Walter posts from Haifa

Walter has been posting updates from Israel at his Ruby Jewsday site. However, his latest report (which he also emailed) is not yet posted at RJD so I'll put it up here:

Yesterday was one of the most exhilarating and profoundy depressing days of my life. I spent the day in Haifa--my beloved hometown where I spent the best years of my life as a young reporter 1976-79, and the city yesterday was achingly beautiful from the vista of Yefe Nof Street--I had forgotten just how beautiful is, but it was almost dead. Hardly any traffic, the port was empty.

A visitor does not see physical destruction, until they take you to a few of the houses that were blown up. I accompanied a group of Hadssah women from the U.S., first to Rambam hospital and then on a tour of the city--which was cut short by air raid sirens again and again. The first siren came when we were inside the hosital, but they insisted that we go inside the conference room where we had been scheduled to go anyway, but a little later, because it is the most secure spot in the hospital. We spoke to several soldiers who had been gravely wounded in Lebanon whose lives were saved by the wonderful; doctors there.

It turned out a rocket had landed a kilomter away friom us, but it didnt explode. Then we began a tour of the nearby Bat Galim neighborhood which was abruptly cut short by another siren and we rushed into the shelter of a nearby rundown apartment building. The shelter was tiny with maybe 30 people crammed shoulder to shoulder in a small space--verry hot and smeeled bad.

Residents of the house were sobbing--a young single mother cradled her 2 year old and said, "I cant take this any more...its been going on for weeks and my nerves are snapping." I asked her why she didnt evacuate to Tel Aviv or somewhere else safe and she replied, "I already went there, but I couldnt impose on people any more, so i came back. I have no money now and nowhere to go". Her car was destroyed in a boming attack. Her mother wailed, "What is goping to happen to us...Please help us."

After we left there we went into another shelter in a parking lot underneath a kenyon (mall) where a mixed group of Jewish and Arab kids were being entertained by musicians beating drums. One Arab counselor shouted, "The jews and Arabs of Haifa stand together. We wont let Nasrallah tear us apart." By the way, everyone I spoke to--mostly non-Russians had learned from Russian-Israelis via the media the meaning of "Nasral" pa Russki and had a good laugh from it. Calling him "shit"is one of the few bright spots of the "matzav" (situation) here.

I saw young Israeli girl soldiers working with the Arab and Jewish kids, helping them to laugh and sing and those girls were so wonderful that at that moment I vowed to myself somethign I havent vowed in 25 years--that I intend to come back and live the remainder of my life in Haifa, where I can make a contribution for the sake of my own people, the Jews, and also for the Arabs and for the peace of the sacred Land we both love and cant manage to share.

I kept breaking into tears throughout the day, but felt uplifted and hopeful. Then on the long bus ride to Jerusalem, my spirits flagged and I felt a sense of hopelessness as i heard of the decision of the cabinet to go on to the Litani--nothing but death and destruction as far as the eye can see. My friends, understand me, I devoutly hope it works. The Israelis have convinced themselves that is the only way and I pray with every fiber of my being that Olmert and company are right and I am wrong. But hevreh, it is so FUCKING painful here, you have no idea. I love Haifa and the people of Israel so much and their world is failling apart. If you are up there, Hashem, get your ass in motion and save the people of Israel, save the world and stop this killing now.