In Israel there’s a concept of “this year’s war”. It implies inevitability, projects normality upon a reality where peace isn’t really peace but rather the absence (for now) of outright war. This year’s war? Who knows – could be Hezbollah (Lebanon), Assad (Syria) or some combination of the above with – at least unofficially – Iran. As Obama threatens to discuss strikes with Congress on its return today, just across the border one of our many friendly neighbourhood dictators gasses his own people. So Tel-Aviv is preparing itself for the possibility of regional blowback.
This preparation is partly mental (how do you rationalise this constant threat? I still don’t know), partly practical. Queues form at local post offices (“would you like a gas mask with your international mail?”), people prepare contingency plans should rockets tipped with chemical warheads fly towards us.
All apartments and houses in recent buildings must have a ‘mamad‘ or ‘safe-room': reinforced concrete with metal shutters. They are hot, uncomfortable and claustrophobic and, as are usually viewed with resentment and disdain in times of not-war, counting as they do towards Tel-Aviv’s notorious letting ‘room-count’, despite protecting us – or so we are told – in all circumstances bar a direct hit.
Thanks. I feel much safer now.
Only one problem: these mamads don’t take into account the threat posed by non-conventional weapons, and as any student of the warped logic of deterrence knows, Syria’s answer to Israel’s alleged (cough cough) nukes was one of the world’s largest stockpiles of chemical and biological agents.
So that brings us to the gas-masks, safely and inconspicuously stored in the entrance cupboard with the vacuum cleaner and the coats. Only: what about The Dog (formerly Young Dog)? Turns out the state doesn’t consider itself responsible for canine welfare, and trying to form a seal over pet hair is not that easy, so after searching the internet at length I finally settled on the only apparent option: a contraption not unlike a plastic bag that fits around a crate. This is attached to a filtration unit whose batteries – we’re reminded – “only last for six hours! Don’t forget to change them!”
Just like everything else.
Shana tova everyone!