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AP Blog: Under Attack, Daily Life in Israel

July 30, 2006

Associated Press Writer Aron Heller looks at day-to-day life in Israel, continuing even as Hezbollah rockets fly.

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Saturday, July 29, 6 p.m. local

HAMETZUDOT JUNCTION, Kiryat Shemona, Israel

At first sight, it seems like just another traffic accident, part of a national epidemic that has killed far more Israelis than all its wars, suicide bombings and rocket attacks combined.

A blue Volkswagen and a gray Honda are mangled after a devastating crash at the last main traffic junction in northern Israel before the Lebanese border. The air bags of both vehicles are slung over the steering wheels and glass and debris are spilled across the street. Police on the scene say three people were injured in the crash, two seriously.

Given the circumstances, it reminds me of the old, somewhat morbid, joke about Israel being such a crazy country that when someone dies as a result of crime, everyone breathes a sigh of relief. (Translation: Well, at least it’s not terrorism).

But this is not your typical open-and-shut case of bad driving. The traffic light above the junction has been deactivated for security reasons, to allow drivers to fly through in case of emergency. Moments earlier, a Katyusha rocket landed in nearby Kiryat Shemona, sending people scurrying back into shelters. The streets, as usual, were almost completely empty. Each of the drivers apparently didn’t even see the other as they sped through a flashing yellow light.

``People see empty streets and forget to slow down at junctions,″ the police officer on the scene said, before driving off.

Next to the junction is the largest shopping mall in the region. It too is shut down, save for a pharmacy operating in emergency form.

``This is an essential service,″ explains pharmacist Fareh Farhat, adding that in the early days he prescribed more Valium than usual, for those suffering from the constant rocket landings nearby.

_Aron Heller

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Saturday, July 29, 2 p.m. local

KIRYAT SHEMONA, Israel

Huddled in the corner of Public Shelter 110, 81-year-old Adriana Yanishevsky, an immigrant from Chile, knits a red sweater on a thin mattress shoved between two cold, concrete walls.

She’s been here for more than two weeks, since the rockets began falling near her home, where she lives alone. She says she couldn’t stand the noise of the rockets, and sleeps better underground.

Inside the shelter, she keeps mostly to herself, away from the noisy families who occupy the adjacent room. She said she likes it that way.

She can’t read, because the light above is dim. So she spends most of her time sleeping and knitting. It looks so sad, but she said she’s not complaining.

``At least I’m healthy,″ she says. ``This isn’t hard, my whole life has been hard.″

_Aron Heller

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