Iraq Bombings: Israeli Reaction - Return of the Blitz spirit

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The Independent Online
FEARING A possible Iraqi missile attack against Israel, British tourist operators evacuated clients from the Red Sea resort of Eilat yesterday while airline companies postponed flights to Israel.

Tourist companies Air 2000 and Britannia sent shuttle buses to Eilat hotels to collect 600-700 of their passengers to be flown home. The Canadian embassy said its nationals already in Israel or the Palestinian areas should "consider departing if their presence is not essential", and advised against travelling there.

In the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam Hussein fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel after being attacked by the United States. This time, the Israeli government has deployed anti-missile batteries and is issuing gas masks, but not everyone is ruffled.

Alex Gluzman, a middle-aged engineer in a knitted Orthodox Jewish skull cap who immigrated from Russia five months ago, went to the gas mask depot in Bavli school in Tel-Aviv. "I'm not afraid," he said, "but they sent me a notice to come and get a gas mask. I know I should have one, so here I am."

With a lifetime's experience of Soviet queues, he was not going to be put off by the heavy rain or Israeli bureaucracy. Nor was he changing his mind about where to make his new home, though he passed through Australia on the way.

Dora Kotler, a technical manager, had arrived at the depot at 7.30am. She had come the day before, but failed to reach the front of the queue before it closed. She finally made it into the school gym, where four soldiers were checking old masks and issuing new ones - sturdy brown cartons for adults, bright blue plastic containers with protective tents for children.

"In 1991 I was out in the street when a Scud missile hit [the Tel-Aviv suburb of] Ramat Gan," she said. "It's not that I'm afraid, but I'm not taking any chances."

They grumble, they chatter, they laugh. It is the camaraderie of the blitz, of strangers facing a common danger. A plump young mother complains that she has had to wait five hours with her baby. Nobody let her jump the queue. Newcomers wander about, perplexed.Sometimes there is a soldier outside to tell them how to join the queue, sometimes not.

"It's all a muddle," they mutter, but quickly settle in. If nothing else, Saddam Hussein has taught these assertive Israelis discipline.