Determinedly upbeat in Sasa's Underground pub on the border

beer 88 (photo credit: )
beer 88
(photo credit: )
At the Underground pub in Kibbutz Sasa, Matan and Doron talk mostly about girls. Doron, 27, points to his ex-girlfriend and talks about "the advantage of bachelorhood." The pub, located in one of the bomb shelters of the kibbutz, opens every evening now and makes a point of staying open until the very last customer staggers into the clear Galilee night, usually at around 5 a.m. In the smoke-filled room, about 15 soldiers from the combat engineers, artillery and the IDF Spokesman's Office dance and flirt with some 30 kibbutz members and workers. The three groups of soldiers represent the three arms of the IDF operations in Lebanon. As for the kibbutz members, "a lot went south," Matan says, sipping a beer, "but we're keeping the factory open." And someone has to guard the place, Doron chimes in, adjusting the strap of the Galil rifle hanging at his side. Doron is on the kibbutz's readiness squad tonight. The job: to protect the kibbutz from potential infiltrations across the Lebanese border, which is visible from most vantage points on the kibbutz. "Things are basically good," the two agree and sing along to a Shlomo Artzi song, played live by a trio of kibbutz musicians. Ten minutes to the east, on the breathtakingly green Northern Road, the Druse village of Horfeish offers locals hot lamb sambousak and the same optimistic good cheer. "Why would we leave?" asks Aadi, smiling beneath the white skullcap of a Druse religious leader. "People are happy, they're all staying. Just look at all the traffic." He gestures towards Horfeish's main road, on which cars are pulling up to bustling restaurants and businesses. Young men are playing cards loudly on one restaurant's patio. Late at night, Doron and Matan climb to the top of Sasa's auditorium building, from which a wide swath of south Lebanon's hills is clearly visible. Gun battles appear bright against the dark canvas, with red tracer bullets streaking back and forth. Rumbles echo across the hills from IDF artillery. A billowing fireball lights up a hillside. "That's one of ours," Matan declares with conviction. He points upward at a fast-moving star: the afterburner of a fighter headed south out of Lebanon and adds, "They come low for the bombings and zoom back up afterward." A growling boom follows his words, racing after the impressive flash. Says Doron, with philosophical understatement,"It's not a big deal, it's just war."