Yesterday, I was looking at these photos that Lisa posted from the north. I’ve always loved northern Israel – its natural beauty, its hidden nooks and crannies. We’ve spent many glorious days driving around the north, enjoying the sights and sounds of the season, whether it be the rushing waters of winter or the blooming flowers of early spring. We love the nature trails that amble past ancient ruins and waterfalls, the breathtaking views from the mountains, the roads that take you past sleepy little villages, suddenly curving and allowing you to sneak a peek at the Kinneret. There are an astounding number of excellent restaurants tucked into the landcape, offering a variety of mouth-watering dishes served against outstanding natural backdrops. And the green. Whenever I think of the north, I think of green. The beautiful forests, the rolling fields, the sloping hills and towering mountains. Green. All of it. Everywhere you turn. Incredible. Magnificent. Gone.
Everyone has seen the pictures from Lebanon – the destruction, the death. We have all been made profoundly aware of the extent of the damage there, and despite the fact that some of the photos have proven to be fakes, it’s clear that several parts of the country are simply in ruins. But what about northern Israel? More than 3000 missiles have been shot into Israel, courtesy of the Hezbollah. 3000 missiles, all containing added bits of metal in addition to the usual explosives, in order to maximize the damage they have been designed to inflict on the citizens of Israel. Many homes and apartments have been damaged or destroyed, schools have been hit, factories, hospitals, businesses big and small. Many, many injured, and a growing number of dead, with no distinction between Jew and Arab. We have all been targeted. We heave a collective sigh of relief when we hear that a missile has landed in an open area, and that there has been no damage to property or human life. These “harmless” landings have also taken a toll, as our lush, green north bursts into flames that leap high into the sky, moving quickly through the grass, plants and trees that have not seen rain for months.
Scenes from northern Israel have been shown in the media – houses going up in flames, buildings collapsing, vehicles that have become nothing more than burned out metal carcasses. Puncture wounds created by metal ball-bearings are everywhere, including in the bodies of the victims (which mercifully we are not forced to look at, due to the Israeli media tradition of not showing pictures of the dead). I cannot look anymore. I cannot see my beautiful north being systematically destroyed, torn apart by missiles and rockets sent by a terror organization that doesn’t care who it kills, who it hurts, no matter whether they are north or south of the border. I fear that even the small window of destruction that we have seen thus far cannot even begin to prepare us for the actual devastation that awaits us, once we will be able to return safely to the north to see for ourselves. I envision towns and cities where more buildings are damaged than not, fields of blackened, dead trees, where flowers no longer grow. Gaping holes where homes used to be. Cemeteries with far too many freshly-dug graves. We will be a nation in shock, a nation in mourning as we assess and internalize our losses.
We are nothing if not resilient, and we will rebuild. We have survived terror attacks and Scud missiles, and we will survive this as well. In a few years’ time, the war that took place during the summer of 2006 will be little more than a memory, and our northern environs will be flourishing once again. For now, though, we wait, we worry and we mourn.