After 50 years, Israelis are weary of fleeing rockets, losing family

Last week, our home once again became a hotel with the arrival of our daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren from Kiryat Shmona.

They have an air-raid shelter in their own residence, but cooping up youngsters inside a constricted space for days on end is extremely difficult. So they came to us, as they have on several occasions in the past, once for almost a month. This time, fortunately, they only had to stay for a few days.

This periodic need to flee rockets, or the fear of rockets, is very trying for them and for us. But it can't compare with the anxiety of parents who have children now serving in northern Israel and southern Lebanon.

One mother told us, "I just want to go to sleep and wake up on March 15, when my son gets out of Lebanon." Her attitude reflects the demise of the "stiff upper-lip syndrome," which once characterized Israelis.

Even though the bloodshed in Israel has gone on year after year — beginning in 1948, when 6,000 people were killed during the War of Independence — it was once considered proper for people to accept such losses, even of loved ones, with stoic calm.

This is far from being the case today. Mothers whose sons were killed in Lebanon go on crusades against the war in that country. More amazing still, a young soldier who admitted that he failed to come to the aid of his comrades when they were under Hezbollah attack has been hailed as a hero by some sections of Israeli society.

This is a serious development because whatever agreements are reached with Israel's Arab adversaries — and it is by no means certain that there will be such agreements — it will be a long time until all Middle Eastern swords are beaten into plowshares. And unless Israelis are ready to defend themselves, and to accept the fact that some bloodshed is inevitable, they won't be able to survive in this nasty part of the world.

At the same time, there is no doubt that a greater equality of sacrifice is required. Soldiers who serve in areas where bullets are flying and land mines are exploding should be compensated to a far greater extent than behind-the-lines clerks in khaki.

Likewise, the residents of Kiryat Shmona, who from time to time are forced to flee their homes, should enjoy at least as high a living standard as the people who dwell in peaceful Tel Aviv. At present they don't. And this, together with the strains of life in the town, may persuade many of them to leave.