4.0975 Israeli Diaries: Werman (1/183)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Mon, 4 Feb 91 00:24:43 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0975. Monday, 4 Feb 1991.

Date: Sun, 3 Feb 91 1:54 +0200
Subject: Saturday Night 2 Februay

Saturday Night 2 Februay

So Much for Patterns

Friday was uneventful; we waited for the attack which we knew
would come and it did not. Although we were relieved to be free of
the drill - ascent to the sealed room, closing it, putting on the
masks, turning on the radio, and waiting, waiting - I felt a
distinct disappointment. We had undergone nighttime attacks on
the two previous Fridays - the only ones in the war until yesterday,
despite Friday being the Islamic Sabbath. No attack on this third
consecutive Friday meant no pattern. I did not realize until now
how important to me was seeing patterns in the attacks.

I was trying to make order out of the chaos of war; by seeking
patterns, I hoped to find rules and laws. Rules and laws that would
counter this disturbing and unsettling feeling of uncertainty that
was now almost as bad as the thought of being injured or killed.
This attempt on my part was doomed to failure, I now see - but it
was comforting while the illusion lasted.

I am reminded by writing the previous paragraph of my daughter-
in-law's anger at me; she had looked at some of my reports and, when
she came with her family to dinner on Friday night, she told me that
I was picturing our situation as if we were misfortunates and objects
of pity. She resented that, was convinced it was not true; but she
had been born here in Israel, had only spent a few years in the
States. This was normal for her; not the actual SCUD attacks and
the procedures we follow with each attack - they were new. But
the idea of being under attack, of having to defend herself - that
was part of the turf for her.

Of course she is right. It is just that my background is so
very different; I have spent more than half my life abroad, in the
bosom of decency and democracy. [Not that I do not feel that I now
live in a decent society where democracy prevails; indeed they do,
but their geographic limits are so very narrow. Size really makes
a difference, not only from the point of view of security, but also

I even left the States before the cities became dangerous at
night. [Other than SCUDDs, which I hope are temporary, the cities
are still quite safe at night here.] I don't feel that I am one of
the downtrodden of the world and I do not want to give that impres-
sion. It is just that as an American [originally, and it seems ir-
revocably] I am always surprised by evil. My initial response is
to deny it; to say it is just not there. I need time to regain my
equilibrium in the face of Evil. I lived through 2 1/2 wars as an
American and this is my fifth here in Israel. I have had enough
experience of the world to ought to have learned; but as an American,
I fear, there are some things I can never really learn.

For Americans the distinction between degrees of bad is a very
difficult one to make. One bad is perceived as just as bad as any
another bad. That appears to be a consequence of the ultimate
optimism of the American. The American can and does still believe
in a perfect or perfectable world. [To that extent, I am no longer
an American.] It was to the Americans that Santayana spoke when he
said that one who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat
the same mistakes.

When I speak to Americans about Evil they do not understand;
they think that bad is the same as Evil. Until they learn - Will
they ever? Can they ever? - they will be trapped by this confusion.
Bush, some of them tell me [I really do not know], is bad. I say to
them, "Maybe or even Yes. But Saddam Hussein is Evil." And they do
not understand me.

There is a world out here that has different guiding principles.
You have to listen; some people are not sportsman and do not play by
the rules.

Only a few months ago, I was in China. There, a distinguished
savant, a member of the Academica Sinica, who has travelled extensively
in the West - and is a nice guy, too - told me in deadly seriousness
that he knows that the US is preparing to invade mainland China with
a force of 10,000,000 soldiers. Does this sound wild to you?

This was not a joke; nothing I could say to this Chinese intel-
lectual would convince him that there was no basis for this wild
belief. He showed me his relaxed attitude to this anticipated disaster;
he joked grimly, telling me that China would make good use of the dead
American soldiers that would result from such an invasion as fertilizer.

