Life in a Warzone

By Cheryl Wagstaff
April 18, 2002

A familiar face on Cabrini’s campus Dr. Rachel Back, who read her poetry to the students earlier this semester, is back at her home in the north of Israel, in the Galilee.

Over the past few months Americans have been hearing about the numerous suicide bombings that have been occurring on the nearly daily basis. It is hard for Americans to comprehend what is going on in Israel right now, but slowly Americans are becoming educated on this subject.

The suicide bombings have only occurred within the Green Line, which is not in the occupied territories. Back, poet and professor of English literature at Tel-Aviv University and Oranim College, recalls a day last week when a suicide bomber blew himself up on a bus killing eight people. Many of her students did not come to class that day either because the roads were closed or due to they were too afraid.

At this point in time no place in Israel is safe. Every major city and the smaller ones for that matter, have been bombed.

The only place where one can even remotely feel safe in Israel is at home. The most high-risk places to go are public places such as: malls, hotels, stores, open-air markets, restaurants and cafes, bus-stations and even the buses. Due to the dangers of going out in public many people stay home. When they do decide to go out to dinner they only go to a restaurant with an armed guard at the entrance.

Life has changed for the Israelis. They are constantly living in a state of anxiety. The simple everyday choices that they make could decide their fate. If they wind up on the wrong bus or travel to the wrong area they may not live to see the next day.

Parents try to keep their children close to home. All school field trips have been cancelled. Parents are also appointing guardians to their children just in case something might happen to them. There was a case last month where one of the bombings in Jerusalem killed a mother and father leaving behind two little girls. It is no longer uncommon for parents to be killed, and the children are being left behind.

Although Israelis are experiencing a lot of anxiety they also have a life goes on mentality. They go to work, their children go to school and they have electricity, running water and all of the other basic municipal services to keep life comfortable.

The lives of the Palestinians are not as comfortable as the Israelis. In Jenin, Nablus, Tul-Karem and Bethlehem the buildings have been demolished due to the battles, and people have not been able to leave their homes for days at a time without food, water or electricity. Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed. It is not clear exactly how many.

Back believes that the fighting began as a means to “route out terrorism.” She said, “It is the result of years of despair at being an occupied people, coupled with religious fanaticism and indoctrination.”

“I believe that this bloody and tragic military option was taken by this government – with General Sharon at its head – as a type of revenge, as a flexing of its greater power, and as an attempt to demolish the Palestinian Authority,” Back said. She feels that nothing good will come as a result of the fighting. There will just be more years of hatred and violence.

Back fears the day when her oldest son becomes an adult in this society. She wonders how she can keep them from becoming soldiers. “I want to protect his body and soul both,” Back said. “Obviously, Israel must leave the territories once and for all, letting the Palestinians build their own state. And the Palestinians must acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and stop all terrorist activities.”

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Cheryl Wagstaff

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