Under Fire

by Leah Guren It is almost 17:00 as it dawns on me that I have accomplished virtually nothing today.  Despite a looming deadline, I can’t focus on my client’s material; I’ve read the same page of the style guide five times without absorbing a thing.  I try to review my outline, but find that I am really just listening to the distant whoomph of artillery fire and waiting for the next barrage of ketushot to fall.

Such is life as a TC (technical communicator) in Karmiel, Israel, in July 2006.

It seems almost surreal to think that four nights ago I sat here in this same chair and, through the wonders of Internet webcast technology, gave a seminar to TCs all over the world.  Karmiel was quiet and my biggest concern was keeping my cat (who loves to pick inopportune moments to demand food and attention) out of my office.  Less than 12 hours later, ketushot had struck several Karmiel neighborhoods and Madj el Krum, the village right across the road from us.

Our main offices in Akko are closed.  Friends and colleagues in Nahariya and Haifa are sitting in bomb shelters and security rooms.  Residents of S’fat, Meron, and Tiberius have under seige.  The train is closed north of Binyamina.  Most stores and businesses are closed.  Summer camp programs are closed.  The Karmiel Dance Festival, due to start in two days, is probably canceled.  A training seminar for next week is canceled.  A meeting with another client is canceled.

On my street, there is no one outside other than my neighbor’s notoriously dim-witted cat.

The ketushot arrive so quickly that there is no time to sound the siren; if one lands more than half a kilometer away, we hear the boom.  If it is closer, we can hear a strange fizzing whine followed by a terrific bang that seems to reverberate long after the sound as actually faded .  Then come the sirens of the emergency vehicles.  Sometimes, the dry grasses in fields and open spaces catch on fire, and a pall of smoke hangs over the city.

Normally simple tasks have suddenly become adrenaline-pumped challenges.  Will another barrage hit, with no warning, while I’ve got shampoo in my eyes?  Can I risk the ten minutes that it will take to make a salad?

The phone rings every five minutes, and friends, normally too busy with their day-to-day lives to write, now send several email a day.  My husband, an animal nutritionist who has already weathered the threat of an outbreak of avian flu in Israel, is off at poultry science conference in Canada.  When he calls, I try to sound blasé so he won’t worry.

My cat, sensing that I am somewhat distracted and therefore a probable friar, demands extra tuna and cat snacks.  I cave in, figuring that we can always start her diet again after the cease-fire.  Whenever that may be.

I keep a browser window open with the Ynet scroller running, and read about the latest strikes in other parts of the country.  “We’re not afraid,” says a guy in Tiberius, standing next to a homemade sign that repeats the message in Hebrew.  There is no question that some people are afraid, but mostly I’m feeling angry and frustrated, and, well… distracted

Meanwhile, the work sits here, open files looking reproachfully at me as a singularly unproductive day draws to a close.


Leah has turned this article into an ongoing blog named The Techno-geek Diaries.


7 comment

Your Sister 7 year, 3 month ago

Great piece, your usual mix of sharp observation and dry wit, but also touching. I'll attribute the typos and grammatical errors to your editor. Good strategy to fatten up Nadine for the siege. If it comes to spending more than 24 hours n the bomb shelter, she can live off her blubber very nicely . . . hang in there!

Linda 7 year, 3 month ago

Denise (who's in the office next to me at the Whatcom Community College Library) send me your blog. The writing you're doing does a lot to let those of us on the other side of the world feel a real sense of what's happening. Two of my grandchildren and I went to a camp last week. The theme was "Peace," and that quality, now especially, is surely seeming elusive.

Caroline 7 year, 3 month ago

Thanks for the article, Leah. I hope you'll get a chance to post updates. I'm sure I'm not the only one who'd appreciate them.

Mark Hanigan 7 year, 3 month ago

Leah -

Be safe. I have been thinking about you and what you must be enduring. I hope this madness ends now.



Judith Herr 7 year, 3 month ago

It's not that you accomplished nothing on July 17, 2006 - it's that the strength that you are building is much more important than the other tasks that you had planned. Ignore the open files - tend to yourself and keep safe. We are thinking of you. Peace be with you, Judy

Laura Cane 7 year, 3 month ago

Super article, Leah! It captures the mood quite well. I also feel more "angry, frustrated, and, well… distracted" than afraid. Having escaped to friends who live in a quiet moshav south of Haifa, I'm also worried about my cat. But today I've decided to make the best of the situation. Don't let those Katyushas get you down! I've become a blogger too: www.cookingcholent.blogspot.com something I never had time for before.

Aliza Bernstein 7 year, 3 month ago

Thanks for your thoughts, Leah. Although I live in the quiet area of Zichron, my husband and I did a double jump off our couch last night when we thought we heard a siren go off - luckily we eventually identified it as one of those annoying motorcycles whining down a distant road. I guess a stubbed toe is a smal price to pay for our lack of katyusha savvy. Spoil Nadine, the diet can wait.....