Well, Saddam Hussein's claim that this is a war between Israel
and Islam with the US and its coalition partners doing the fighting
for Israel is just as wild. And Saddam Hussein has succeeded in con-
vincing many Moslems, including intellectuals, that he is telling the
truth. And some Americans as well, I am afraid to report.

My son sent me a newspaper clipping from India where it said, as
if everyone knew it as truth, that the US jumped through hoops when-
ever Israel called the tune. This is India, not an enemy of the US.
This is not cynical lying, not the work of another Goebells, but some-
thing much worse. They believe it. Even at the top.

I am just enough not an American to see the difference. And the
threat. And to fear the death of people in the name of lies. And
the picture I see is sad. But I am enough an American and enough an
Israeli - and perhaps enough a Jew, as well - to believe that there
can be better. Better, yes; not perfection, but better. And better
is good. And to see that it is sometimes worth fighting for a life
of truth and meaning in a world that will always partially confuse me.
Particularly when I think I have achieved a life of truth and meaning
and someone is trying to take it away from me.

War is bad, but it is sometimes necessary. Discrimination is an
out word these days [The out word of my youth was "rationalization".].
I understand the reasons for the disfavor that has fallen on use of
this word, but it is still a pity to lose so fine a word. After all,
discrimination [as is rationalization] is a higher function of the
brain. And it takes discrimination to tell the difference between a
bad person and an Evil person. Just as it does to tell the differ-
ence between just any war and a necessary and justifiable one, as
this one is.

So, I apologize to my daughter-in-law. But not to Saddam Hussein.


But I was talking about losing faith in patterns. As I am beginning
to now.

On Saturday night, after beginning this report, we had another alarm.
And at 20:27! Another pattern, ever so tenuous, down the drain. In this
case the pattern of attacks on the hour is the victim of fact destroying
Werman's feeble efforts at finding patterns.

20:27 - This time, I heard the siren outside, or rather my wife did. I
ran to the TV, saw the familiar medallion announcing - in various
languages - the alarm. I took my mother and ascended the stairs,
where we were joined by my wife in the sealed room. Closing the
room, adjusting the tape on the door, placing the wet towel at
the foot of the door, donning our masks, turning on the radio,
checking my mother's mask - all this is now pretty much routine.
No different than brushing your teeth. [How my daughter-in-law
will hate that sentence!] And busy with the routine, I have no
time for fright or pessimistic thought or even serious worry.
Translations in English and Amharic. Later there will also be
Russian, French and Yiddish.
20:33 - We learn from the radio that this is a real attack and that all
Israel is asked to don masks in sealed rooms. Nahman Shai tells
us that we do now have more warning time than previously.
I once again attempt to get onto the IRC net through my computer
to find out what is happening in other cities but the IRC server
in Israel is down. I try to connect up through an IRC server in
the States - this will allow me to find out who is on line in
other cities in Israel and "talk" to them almost instantaneously -
but without success.
20:40 - Instructions about how to handle heating up of the incubators that
all three year olds and younger enter during these attacks. If
you have a fan in the room, to blow it at the filter of the incuba-
tor; if not, to put cold, wet rags on the incubator without cover-
ing the filter. Check the infant to see if he/she is pale or having
difficulties breathing. If yes, check that the door is properly
sealed and - only then - take the infant out for one or two minutes,
until he/she seems better and then replace the infant n the incuba-
20:43 - Just as in the last two attacks, all of Israel is released from
masks and sealed rooms except for Shomron [Samaria], in the
occupied territories.
20:45 - We are told that the was a single missile fired from Western Iraq
and that it had fallen in the region where people were still in
masks and sealed rooms.
20:57 - The southern half of that region is also released.
20:59 - We hear that there are no known casualties or damage to property.
21:03 - An all clear announcement is given on the radio; we are told that
the all clear siren will not be blown. Why? Could it be that too
many people mistake it for another attack?


I am tired and subjects I wanted to write about will have to wait
until tommorrow. If nothing happens to push them further away.

__Bob Werman

copyright 1991 USA. All rights reserved.