February 8, 2010
We recently experienced 2 ‘reds’ in Israel.
We travelled south of Tel Aviv into the Negev. Just as, recently in parts of Europe and currently in the eastern United States, we also have had our weather crisis. Southern Israel experienced the heaviest rainfalls and subsequent flash floods. 2 lives lost, homesteads and roads swept away etc. etc.
But there is a positive side. The rain brings out the flowers, and there we were in the northern Negev area, flush with anenomes. There, they are practically all red, whereas last week, in the Galilee areas, we enjoyed mixed colours, plus cyclamens in all their glory.
There’s an unwritten rule not to pick the wild flowers in Israel, and I can vouch for the fact that this rule is followed. They are wild, single flowers in the midst of green, or masses of red, almost hurting the eyes. Thank God for digital cameras, otherwise those Kodak moments would be extremely expensive.
Then we were in Sderot, the town that took the main blast of rockets from Gaza during the 4 years prior to Israel’s devastating retaliation. There, we met the head of the town’s intelligence and information centre, among whose responsibilities is the co-ordination of the warning systems when rockets are launched.
We were told how the town had between 15-17 seconds from launch to explode (around 80% of the 7,500 exploded), during which time, the computers (starting with those up in the hot-air balloons) had to decide which area was being attacked. It is doubtful that the launchers knew their targets, so haphazard were the systems). The town is covered (an unfortunate word) with shelters to which the man, the woman, the child in the street would run.
(It was difficult, of course, also in the political sense. How to react. Israel was ‘screaming’ at the UN, but getting nowhere. Israeli citizens were becoming more and more impatient at the country’s ‘pathetic’ response to Gaza’s attacks. An air raid may have hurt, but it clearly did nothing to prevent more rockets coming over a 4 year period, at an average of over 3 a day).
Can we imagine (have you ever imagined) the trauma of 4 years of what has to be compared to the London blitz? Counsellors are working today full-time to help the enormous problem of post-attack trauma. How can kids grow normally in such an atmosphere? Is moving to Ashkelon or Tel Aviv the solution? Ashkelon was soon under fire – and Tel Aviv is next (and of course suffered its own attacks in 1991 from Iraq – I lived through it).
I don’t want to go back over the ‘disproportionate’ argument, but please consider this…..over 400 rockets have fallen in the Sderot area since the ceasefire was declared. One fell during our visit!! Here’s a picture of one of the most recent ones –
But…..I can’t end this letter on such a note. Let’s go to the next day. We visited the Arava Desert, the area south of the Dead sea.
Geologically, water covered most of Israel. Today, below the deserts, there are aquifers, fresh water reservoirs deep in the ground, ready to be exploited. In the 70’s, along a wadi now marked partly by the ‘Derech Shalom’, the Peace Way, private farms and co-operatives (‘moshavim’) were established.
With funds, primarily from private donations (many in memory of the fallen – see image of memorial pillars), a reservoir was created which feeds an area about 75 km. long along the wadi. This runs along the Israel-Jordan border.
An agreement was reached with the Jordanians. In principle, they gave us land to be cultivated, in exchange for other land. Today, 40% of Israel’s vegetables (both for local consumption and export) are grown here in greenhouses that are stunning to see.
We visited one private farm, started 32 years ago by 2 farmers with foresight. Today, in temperatures that range from 45C down to the occasional night frost (crops are often totally lost), the 2 families grow peppers, melons, water-melons, tomatoes, dates, figs, they farm sheep and have multiple fish pools.
The labour used to be almost all Palestinian. Even today, there are some that come from the West Bank. But the closure of Gaza means that many of today’s workers come from Thailand (see the signs), with some from northern Africa.
As my brother, the agronome, says: If the land is right, all you need is irrigation.
Look at the Melon flower….
And finally, to bring us really up to date, the (British) press is trying so hard not to be jealous / envious of the suspected Mossad killing of the Hamas weapon-procurer in Dubai recently. Of COURSE it’s wrong to falsify passports etc. etc. Smack on the hand at least. But this time, the consensus appears to be that we did what most would like their governments to do, and in the gung-ho manner that fits the crime. ?
The Guardian still tried to keep to their anti-Israel attitude, and BBC’s Jeremy Bowen (I’m trying to meet him) stuck to his guns – and Israel does not kick him out. But most of the press is quietly applauding this Entebbe-like action – and Israel keeps mum. Who? Me
And still in Dubai, Shahar Pe’er shocked the tennis World and reached the semi-final of the tournament that refused entry to her last year. Sadly, none of Shahar’s games were played on the Centre Court. She was surrounded by 16 security guys each time she walked on court, was kept in a separate hotel, separate changing rooms etc. etc. What a sad load of …
Where are the NGO’s now?