Recently our household received a multi-language (Hebrew, English, Arabic and Russian) information flyer from the Israeli Home Front and the Israeli Postal Service.
In Hebrew the flyer exclaims: “Home Front Command Announces: For your safety the protection kits are being returned to you! More than two million citizens of the State of Israel have already resupplied themselves with their protections kit. What about you?” The flyer’s English and Arabic messages are far more relaxed almost passive: “The Home Front Command announces: For Your Safety, Protection Kits Are Being Redistributed!”
The differences in the message presentation and structure in the three different languages is cultural. “Sabras” (native-born Jewish Israelis), being far more cynical and slightly more unruly than the rest of the population, generally must be made to feel ‘guilty’ or that they are missing out on something or at the very least moderately alarmed by the situation before they will proactively comply with government issued orders. The rest of us are far more likely to comply without being scared into action.
Our individual protection kits (gas masks with atropine injections) were first distributed to all of us – citizens, residents, visiting tourists, every J’aDD wa Sit, every Zaydee and Bubbie, and babies too – back in late 1990 prior to the First Gulf War in 1991. Back then in our none-jaded-we-haven’t-gone-through-this-type-of-war-experience innocence the Home Front Command easily whipped us all into the right pre-war balance between mass hysteria and attention to all safety commands they issued. Therefore with just the right amount of hysterical complaining we all lined up at the emergency distribution centers set up throughout the country to be fitted with our individual protection kits. There were several different types of adult gas masks as the Home Front Command met the special needs of large segments of the population. There were specialized masks for bearded men (beards are big in the Middle East) and seniors citizens (particularly for those seniors who had been through the death camps during World War II) as well as masks with different operating systems for children at different ages and the “Mamat” (a special enclosure the size of a small crib for infants up to age two). As the years advanced, whenever we received our personalized notifications, we all dutifully returned to the distribution centers to exchange the personal protection kits issued to our growing children or to up-grade our own kits. Between the end of the First Gulf War and the Second Gulf War, (known in the USA as the Iraq War), our kits gathered dust in the dark back corners of our closets. But with the beginning of the Second Gulf War our level of preparedness/hysteria increased to the right amount and we once again made our way en-mass to the distribution centers.
In 2007, the 31st Government of the State of Israel, headed by Prime Minister Mr. Ehud Olmert, issued the order to collect all of the protection kits from the civilian population. According to information issued at the time the protection kits had reached their expiration date. They needed to be collected for rehabilitation and would be redistributed to us at a later date. It has taken the Home Front Command nearly four years to rehabilitate, refresh and as needed purchase new individual protection kits for the entire population. The modest redistribution drive began on 28 February 2010 with a pilot program in the Or-Yehuda area. It was so quietly modest that most of the rest of the country didn’t even notice that it was going on! It slowly expanded out, first to all of the towns in the Ono Valley and then as of 06 April 2010 to all points throughout the country.
Quite frankly since our household has lived four years without the personal protection kits gathering dust in our closets we almost didn’t notice the beginning of the national drive back in 2010. In our household our attitude towards the need for the protection kits runs the gamut from full blown cynicism of “no need, just bend over and kiss your ‘tuches’ (backside) good-bye” to the very spiritual and trusting “no need, G-d is round about His people, really, we’ll be fine”. When the highly impersonal bright red and white flyer from the Home Front Command and the postal service turned up in our mail box no hysteria or urge to get ready for a war came upon any of us. It took almost a week for us to decide “Ok, may-be we should call the number and see what we are meant to do.” When I called the number provided after going though a complex phone call routing system I finally reached a human being. The postal clerk explained: “No, no you don’t collect your kits at your local post office. Since you are in Jerusalem and since the nearest distribution center is in Lod we will be happy to deliver your household’s protection kits for the small fee of NIS 40 (about $11).” I politely asked her when distribution centers would be set up in Jerusalem and her answer was “we still haven’t received those dates, but for NIS 40 the Postal Service will be happy to deliver them directly to your home!” As I thanked her and let her know that I would get back to her with my credit card information, I had the very Israeli thought: “Ma! Ani fryer?” (What! Am I an idiot?). I am definitely not putting out NIS 40 for delivery!” Yes, it has taken 23 years, but finally I have become a cynical Israeli. I figure somewhere between the Home Front Command and the Postal Service someone is making a bundle getting people to pay NIS 40 for a semi-privatized delivery system. No way, I’m going to fall into that one. In a real emergency they will open up the old distribution centers and we can all complain and wax nostalgic about how back in the 90’s they were so much more organized. In the meantime, Israeli cynicism aside: “Please G-d in heaven, do continue to protect us! Thank You, Amen!”
For more information about personal safety in Israel please visit:
The Israeli Home Front Command English Site