Friday, March 17, 2017

Hodgepodge 139/365 - Conflict

Today we went very close to the Lebanese border, on the Mediterranean coast. There happen to be some very cool grottoes there, which is why we made the trip, not for the border specifically. There’s not much to see there: a gate; a sign; a soldier or two; a lot of barbed wire; a surveillance camera, constantly swiveling. Though in fact, this is just the first gate of several. The "border" between Israel and Lebanon is far from a simple line.

Avsha talked about all the defenses that Israel has in place, to counter short-, medium-, and long-range missiles—programs known as Arrow, Iron Dome, David’s Sling. We heard about electric fences that don’t give a shock, but do signal a watch station when the fence is touched, and soldiers then go to check whether it was an animal or a human, where they were headed, what they might be carrying. We saw an air force installation on our walk around Mt. Meron, which surveils with drones and is ready to strike in case of any incoming missiles.

As Avsha said, Israel is constantly—constantly—on watch. There’s no way it can be surprised by much. It’s ready to fight back at the slightest sign of aggression. He spoke of various times of conflict, when Hezbollah, or Hamas, or Syria has violently attacked with missiles. In the past, when a missile strike was detected, the civil alarm system could only warn large swaths of towns to get to safety. Now, they can pinpoint the eventual strike and give more focused warnings. They can tell whether a missile is headed to a populated place or to countryside, and in the latter case, just let it hit.

I may be getting some of the details wrong. My mind was finding it difficult to comprehend the idea of 5,000 missiles headed toward Israeli towns—with or without the ability to shoot them down. We’ve been talking about all the times over the centuries that towns were destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed, rebuilt—and still it goes on. Will humans never learn?

It’s fine to have good defenses, but what must it be like to live with this constant threat? To be targeted as the enemy by all the lands surrounding you? Can one really live a normal life under such circumstances?

Well, people here certainly seem to. It’s all they’ve ever known, after all, ever since Israel was founded. And everything seems peaceful enough now. But for how long?

And today's personages: Saladin and Richard the Lionheart, in relation to Acre and the Crusader castle there; also the second-century rabbi Rashbi (Shimon bar Yochai), whose town of Meron—where he's buried—we looked down on today: according to legend, he wrote the Zohar, the foundation for Kabbalism, there after spending thirteen years in a cave. Rashbi was the follower of the famous martyr Rabbi Akiva.

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