4.0968 Israeli Diaries: Werman (1/177)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Sun, 3 Feb 91 23:53:34 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0968. Sunday, 3 Feb 1991.

Date: Fri, 1 Feb 91 13:19 +0200
Subject: Israel -- Friday, 1 February [eds.]

Friday, 1 February

We Look for Patterns

Someone here said that is nothing as old as yesterday's
danger. Now, I think that I have found something just as
outdated, and much more useless: yesterday's sense of security.

Last night we were again attacked. For the first time, I
was not at home. It was at 18:00, already dark for a half hour
outside and I was still at work. I actually did not know where
the sealed room was; but a colleague quickly directed me to the
comfortable, spacious students' laboratory that had been sealed
for just such times. At this late hour [suddenly 6 PM has
become late], only a dozen of us were there: I was among the
first to arrive but others wandered in over the next 10 minutes.
Most of us - I among them - had their masks and donned them;
someone had remembered to bring a radio [not a transistor model,
but luckily there was no problem with the electricity].

We now knew that a direct link from the US spy satellite
hovering above Iraq had been set up - to Israel and to the
Patriot anti-missile missile batteries. This would increase the
warning time from 1 1/2 to 5 minutes. [Before, the data was
sent to Australia (!) first; and only then, after decoding,
forwarded to us.] Everyone seems much calmer than I feel; but
two of us, a man and a young woman, have repeated difficulties
with their masks - they take them off and put them on, readjust-
ing the straps.

Another two of the dozen - I recognized one face but did
not know who he was; he looked Russian to me - had no mask. No
one remarked on this. I did not feel secure; I wondered where
other members of my family were.

I do not think that I have mentioned that you have to take
off your eyeglasses before putting on the masks; a number of the
people in the room were clearly effectively blind in. Attempts
to put the glasses on over the mask are foiled by arms of the
glasses being about one inch short; furthermore, the extra
distance from the lens of the eye puts the image a bit out of
focus; I tried it i I know. I wear glasses, but manage well
enough without them to read the time on my wristwatch, to keep

On the radio we hear translations of the alarm notice -
all Israel is requested to enter sealed rooms and put on the
anti-poison gas masks - in Russian, English, French and Amharic.
Only later, with the arrival of the appropriate translators, did
we hear Arabic and Yiddish translations of the announcements.

There is no computer terminal in the sealed room.

18:08 - A confirmed attack is announced: "A missile [or missiles]
has been fired at Israel from Western Iraq."
18:11 - The whole country is still required to sit in sealed
rooms, wearing masks.
18:13 - Inhabitants of the North - including Haifa, unusually
early for that city - and the South were allowed to take
off masks and leave the sealed rooms. Is it Greater Tel
Aviv again? How many missiles? What damage have they
done? Were the Patriots effective? What kind of warhead
did the missiles bear?
18:13 - All of Israel, other than the East Central region is now
freed, including Tel Aviv. It seems to be the other side
of the Green Line again. Mostly Palestinian Arabs with
some Jewish settlements, as well. We take off our masks.
I am told that I have been tightening the straps of mine
too much; my face is slightly purplish, it seems. Some
attempts at joking. We wander back to our offices. Some
rush, to telephone, to be reassured, to reassure. My wife
- at her latest adopted Russian immigrant family's apart-
ment - is safe and calls me; she actually remembered, and
had her gas mask with her.
18:42 - We hear that there have been no injuries, no damage. Good.
No Patriots were fired. What does that mean? This is the
second time in a row that no Patriot was fired. Is it for
the same reasons?
18:47 - A small part of the country is still confined to sealed
rooms, wearing gas masks. It appears that there is diffi-
culty finding the missile, determining its nature. It must
have landed in the hills. [In the morning we learn that it
fell in the western part of the Shomron {Samaria} between
Two Arab villages.]
A number of false alarms are sounded in various cities;
nervous fingers, it seems. I am glad that it has not happen-
ed here, in Jerusalem.
19:00 - As suspected, the missile has not been located.
19:23 - Only now, a general all clear is announced.

This is the second attack, one after another, in which a single
SCUD is fired and the missile falls far short of its mark. It is hard
to believe that the missiles were fired at the Arab population, both
because they are not Saddam Hussein's professed enemies - a title he
has bestowed on us - and because the effectiveness of the missile is
so much greater in areas of larger population. There are certainly no
signigicant military installations in the regions of these missile
landings. Indeed, we later find out that during the attack Baghdad
radio announced [Iraqi General Staff Communique # 33]: "At 19:00
[Baghdad time, which is one hour ahead of us. RW] our units fired
Al Husseini [Improved, long distance version of the SCUD. RW]
missiles [sic - RW] at Tel Aviv, which rained Arab, Islamic and Iraqi
anger on the heads of the Zionists."

There are several possibilities to explain these misfirings.
It is possible that there was insufficient time to fully fuel the
missiles; they are only fueled after being placed in position.
Coalition bombing limits the time that is available for preparation
of the missiles for firing, a process that normally takes as much
as six hours. Mechanical failure is another possiblity, and may
in part result from launching from makeshift launchers, improvised
in the face of coalition bombings that have destroyed many of the
original launchers.

Why have the Patriots not been fired? We have all become
armchair generals, working with limited information. Is it
because the SCUDS can be seen by their radar not to be threats?
Is it because the missiles fall when they are still out of the
range [35 miles] of the Patriots? Is it because there is a
problem with the Patriots? The absence of information frustrates
us, worries us. Black scenarios are not difficult to find.

We continue to seek patterns. The pattern of no firings
during the daytime is still intact. We are not the only ones who
have noticed this; schools are being reopened at a much quicker
rate than we thought would be possible a few days ago. Yesterday,
all Junior High School classes - except in Tel Aviv and Haifa,
which will begin to offer these classes on Sunday - have reopened.
Teachers who worked furiously to prepare lessons for home study,
only to find that these efforts were wasted, are furious and
frustrated, not knowing what to expect next. It is a strange
situation when it is the government, that ponderous and slow
moving mastodon, that is able to show the greatest flexibity, to
change plans with ease, with an ear to the winds of changing

It is now planned to reopen classes in elementary schools,
1st through 6th grades on Sunday as well. Again all over the
country except for Tel Aviv and Haifa, which will follow in one
or two days.

Daytime movie houses are also open; no move has been made
to reopen them to evening and nighttime showings. Nobody, whose
work does not require it, is out of their houses after 19:00.
Supermarkets, all-night pharmacies and other businesses close at
that time - or earlier.

Now we try out among ourselves the possibility of other
patterns. Twice, we have had exactly two consecutive nights
without attack. Is that pattern to be relied on? Or is it but
a random association? We don't have enough information for a
statistical evaluation.

Another pattern is that the firings seem to be undertaken
on the hour. As this attack was at 18:00, there was also 2:00
AM, and so on. Can it be that the Iraqi Army command says,
"Shoot off a SCUD at Israel at X o'clock, where X is always a
whole number, from 1 to 24? Or, would it be from 18:00 [our time]
to 03:00, the hours of darkness, if that pattern is correct as

And so it goes. Black magic? Perhaps. But we do not
have anything better.

We have survived our eigth attack now, 30 SCUDs.

It rains hard now, it is cold outside, the wind is strong,
fog covers us. The world is gray. Yes, gray, but still livable.

__Bob Werman

copyright 1991 USA. All rights reserved.