Today at exactly 10 am local time sirens were sounding for exactly 90 seconds nearly all over Israel. (The only exclusions being made at those places where there are already enough sirens and “Tseva Adom” [Code Red] alarms everyday). The sirens are part of a several-day drill called “Turning Point 2”, of both military and civil structures, where a conflict with neighbouring countries is simulated. Point of the drill being:
[…] intended to help authorities evaluate how prepared the country is to face the threat, for instance, of missiles – conventional, biological, chemical or nuclear – smashing into our population centers. (source)
Naturally Yoram Ohayon, head of the police’s operation division, was fast to ensure:
There’s no cause for alarm – these are intended purely as exercises. As far as I know, there is no concrete information that any kind of missile is going to be fired at Israel. This exercise is aimed at optimizing the complex inter-organizational response that is needed for a mass-casualty incident, (source)
From the other side of the border these days one will read statements like the following one made by Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad in an interview with the government-controlled Al-Thura newspaper:
When the language of understanding with Israel regarding the peace process comes to an end, Syria will be prepared for any possibility. The Israelis aren’t aware that we know that every war has its own path… The more Israel tries to generate this centralized atmosphere in order to reap benefit from the July downfall (editor’s note: the Second Lebanon War), [Syria] cannot but also draw plans in advance of a conflict. (source)
Which basically says, to put it in a nutshell, “We have already looked up the fastest route to Jerusalem and have the papers pinned to our pin board so we can grab them if we feel like it if Israel’s forcing us to.”
Though, of course, everybody is carefull to emphasize that he’s not actually intending to do any first step towards open war.
I remember when I first came to Israel and had both, the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz’ English issue, on my desk every morning and I read qoutes just like those – in retrospect actually that much alike that one could suspect they only rewrite them every once in a while – I simply paniced. I paniced because I was 100 % sure that there was war just around the corner waiting for me and everybody else in the country I had just learnt to love. Really: I was on the edge of getting my whimpy European ass right into the next plane back home.
Yet as time got by there was no war. For a couple of weeks the newspaper would be busy featuring the Winograd report and its possible outcome and aftermath. On some, few, days and with the help of that special kind of denial you soon adopt as a survival skill when living in Israel, you may even forget about the geographic and geopolitic situation Israel’s in. And then after some more weeks, sometimes months, it all starts over: Israel and Syria and whoever is into the game assuring each other that they are “ready for war” though not attempting to start one, as if they wouldn’t already know all too well.
If you are living in Israel you need to learn how to deny. How to deny the possibility of war, even if soldiers in biohazard-proove equipment are walking down your cozy little neighbourhood and the sirens are yelling out loud as if they were beings with a soul that is crying. Crying for peace as is pretty much everybody on either side of the border. The emphasis though lies on “pretty much” and this is where the troubles start and why even with all the world’s denial skills you can’t deny that one day the drill could turn into truth and so could words that come out of “official”‘s mouths.