Tuesday, August 08, 2006

My Helmet , Jeffs Story

Sunday, August 6th, 2006
Kiryat Shmona

It’s starting to feel like we’re in the middle of a round of Russian roulette. Except here, it feels like there’s more than one bullet in the chamber, and this is clearly not a “game.”

Every day I’m here, the rocket barrage seems more violent and better coordinated. Today’s attacks were unprecedented. The Israeli military estimates 50 rockets slammed into the Kiryat Shmona area today over the course of a half-hour span — the most intense barrage of any stretch over the course of this war.

One of my colleagues is a strong barometer of the escalating threat.

Yesterday, for the first time during his three-week war posting in Northern Israel, photographer Mal James put on a flak jacket. This morning, he started wearing a helmet. And by this afternoon, after the day’s fatal barrage, I noticed he had carefully affixed a piece of yellow duct tape to the back of his helmet. “O Positive. OK Penicillin.” It’s his blood type, written in indelible ink. Mal is a battle-tested journalist with several wars under his belt, including the second Iraq war. That yellow tape left an indelible impression.

My crew remains among the few people in our work space still riding out these Katyusha attacks, outside of the bomb shelter. However, my producer, a sweet, hard-working Israeli woman in her mid-twenties, has reached her limit. When an air raid siren wails, she now heads for the bomb shelter. And I don’t blame her. Today, she e-mailed to my Blackberry a request from New York for a report.

The five days of intensified rocket attacks are starting to take their toll on the Israelis. Many wear the stress on their faces. After today’s hammering, I noticed tears welling up in the eyes of the young female receptionist. She doesn’t speak much English. I asked her if she was upset watching her country get relentlessly bombarded. “Yes,” she meekly replied. “And, for all the young soldiers.

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