put my mind at ease, considering that at the very moment the missile was striking ground, my daughter Merav was not at the kibbutz at all. She had been come down with a nasty stomachache that morning, and the camp nurse sent her to the closest HMO doctor…yes, where else, but in Bet Shean.

Now, I know the chance of the one missile Hezbollah has fired at Bet Shean actually hitting the exact spot where Merav was traveling at that moment was very low. But today's strike in Kfar Giladi that killed a crowd of 10 people who were standing in a wide-open field shows that sometimes one's worst fears really do come true.

Tenseness Builds.

Until we located Merav, I was shaking.

After a very long 20 minutes, my wife, Jody, got a hold of Kenny, one of the camp directors, on his cell phone and he told us that Merav had just returned and was heading to the infirmary to take the pills the doctor had prescribed. We learned further that the camp had taken to the kibbutz bomb shelter for a drill that morning (Merav later told us she had done the real thing at the doctor's office, spending 15 minutes in the shelter there).

They were taking all precautions, Kenny reassured us, and were in touch with the home front command for any further instructions. We were not to worry.

The missile that landed near Merav is, fortunately, one of only a few long-range rockets Hezbollah has left. The IDF has been particularly effective at knocking out these weapons. It's the thousands of short-range missiles that pose a more constant threat to Israel's north. It was one of those that caused the deaths today at Kfar Giladi.

Unlikely Feedback

At about the same time as the missile was landing on Bet Shean, I received an e-mail from an irate reader who took exception with my post on sending Merav to camp in the first place. In his particularly ill-tempered message, he called me a variety of names I will not stoop to print here, but his message was clear: Either I am "in denial" or am "unbelievably cavalier" he wrote. "You think sending your kid closer to the border war is OK, because that means you are not taking a defeatist attitude? That's a bunch of s--t if I ever heard it."

After the missile that landed near Bet Shean, I was momentarily inclined to agree with him, despite his foul language. But then my unpleasant correspondent continued on to shoot himself in the foot (not an easy task given that his pedestrian appendage was inserted firmly in mouth).

"Imagine if the U.S. was in a border skirmish with Mexican terrorists," he wrote, "and I decided to let my kid go to summer camp in San Diego or La Jolla, Calif., a stone's throw from the border? How stupid would I have to be to do that?"

Other than the fact that I have family living in both the aforementioned southern California cities who would be equally offended at his accusation, I have to ask: what would my tormentor do instead? If everyone took his approach, all terrorists would have to do is hit a few well-situated locations in the U.S. and, eventually, the entire population would wind up confined to a tiny corner of Wisconsin. Guess who'd win the global war on terror then?

We didn't send Merav to camp in order to fight. But we're not pulling her out either, despite our concerns and the Katyusha that landed too close for comfort. The big bully who wrote might call me cavalier. If so, then bring on the cavalry.

Brian Blum writes the syndicated column This Normal Life and operates, an online publishing service for budding bloggers. E-mail him at


Anonymous said...

The irate American reader might be pleased to know that in Arizona, at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (the southern border of which is on the International border), the National Park Service has closed almost one-half of the monument to visitation due to the threat of violence by illegal border crossers.
Even though it may be the prudent thing to do in the short term, the Park Service is actually ceding ownership of the monument. I was very saddened to learn of this during my visit in Jan 2006.
If Israel and the 2 girls' families were to follow the same logical as the Park Service, there would soon be no Israel.
I realize that this is an extreme comparison, but at some level, it seems very apt.

Leah PettePiece said...

After near 30 years as a social worker I feel the need to comment here! Look, would you take your child and stand on a railroad track that a train barreling down at 300 MPH? Would you dileberateily, with forethought place your child in harms way where she might loose her life? If you answered no to the two questions above, why in Hashems name would you place your precious child in the path of a Katushah rocket? What is wrong with your thinking? Our children are our future! Please bring your child to saftey before something else happens. You will never forgive yourself if she dies there!

Dave said...

Leah, where would you have us go? Where would you go?

By your logic, all Israel, and much of the western world is off-limits.

Andreas said...

I am glad, that you and your family are ok and I send you my best wishes for health & happiness. I guess it is difficult for us in the "save parts" of the world to understand your situation. Do the right thing - and take care!



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