This spring, for the first time in more than a decade, Nation contributor Micah L. Sifry visited Israel with his family. Following are excerpts from his journal.
March 28: SECURITY (I)
At moments, I wonder whether we’ve left America. Between my cousins in Givat Tal, twelve miles east of Tel Aviv, and in Moshav Achituv, eleven miles northeast of the coastal city of Netanya, for our first few days here we’ve been ensconced in two very suburban environments, watching as our kids get to know their kids. Yesterday, for example, we hopped into my cousin Nurit’s Dodge minivan–it seats eight–and drove to the local shopping center to have lunch at the Burger Ranch. At the same time, everything is built from Jerusalem stone, the hills are covered with wildflowers and if the wind is right, the air fills with the perfume of blossoming orange trees. This is still the Israel I remember from a childhood of summer visits to my mother’s family and from teenage sojourns on various kibbutzim. And while Nurit, a first-generation sabra born of a Belgian father (my mother’s brother) and a Yemenite mother, lives with her family in a very nice split-level villa with a large backyard, this is not suburbia, American-style. Nearly every house in Givat Tal has a security gate and stone walls or fencing around it. During the Gulf War, Nurit tells me, the last Iraqi Scud missile to hit Israel landed right next to her old apartment building, and she was alone, pregnant, with no time to get to their sealed room. No one was hurt, but, Nurit says, “That war was the worst, because you didn’t know what to fear.” My cousin Tamar’s house in Achituv has a security room–required in all new homes–with a reinforced metal door and walls and rubber seals on the door and window. For the next war.
Tamar and Yossi moved from their apartment in Netanya to find a better school for their daughter. They now live a few kilometers from the old “Green Line” marking Israel’s pre-1967 border with the West Bank, and while we visit they take us on a short drive to a hill with a commanding view. To the east, we see the Arab city of Tul Karem. “Here is Palestine,” Yossi says with a shrug. In the 1948 war Yossi’s father fought for this hill. Now, Tamar says, there are plans to turn it and the surrounding area into a national park, complete with an artificial lake. “It will be very nice, and maybe it will help our property values,” she says with a laugh.
Tamar and Yossi’s seeming comfort with the coming reality of a neighboring Palestine is not atypical. Sixty-nine percent of the Israeli public “believe that the peace process will eventually lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state,” and nearly the same percentage “believe that any government formed after the elections will reach a final-status agreement including recognition of such a state and withdrawal from more territory,” reports the daily paper Ha’aretz on the latest poll on Israeli attitudes toward the peace process.