Opinion

After Watching 'Chernobyl,' One Nagging Question Remains: What About Israel's Nuclear Reactor?

Israel's Dimona nuclear reactor, 2015.
Tomer Appelbaum

What about Dimona? This is the nagging question that arises after watching “Chernobyl." This outstanding series etches into your awareness several visual images that won’t be easily erased – first and foremost the sight of the human landscape after exposure to a lethal dose of radioactivity. It’s almost an unbearable sight. The first instinct is to look away. Don’t. If the victims could stand it, you can look at it.

And there’s the bird that plummets from the sky as an evil omen at the end of one of the installments; and the old woman milking a cow who refuses to be evacuated until the cow is sent to its death, just like the dog and her puppies that find shelter in an abandoned apartment in the ghost town.

There’s the wife of the firefighter – whose body is being consumed before her eyes, distorted and impossible to identify – who out of ignorance places his foot on her pregnant belly, thereby dooming her fetus to death, but saving herself because the fetus absorbs the radiation instead of her. And the town residents who gather in the middle of the night on the bridge – which is now called the “Bridge of Death,” and watch the fire burning in the distant reactor, amazed at the strong and beautiful colors being emitted from the melting core and painting the sky. All those naïve people died.

The tremendous power of “Chernobyl” stems – in addition to the fact that it is well made, with brilliant scripting and direction – from its loyalty to the historical event. It’s the real thing, as much as possible in a scripted series, and it is exceptional in that it dwells on the smallest technical details of the operation of an atomic reactor and the problem that caused the explosion.

It also makes it clear what a debt the entire European continent owes to the truly inconceivable heroism and supreme sacrifice demonstrated by hundreds of miners, scientists and technicians who carried out suicide missions.

HBO's series 'Chernobyl'; etches into your awareness several visual images that won’t be easily erased.
HBO

Soviet citizens were also characterized by self-sacrifice in World War II. As then, in this case too they were forced to be courageous due to a monumental home-made failure. This series is another horrific illustration of the government culture of lies nurtured by the Soviet Union. Present Russian President Vladimir Putin's obsessive lies under the cover of national needs, did not develop ex nihilo. It’s a product of this system. And he has succeeded in exporting it – to U.S. President Donald Trump, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The new axis is the alliance of liars.

And are Israel’s citizens more critical of the reactor in Dimona, less naïve, less ignorant? An elderly a Communist Party apparatchik declares in the series that the Soviet Union's residents are children who must be prevented from harming themselves.

When it comes to the reactor in Dimona, Israeli citizens are also children, and that’s how the government treats them. They have no idea what’s there, nor do they demand to know. They have no idea about the safety of the old reactor. They don’t demand any monitoring system. They don’t ask for any explanation. They rely on the government to take care of them. That’s a mistake. If there’s anything that is brilliantly clarified in “Chernobyl,” it’s that when a mistake is made – the first thing people do is to cover their asses.