Sunday, July 20, 2008

This day, two years ago...

With the Lebanon War 'officially declared' over last week, after the return to Israel of the bodies of Ehud Goldwasser z"l and Eldad Regev z"l, I looked in my archive ( here and here ) to see what I posted two years ago, during that war. I forgot - or repressed the memory, you tell me - that exactly two years ago, on the morning of July 20th 2006, we - my pregnant wife, our 7-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son, and I - left Israel on an El Al flight to Amsterdam. Eight days after the war started in the North ( in and around Gaza it already had been going on for some time, and for the Shalit family it still is continuing, let us not forget that ) we decided to do what was best for all of us. In the end we spent five weeks in the Netherlands, and the children in particular had a wonderful holiday, courtesy of Hassan Nasrallah - may his name be erased from memory. During the war I did quite a lot of hasbara, through opinion articles and analyses for Dutch newspaper, by means of my weblog, by appearing on Dutch radio, being interviewed by a Dutch newspaper while my wife and children were in the pool( an e-mail interview with a Lebanese newspaper, in which my words were twisted terribly to suit the chief editor's anti-Israel message was in the end not published because the Lebanese were forbidden to have direct contact with the enemy; today I do not think that I would be that naive anymore, I would probably turn such a request down, even though the editor who contacted me appeared to be friendly, she apologized all the time ), and by speaking at a solidarity meeting of the Jewish community in Amsterdam. If you ask me today if I regret any decision in those months, I think that today I would reply: "Yes, the fact that we did not listen to my parents, who urged us to come when things started to run out of control, even before hell broke loose in Northern Israel and Southern Lebanon." We - that is, mostly my wife and our children, I have no idea to what extent the war affected me emotionally - suffered the real war for only a little more than one week. That is nothing compared to hundreds of thousands of Israelis, who did not have anywhere to go, or who had loved ones serving near or across the border. It is hard to determine which part of our behavior is a result of what experience. Still, our now 5-year-old son recently has started to become very anxious about either my wife or me leaving the house after he goes to sleep. He often goes to bed being afraid of thieves and bad guys, and keeps on asking questions about war, soldiers and similar subjects. He almost becomes hysterical whenever he hears firework or something that even remotely reminds him of an alarm. We took a summer-membership at a local country club which has a swimming pool with a wave generator. Once every hour the generator is turned on for 10-15 minutes, which is announced with a short siren. The first time that I was there with our three children - our youngest was born two months after we returned home - he started crying, ran into my arms and said "I don't want any rockets, I don't want any rockets". Therefore, I tend to believe that the war has something to do with his traumas, fears and sorrow, even though all that is probably trivial, compared to the suffering of children who had to spend the whole war in Northern Israel or Southern Lebanon, and of children who lost their home, or a father, brother or other friend or family member. Since this suffering affects one of the four people whom I love more than anyone else in the world, it is hardly trivial to me. If you had asked me three years ago whether I would ever flee to escape a war over here I would have said "I don't think so". Today, being much wiser and cynical, I am pretty sure that I agree with basically all of my friends and loved ones - in Israel and abroad - who soothed my conscience during and after the war by telling me: "You would have been crazy and irresponsible if you had not grabbed with both hands the opportunity which your parents offered you". To me it seems that by writing this posting I still am trying to ease my conscience and justify the decision that my wife and I made two years ago.

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