An Ill Wind Bloweth Here

Yesterday was the most tense and thunderous day experienced by the frontline communities since the war began. Hezbollah had suddenly remembered its close neighbors was the impression I got.

It was even difficult to eat lunch at the home of Rosa Davidi, the mother and grandmother of many in Margaliot. Every time you tried to lift a meatball out of its reddish gravy, artillery boomed from the other side of wall, freezing the spoon halfway from the plate to your mouth. Even the elders of Margaliot have a hard time remembering the last time their mountain village lay in the valley of the shadow of death, and they feared evil.

But those who have remained in Margaliot still refuse to leave. How would we ever manage without Rosa and her lunches?

Not far from here, in Moshav Avivim, the worst case scenario acted itself out yesterday. Avivim is too far from Margaliot to hear the exchanges of fire but close enough to hear the quickened heartbeats. Like Margaliot, Avivim is also located on the border, just one step away from Hezbollah land.

No place has suffered like Avivim. In 1970, a school bus was heading to the regional school in the area when terrorists fired at it from behind a nearby fence, killing 12 young children from Avivim. Today, those kids could have been 50 and sitting in shelters.

Yesterday, I telephoned my friend, Shimon Biton, the head of Avivim's residents' committee, to ask how his village was doing, and suddenly remembered he was one of the children on that bus. He was saved, but the memories keep haunting him, especially these days.

The Avivim battle yesterday may not be a turning point in the war, but it will certainly be a milestone in it. The battle took place on Lebanese soil, which had been invaded by our ground forces, and therefore evokes a sinful memory - the sin of the first war in Lebanon. It could awaken and summon the latent nightmares of many people in Israel whose flesh has not yet healed from the burn of Lebanon. They remember what that war in Lebanon did to us, and what we had done.

Over the last few days, I have been reporting from here on the state of the chickens and fruit at the moshav. The chickens are well, although they are laying fewer and fewer eggs. Chickens, too, are startled by the thunder of rockets, and they, too, find it difficult to distinguish between the boom of a fired rocket and one that has landed. It is doubtful if Margaliot's future still lies in these eggs.

The fruit, however, is beyond redemption. All picking efforts and hopes have been dashed. Yesterday, the Thai Embassy sent buses to collect all the Thai workers around here, and nobody is left to pick the fruit in the peak season. The peaches, pears, apples, plums and nectarines will rot. A entire year's investment and labor gone down the drain.

"The nation is strong," there is no doubt about it. Its spirit is holding firm. But what can I say: An ill wind bloweth here.