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Judy Halper
Left is not a dirty word
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What to expect when you’re expecting an Iranian invasion

As we teeter on the brink, with so much to fear, I don’t think bottled water or a home generator is the answer
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Have you purchased a home generator yet? Stocked up on canned food, toilet paper or bottled water? No? Me neither.

It’s times like these I remember my father. During the Cold War, we tended to live near targets – Cape Canaveral, air force bases, and the like. “When nuclear war hits, I hope I’m the first to go,” he would say. Our friends’ dads were putting concrete bunkers under their backyards, but he preferred to enjoy his money above ground, buying his kids college educations and eating out with my mom.

Later, in the days leading up to the Gulf War, when wide tape for sealing doors and surplus army masks were being handed out against chemical warfare, my dad happened to be visiting Israel. He told everyone who would listen: “Nothing’s gonna happen.”

And, in truth, we began that war dutifully donning the gas masks, putting the questionable children’s versions on our kids, and taping up the doorframes until the all-clear was sounded. But by the end, we realized that, despite the daily handful of rockets fired our way, very little had actually happened or was going to happen.

Have you got a shelter or safe room? The news says we’ll have at least 12 minutes warning if the Iranians send missiles our way. Plenty of time to get to the neighbors, and even to wear out our welcome. We’ll even have time to get some clothes on before walking out of the door in the middle of the night. Our own planned addition of a safe room has passed another level in the long-running building-approval game. But if the next war starts in the summer, as some are suggesting, it will be three wars and counting from the time we first started planning that safe room.

Have you tried to drive anywhere, take a taxi or order lunch? The GPS scrambling of the past few days threw us off – at least as much as it threw off any Iranian missile launchers. I’ll admit, the fear of driving without the WAZE calm voice to guide us through the morass of roads and traffic jams kept us near home.

Maybe that is part of the point. The home front command has been coy about what to expect when we’re expecting an Iranian invasion. The instructions remain, officially, unchanged. No need to open the shelters, but don’t close them, either. If you think about it – if you’re the kind of person who sees danger everywhere – you’re also likely to be hit by a rocket from Lebanon or Yemen, if you live in Eilat, or get stabbed or run over at a bus stop. It’s open season for pedestrians, bike riders and other drivers on the roads. Don’t forget it’s snakebite season and you could find yourself in a Boeing 737 sans exit door when you’re fleeing the country during the Pesach exodus.

Despite the call for calm, military leaves have been canceled. If the pundits are correct and the Iranians intend to aim for a military target, keeping everyone inside those targets makes little sense to me. I would send everyone home except the cyber units, pilots and the ones who make sure the patriot anti-missile rockets are in working order. Which leads me to wonder whether the next war will be starting ahead of schedule.

My dad warned us, in his final years, about the world being in a “mess” (his terminology). He could see it coming, even if he could not predict the shape it would take. So now I ask myself: How would Dad react to the present threat? Would he tell us to brace for the worst or hope for the best?

Do I feel the need to cower in fear of the Iranian retaliation said to be on its way, after the killing of its brigadier generals on Syrian soil? Am I preparing for the expansion of the war to other fronts? Or have I become too blasé or fatalistic about the future?

Whether something truly awful happens (again) or nothing really happens, I simply don’t think bottled water is going to be the answer. There are so many guesses as to what the Iranians intend, we’ll just have to deal with that reality when it hits. In the meantime, 134 hostages are still being held in Gaza, and hostage talks have broken down. Our government is insisting on fighting the war to its bloody end; but rather than contemplate said ending, it is picking fights with America, insulting the families of hostages and trying to figure out how to draft new young people into the army without really drafting the ultra-Orthodox, who are now eligible.

I’m still afraid for my country. I’m afraid of what happens if we don’t get the hostages out in time. I’m afraid of the consequences of our current actions. I’m afraid for the soldiers fighting on, past the time we should have been working on a settlement. I’m afraid for the day after all of this bloodshed when we’ll be asked to account for the deaths and destruction, when we’ll need leaders who can restore confidence and help us rebuild. I’m still afraid for democracy in the country, since the day so long ago that our government showed us how fragile that democracy can be. We’re still teetering on the brink, with our prime minister making state decisions on his own, ignoring even the limited war cabinet.

No home generator or can of beans will help us get through that. The first kind of fear, that inflated existential one, leads to backing for strong, hawkish leaders who, paradoxically, lead us into ever more dangerous conflicts. The second one leads us to stand up and fight for the country we need and deserve.

Pick your fears. Pick your fights, pick your leaders. And if you didn’t manage to get a generator or stock up on canned goods before they ran out, don’t worry. You now have extra room in your safe room for all the neighbors to take shelter when the sirens start up again.

About the Author
Judy Halper is a member of a kibbutz in the center of the country. She has worked as a dairywoman, plumber and veggie cook, and as a science writer. Today she volunteers in Na'am Arab Women in the Center and works part time for Wahat al-Salam/Neve Shalom.
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