Many people wondered how it was possible living in Jerusalem could be so quiet compared to what went on just a couple of hours to the north. But as I sat recently in a café with two friends before the cease fire was struck, we decided if a war broke out in Rhode Island, you wouldn’t hear the noise in Fenway Park because Providence is at least 60 minutes drive from Boston.
So it was in Jerusalem that when rockets landed as far south as Hadera or northern Samaria, we didn’t hear a thing because we were still an hour away. Even at night when sound travels faster and more cleverly, the only noises were the occasional diesel engines of a bus, a cat looking for a “friend,” or a couple of yeshiva students excited about seeing a particular Hassidic superstar folk singer.
Here in Jerusalem as in many places in the center of the country, the war was easy to keep at bay. Without watching television, listening to the radio, or checking the internet for the latest news every ten minutes, you wouldn’t know war was available to be afraid of. However, if you opened the shades and looked a bit deeper at society, the war was there in impeccable ways.
For example, instead of seeing the usual 18-21 year old soldiers in the streets performing their mandatory national service, another type of soldier who already completed his years ago was reemerging. Outside my window on a sunny morning I saw a 30 something man in uniform headed for the war in Lebanon, perhaps for true combat.
His army uniform freshly removed from the back of his closet, his shoes still shining from the last time he did reserve duty; he slipped through the gold Jerusalem sun with a small pack on his back, the brand name obscured by use in a previous life.
When the time came for this keen but not-so-tough-looking Israeli with graying hair and other men and woman like him to step up, leave home, and do their part to defend their country, they followed through on their pledge.
I don’t know whether the man in green I saw made it home but 84 other brave brothers and one sister didn’t.
Together with 42 civilians, 126 Israelis lost their lives and more than 1000 were wounded in more than 4000 rocket attacks that rained down on Israel over 34 days.
More than 1 million others were forced to join an exodus south in order to flee the missiles and while in the center of the country, they teamed up with communities and families who took them in after they had nowhere to go.
That’s where another example of the war crept in. The “ones from the north” were everywhere bringing their side of the war to Jerusalem falafel stands, hitchhiking posts, movie theaters, and shabbat tables.
Walking through the annual Jerusalem International Arts Fair being held in the Sultans Pool area below the Old City, many evacuees enjoyed the displays by Israeli and international exhibitors from places like Niger, Brazil, Indonesia, Mongolia, and Jordan. Had there been no war, would there had been as many people crowding the artists and their crafts?
At one booth I heard one woman say she was from Israel’s most northern town, Kiryat Shemona. In the food court there was another from Haifa, in the Moroccan tent there was another from Tiveria, -all trying to escape the dread of Hizbullah. But now that a cease fire exists, most are returning northward hoping and praying the last battle was fought.
Though a majority is pessimistic and believes the terms of UN resolution 1701 will ultimately lead to Israel vs Hizbullah II, taking back their lives is what Israelis want and they are not going to let the shortcomings of a silly resolution by the UN stop them. Even in Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital, life is returning to normal and the oddities of war have subsided. There are still three IDF soldiers being held captive and the struggle for their release continues everywhere but the mobilization to and from Lebanon has lifted.
As of Thursday, all reserves called up for service returned to Israel happy to go home and sleep in their own beds.