Michael Totten

Arrival

TEL AVIV — Tel Aviv is surreally normal under the circumstances. The soft beaches — and these are some of the best in the Mediterranean — are packed with sunbathers, tourists, and probably refugees. Restaurants, cafes, shops, and bars, are all open. I hear languages from all over the world in the lobby of my hotel. Some of these people are obvious tourists, dutifully attending vacations they booked long before the shadow of war hung over the city.
Tel Aviv Beach During War 2.jpg
Tel Aviv August 2006.jpg
If it weren’t for the military aircraft ominously flying low over the beach on their way to pound Hezbollah, this could be Miami. Or — dare I say it? — Beirut.
Meanwhile, Kiryat Shmona in the north is a bad place today, darkened, covered in smoke, all but abandoned, and randomly exploding like a miniature Sarajevo. If Hezbollah had long range missiles they could really turn the lights out on this country. That’s why the Israelis are trying to deal with them now rather than later.
What the Israelis intend to do to prevent Iran from shipping them an even more formidable arsenal in the future still isn’t clear. Knocking Hezbollah off the border won’t do anything if they acquire more serious weapons. They already have a much greater range than the length of the intended buffer zone anyway.
I’d be lying if I said it’s scary here or that I’m nervous. It isn’t, and I’m not. But I do find my eyes wandering north every couple of minutes, not so much because I’m watching the skies but to remind myself that I’m perched on the edge of an inferno. Safe for the time being, but barely.
The Lebanon war has all but eclipsed the ongoing problems with the Palestinians. Not once in my first four hours in country — and this is highly unusual for someone unaccustomed to being in Israel — not once did I think about suicide bombers…
Postscript: I just got here and don’t have much of substance to report yet. But I’ll get to that as soon as I recover from travel exhaustion and get some field work under my belt. Please hit the Pay Pal link and help me cover travel expenses so I can stay longer.
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Michael Totten
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