Looking out my back door - Wednesday

My name is Yakov Marks and I live in the Western Galilee with my wife Rena, and at this moment, three of our youngest of six children: Natanel, aged 17; Rachel, thirteen and a half; and our youngest, Chaim, who just turned nine. Our second oldest son, Eitan, is now 20-years-old is serving in the Israeli Defense Forces, as it is termed in Hebrew- "A Sham," or wherever. A few of those who read this article may recognize my name because I have called you from the Tel Aviv Sales Office of the Jerusalem Post, where I recently began working, selling the International Version of The Jerusalem Post, The Jerusalem Report and The Christian Edition Magazines. My family and I live in the Western Galilee of Northern Israel. The area is comprised of rocky rolling hills, deep wadis (valleys) and mountain ridges. There are pine tree forests. The whole area reminds me of the area of Birmingham, Alabama, where I was born and raised. From our backyard and garden I can see the ridgelines inside of southern Lebanon. Between my home and the closest ridge line in Lebanon is the Christian Arab Village of Fassuta. To the south of us is our twinned village of Tarschica, which has mixed population of Sunni and Shi'ite Moslems, Beduin and Christians. To our west is the Christian village of Mailiyah. I had moved to this small "Development Town" of Ma'alot, which is located on a plateau like region in the 'Western Galilee', some 30 years ago before, two years after I had made aliya in September of 1974. Upon my arrival in Ma'a lot, I had to adapt to the realities of the Israeli way of life while learning how to adapt to the situation of living in a small Jewish settlement on one of the most actively dangerous borders with our Arab neighbors in Lebanon. After the War for Peace in the Galilee in 1982, the terrorist attacks which had begun in 1970 on Ma'alot ceased. On May 24, 2000, Israel completed the withdrawal of the IDF from southern Lebanon in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425. Ever since the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the whole territory of Lebanon, without making any demand other than our desire to finish the 'bad blood' between us and live in peace, it had been very peaceful and tranquil here. That is, until Wednesday morning July 12th at 09:05 AM. 05:10 I completed my night shift at the offices in Tel Aviv. After clocking out, I walked briskly through the deserted early morning city streets towards the Train Station. As I walked, I noticed the sights, the smells and sounds unique to a large city awakening to a new day. 05:30 As usual while I waited for the train, I took out my new copy of the Jerusalem Post from my backpack to review the previous day's headlines in order to be well informed of news matters. Many times in my job, people whom I contact for sales want to know the truth and facts behind the latest events in Israel, so that's why I start each morning by reading my copy of the Jerusalem Post. 05:34 The train to Nahariya that began its journey from the Ben Gurion International Airport arrived. I quickly went onboard and found a seat opposite the aisle from an elderly couple of tourists from France who had just arrived for a visit. As soon as I was comfortable I continued to read my JPost. After a short period of time I put down my paper and took a nap on the train. 07:00 I awake from my short nap near the last suburb of Haifa called Kiryat Motzkin. As I awoke, the elderly gentleman from France leaned over and inquired, "Is it safe to visit Nahariya?" I told him that so far as I know, Nahariya has been a very quiet and peaceful Mediterranean seaside resort town ever since our withdrawal from Lebanon on May 24, 2000. (On that day, Israel completed the withdrawal of the IDF from southern Lebanon in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425). Furthermore, I told the elderly couple, that from my years of experience in living on the confrontation line, that living under the noses of the Hizbullah and the Palestinian terrorists is very akin to living in the shadow of an active volcano. You never can know when it will erupt. Little did I know that today's activities would prove me very, very right! 07:30 The train pulled into the station at Nahariya. As I debarked from the train, there was the usual crowd of daily passengers and the additional throng of summer time travelers of all ages rushing to board. The air had begun to warm up and the early morning fog and dissipated, revealing a clear blue sky. Nahariya happens to be the northernmost station of the Israeli railroad. As I walked out of the station, I was required to pass down a corridor between two high fences towards two young armed guards with a special sniffer dog. The guards were made permanent fixtures at the entrance because of a Hamas suicide bomber who murdered three passengers and wounded more then thirty innocent civilians on their way to work on September 12th, 2001. 07:40 After departing the area of the station, I crossed the street to where my car was parked. I then pulled out of the parking lot and began my 15-minute drive to my home in Ma'alot. On my way home I drove past the Government Hospital of Nahariya, where five of our six children were born. As I drove towards the east and my home in Ma'alot, I drove uphill and I could see behind me the fabulous view of the expanse of the coastal plain that stretches from Rosh Hanikra on the Lebanese border to Mount Carmel and Haifa. 08:00 I stopped at the large supermarket in our neighboring Christian Arab village of Mailiyah to purchase milk and fresh bread for my children. 08:20 I arrived home. The family cat, Rusty, was sitting patiently on the windowsill near the front door. My wife had already left for work at the local sick fund - Kupat Cholim medical clinic at 07:40. My children were all still asleep in their beds upstairs. 08:50 After straightening up the downstairs area our home I had gone outside in my backyard to water my garden. As I stood there I could see other men, women and children who were outside going about their daily peaceful lives approximately three kilometers from the Lebanese border "as the bird or Katyusha flies." 09:05 AM Wednesday morning July 12th 2006 Just as I had finished to water the lawn and garden plants, I turned to close the faucet. Ironically, while turning to face in the direction of Biranit (the large Israel Military base), I glanced at my watch: 09:05. Any veteran who had served in combat knows by instinct the approach of a rocket or artillery round by the 'push' of the air as it approaches, followed by the explosion. The tremendous explosion of the roadside bomb signaled the beginning of the Hizbullah ambush. There was a wave of extensive small arms fire, mixed with the sound of the explosion. As the Hizbullah militants attacked the patrol, there was the rapid sound of a hail of mortar rounds and RPGs (rocket propelled grenades). One of the things that had entered my consciousness from past experience in the military was the sound of the different types of Soviet weaponry that the Palestinians and the Hizbullah have used against us over the years. I knew immediately that an Israeli army patrol on the Lebanese border to the north was being ambushed, and that there was more than probably an attempt to kidnap Israeli soldiers. The shock wave of the tremendous explosion had not finished to roll by when at that same moment, there were multiple explosions as the Hizbullah opened fire with mortars and Katyusha rockets on all the settlements along the border in the area in order to prevent additional Israeli army forces from coming to the help of the patrol that was ambushed. While I was outside, there were multiple explosions in the area as the Hizbullah opened fire on all areas that they could. I witnessed explosions along the entire border with Lebanon. My oldest children were immediately awakened by the sounds of the explosions as soon as the shelling began. My nine-year0-old son was in terrible distress. My daughter was clearly frightened. Our home is part of a two-story apartment block originally constructed in the first years after the founding of Ma'alot in 1960 in one of the original neighborhoods. When we purchased our two used apartments - one on top of the other - in 1988, we had converted the two apartments into a 'villa.' We do not have a bomb shelter in our home, yet there is one that is nearby. Over the years, we have never used our neighborhood bomb shelter because of the cold and damp conditions. Instead, we hide downstairs in our home. We have the advantage that we are located on the opposite side of a hill below an apartment block that covers the Northern side, which is the direction from where the Hizbullah and Palestinian rockets have come from in the past. Because of the quiet that had existed in the area before the ambush, there were few Israeli artillery units in place. So all day Wednesday, and into the evening and night, there was sporadic Israeli return fire to the launch sites of the Hizbullah deep in Lebanon. In stark contrast, the mortar and Katyusha attacks of the Hizbullah and Palestinians were sometimes extremely heavy.