The Fog of Battle

The silence between the rocket landings is the quietest sound I have ever heard. Over the years, I have developed perfect pitch for silence.

It always startles me with its heaviness. It hangs under Manara Cliff, waiting tensely. It can no longer be described as the silence before the storm and it certainly is not the silence after the storm. It must be the silence at the eye of the storm.

It greeted me at the gates of Moshav Margaliot. I passed by it as though I did not know it. Kobi was the first to call me in the morning, to ask why I did not come to the moshav to play backgammon with him. In any case, there is nothing else to do. The second was Liran, to ask why I did not come to the moshav for a few days. His new bed and breakfast rooms were all vacant.

So I decided to come up to Margaliot. Some people are attached to more than one place, with longings for the past and the future. Once we lived in Kiryat Shmona, below, and once in Margaliot, above. Both remained "mine."

On my way, crossing the line of fire near Rosh Pina, I saw the first smoke mushrooms. A rocket landing? Brush fire?

Kiryat Shmona is sealed off. People leave, nobody enters. Its roads are desolate, its shops are bolted shut and Thursday's market square is empty.

Mount Hermon, on my right, hid its face from me in a thick haze, as though the haze were part of the fog of battle.

What is really going on? Who is fighting whom? Where are we going? And what do we want to achieve in the end? I really cannot believe that all this is happening again for the umpteenth time, as though the Lebanon War had been forgotten and its lessons never learned. Who even remembers operations Accountability, Grapes of Wrath and Litani any more?

I arrived in the early afternoon, and still have no idea who is still here and who has left. Whoever left acted wisely. There is nothing heroic about being a civilian living under threat of attack. Those living in the shadow of Katyushas or Qassams are always the first to be right and the last to be reproached. They even have the right to be somewhat hysterical, to the chagrin of the Negev and Galilee minister. He would have done better to first calm the hysteria of his colleagues in the cabinet before complaining about the residents of the south and the north.

Governments may be right or wrong, and mostly they take full advantage of their right to be wrong. But civilians have the right to defend themselves from their leaders' mistakes.

I already know Rachel is here. So are Eitan and Kobi, Irit and Liran, Yoram and many others. They are helping the Israel Defense Forces to ward off the wicked attacks. Does the IDF really need help? Judging by the wretched events of the last few days, I believe it does. This may be embarrassing, but someone has to spell it out:

Had the IDF not failed both in the south and in the north, then both operations - in the Gaza Strip and in Lebanon - would have been unnecessary. For had the tunnel and the hole in the fence been discovered in time, had the warnings been received and decoded in time, had the rescue operations been quicker and more focused... Had even one of these occurred, the entire defense establishment would not have been caught with its pants down - twice. If the IDF had done all that it left undone, we would not have reached the present crisis.

It will all be investigated, of course, in due course, and will come to nothing. Therefore, when the army goes out to restore its deterrent capabilities, it should also use this opportunity to restore the credibility that it has lost at home. The alarm bells rang, the warning lights flashed, but the IDF did not hear and did not see. It was caught on the track, with the approaching train already too close to be able to stop.

At this very moment, I hear a loud bang. Liran says that it must be quite close and Ofer, our security officer, checks. The door to the room is open, the Hula Valley stretches at our feet from horizon to horizon, and I can see Mount Hermon much more clearly. The haze is slowly disappearing, but the fog remains.