An Especially Quick War

A resident of the moshav, sick and lonely, ran out of medications. She asked Ilan Gilon to try to get them for her. Ilan was another one who flowed north when the stream flowed south.

In the morning we go down to Kiryat Shmona to find a doctor to write a prescription and a pharmacist to supply the meds. We have about two hours until Nasrallah wakes up and remembers us. It is not so easy to find an open pharmacy in a closed town.The sick are reduced in places where killing, wounding and shock are elevated.

Near the Magen David Adom station was a kindly doctor, his face plowed with fatigue lines, whom passers-by greeted with "hello and good morning Dr. Robert." He immediately provided the needed prescription. Somewhat late, at 9 A.M., the window at the city health center opened, and with it the hope of our sick neighbor from Margaliyot. In a few minutes we would call her to say the mountain of medications was in our hands.

At times, when a humanitarian mission is successful, one is struck with nostalgia for what we have done with our lives and what we will still do. I said to Ilan, come on, I'll show you the house where I used to live with my family in Kiryat Shmona. By the time we got there, the siren, which I have been hearing since 1974, like one continuous wail, sounded.

We hurried to take cover and found ourselves descending an unfamiliar flight of stairs toward an unknown shelter. We pushed open the heavy iron door, and darkness thrust back at us. Turning on the lights, not a living soul greeted us. But souls had been here not long ago. Rumpled sheets, open books and notebooks, a doll and a teddy bear making love on one of the bunks.

We sat there alone, Ilan and I, and waited. In this pulverized and abandoned city one can wait forever; around here there are only warning sirens, never all-clears. And if you do go outside, the Home Front will place full responsibility for your fate on you: "You did not comply with instructions," they will accuse, as if there were clear instructions that the public can follow, as if it were possible to follow them after 30 straight days of running to the depths of stinking shelters.

Ilan sat in the middle of the shelter in the middle of the war, and checked to see if he had mobile phone reception. In places that are closed and sealed the desire becomes stronger to contact the outside world. I sat among the remains of the smell and the heat of people I had never met before and never would meet.

On the way up to Margaliyot I stopped by the cemetery at Kfar Giladi, at the foot of the Roaring Lion. Only five days ago, 12 reserve soldiers were killed here. A strange urge, historical and unnatural, brought me here. In Kfar Giladi even the cemetery is not quiet. For more than 80 years it has spoken, and even the kibbutz old-timers sometimes have trouble understanding it, and unlocking all its secrets and riddles.

There is no remnant of the disaster. This war in a hurry is especially quick, and does not wait for its end. It covers its tracks while on the move.