Sunday, December 31, 2006

Bye Bye Saddam

Can't let the execution of Saddam Hussein go by without a mention. The wisdom and timing of it aside, here in Israel we have good enough reason to see him permanently disappear.

I remember the first day that the Tel Aviv area was bombarded by his Scud missiles in the first Gulf War in the winter of 1991. The whole country was terrified that the Scuds would be carrying chemical and even biological weapons. The Scuds turned out to be duds, causing some damage to property but not much more. However on that first night we didn't know what to expect. When the air raid sirens went off we scrambled, hearts beating, to get the kids inside the "safe" room which was "protected" from the theoretical killer gas by the plastic sheeting we had been told to tape to the windows. Even the door was blocked by a wet rag to keep the gas out.

We were finally inside, clinging to each other in fright, gazing incredulously at each others gas masks, when we heard a whimper and realised that we'd left the dog outside. I admit that the question of whether to sacrifice the rest of the family for the sake of the pooch flashed through my mind but it exited quickly enough for me to toss aside the wet rag and drag the dog into the room with the rest of us.

As the days wore on this ritual continued nightly until one of the kids asked innocently enough "If Sadam is throwing rockets at us in Tel Aviv, why are we staying here?"

The next day we drove up to the Galilee where we sat out a few more days with friends but the the rockets starting falling up there too so we said what the hell and moved back to Tel Aviv.

For several weeks Saddam Hussein made nervous wrecks of us all. Who could say for sure that the next rocket wouldn't carry poison gas? Maybe he was saving the worst 'till last?

One of the many weird phenomena of that time was the introduction of a radio channel that played silence. This was interrupted only when the air raid sirens went off, which meant the "listeners" could get as much sleep as possible. As time went by without us sufffering a direct hit, we became sloppy and indifferent about the security precautions and even started to sleep through the air raids.

The timing of Saddam's execution, on the eve of Eid el Adha, was interesting. Did the Americans think they were sending a festival gift to the Arab world or was it just plain old insensitivity and ignorance?

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