Medium Rare, in the War Zone

on 19 Comments

I’m in a little town in Israel near the Lebanon border, full of reporters. They’re flirting, over their expense accounts, as the shells are fired nearby, and the rockets land. At dinner, the restaurant’s dog shoved in under my table, afraid of the explosions. Reminded me of home, where the dog is thrown by fireworks and thunder. You tell yourself it’s thunder and you acclimate pretty fast.

This is, to be sure, not the same as the experience in Southern Lebanon. Who is eating a rib steak with a Stella a few miles from the border there, sending it back because it’s too rare, needs another minute on the grill? I stayed at a place in Jerusalem staffed by Palestinian Christians and it really is true they watch al-Jazeera day and night. And al-Jazeera provides tape, over and over, that we wouldn’t see back in the States—children’s bodies being pulled from houses, handled like oversized dolls. In East Jerusalem the Arab street is unhinged. Every conversation you have soon rises in decibels with repetitions of the word “justice!” I nod and smile and agree. The hatred in Jersualem is mutual and scary.

The bus I took north was full of soldiers, their rifles dangling off their backs. They throw these things around a little too casually for me. But you get hardboiled in a hurry. This is my first time in a war zone so forgive a little Hemingwayesque allusion. You see normal village life going on but with only a few hard cases doing so. A kid on a tractor, a boy riding a bicycle, some old people having dinner on their porch, a man tilling his fields. Mostly this pretty (and affluent) town not far from Kiryat Shemona is shut down amid the banging. Soldiers and reporters move past one another on their cellphones in the restaurant with the same abstracted air. Not a lot of laughter.

Nearby’s the Golan Heights. I can see legendary places, Mt. Hermon, Shebaa Farms, the Golan. How many times has Israel been fighting its neighbors here? In my hotel lobby there are photographs of Jewish lands lost to Lebanon at the drawing of the ’49 armistice line. And a photo of the IDF arriving at the Wailing Wall in ’67. Able to pray at last, after years.

Now Muslim men are prevented from praying at the Al-Aqsa mosque on Fridays, because soldiers restrict access at the Damascus Gate to the Old City, so they pray in the street outside the walls of the city. Cycle of violence. Not that I’m pulling for Hizbullah. I want to sleep tonight…

19 Responses

  1. Mau-Mauing Mel
    August 3, 2006, 12:27 am

    You're missing out on some fun…

  2. israeli
    August 3, 2006, 12:36 am

    A little research please-only men under 45 have been banned from praying on Fridays, and because of the fear of riots. Not excusing what goes on, but if you are a sloppy researcher when it comes to this region, you'll get much more vitriolic comments the mine…

  3. thewiseking
    August 3, 2006, 1:16 pm

    alas,little philly weiss has disembarked from his upper west side perch and is now whining away in israel. little philly tells us all about the plight of east jerusalems arabs, and palestinian christians and paints a picture of israels drinking stellas and sending back steaks. little phil even gives us a little revisionist middle east history lesson as well. what a surprise.

  4. lawrence t gladstone
    August 3, 2006, 1:19 pm

    oh, by the way, little phil now considers himself to be "hard boiled", a real tough guy, a regular audie murphy.

  5. anon
    August 3, 2006, 1:52 pm

    Most of those east Jerusalem Israel-hating, Arabs receive Israeli Social Security benefits and Israeli health care.

    Maybe the Observer will roll hard-boiled Phil out the door soon.

  6. jimmy
    August 3, 2006, 2:24 pm

    Why are right wing taunts so lame?

    "little philly weiss has disembarked from his upper west side perch"

    makes him sound like a petite kosher cheesesteak.

  7. poopy
    August 3, 2006, 4:11 pm

    Dipshit King:
    The reporters are sending steak back, not the Israelis.

    These right-wingers are really lame, true. If you can't argue, taunt!

    No wonder this world is going to hell.

  8. mel gibson
    August 3, 2006, 5:58 pm

    tell it like it is phil. you and i both know the jews are responsible for all the suffering in the world.

  9. mel gibson
    August 3, 2006, 6:08 pm

    ya know, for an effete little inter-married assimilated upper west-side jew you're pretty on the ball. keep up the good work buddy.

  10. Mel's pop
    August 3, 2006, 6:11 pm

    Those Arabs cause so many problems, I bet they're Jews, too, right Phil? Did you find out of any of those Arabs were Jews?

  11. Steve
    August 3, 2006, 11:04 pm

    1. Hizbollah has got the anti-Midas touch. Shia Lebanon is in ruins. Painful. Another new twist in the Middle East – conflict.

    2. Have you met OpenMinded people in Israel?

    3. Are the Arab Christians moderates?

  12. effraim
    August 3, 2006, 11:08 pm

    heh. if a salvo of puerile ad hominem jibes is all that turns up here, then there's nothing of substance to refute — clearly, Phil's not too far off the mark.

  13. ALJG
    August 3, 2006, 11:49 pm

    Could there be a few more angry Jews posting comments?

  14. happy
    August 4, 2006, 10:05 am

    How many times has Israel been fighting its neighbors here?

    Every time they have been attacked by them.

    "The bus I took north was full of soldiers, their rifles dangling off their backs. They throw these things around a little too casually for me."

    What should they do with them? Fire them in the air from the back of pickup trucks driving through town with hoods over their faces?

    "Not that I'm pulling for Hizbullah."

    C'mon Phil, have a few beers, loosen up, you can tell us the truth, we're your friends…

  15. Rowan Berkeley
    August 4, 2006, 3:43 pm

    "In my hotel lobby there are photographs of Jewish lands lost to Lebanon at the drawing of the '49 armistice line."

    — How do you define 'Jewish lands' here?

  16. Jean
    August 5, 2006, 8:12 am


    I don't know why so many angry Jews are attacking you here (maybe your site got targeted by that new Israeli blog propaganda unit). It seems to me though you're simply reporting what you see instead of submitting your copy to the ADL thought police first. Keep up the good work. We goys at least are proud of you even if the Likudniks are not.

  17. Steve
    August 6, 2006, 1:09 am

    Just a brief word: Phil is a very decent person.

    His various attackers are miserable non-entities.


    A real sober article has been published in by Daniel Levy – Neocon's end :

    link to

    See Noah Green's comments.

  18. Zookabagan
    August 7, 2006, 4:56 pm

    Just so you know
    thunder is the sound of the shockwave caused during a thunderstorm when lightning rapidly heats and expands the air in and directly around the lightning channel (bolt) into plasma, producing acoustic shock waves in the atmosphere and explosions. Explosions can involve gun powder and can take off parts of the body—which can be quite uncomfortable. try to figure out the difference as soon as you can.

  19. Elvis Duncan
    December 5, 2006, 8:26 am

    TV host Oprah Winfrey gives audience members $1,000 (£526) each to donate to a charitable cause…

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