US Warning – Avoid the Situation

I don’t know how they got my email, but they have it. So relatively often, I get a message from the US Consulate in Israel warning me that, as an American citizen, I should avoid certain areas of the country (Israel), lest I be harmed. It is something that often provides a smile. According to the Americans, I shouldn’t be traveling to my home (a mere 3 kilometers outside Jerusalem, the capital of Israel). According to the Americans, I shouldn’t travel to my sister’s house, about a 10 minute drive from our main, international airport.

For the most part, I think the warnings are issued so that they can say they warned us if something happens. Today, I am warned not to go into Gaza. Smart move, that one. It’s because of the “ongoing situation in Gaza.” I have to admit – in the last few weeks that Elie has been there, I have called what is happening now in Gaza a “war” and perhaps a “military operation,” but I never thought to call it a “situation.”

To me, a “situation” is when your guests want coffee and you suddenly realize you are out of milk. Now THAT is a situation. When one million people are being attacked by rockets, when fighter jets and artillery and tanks are on the move against booby-trapped houses and anti-tank missiles and rockets and mortars and phosperous and I don’t know what else, the term “situation” kind of makes you want to slam your head against the wall and wonder how the American Consulate could be so out of touch. It’s a WAR. WAR. See…a WAR. They are shooting rockets and trying to kill people. We moved our troops in. They are fighting house to house, finding explosives and guns. WAR.

I am also warned not to go near the Temple Mount; that one I would ignore if I had any plans to go but since it is Friday and I haven’t even put the chicken in the oven yet and I have company tonight (thanks for coming Elan and Rifka and Shani and Ariella and Amira and Haim…and is Herschel coming too?), I won’t be going there anyway.

I could probably get off the mailing list, but I stay on it because it reminds me that some people can live in a country, but never really understand it. You don’t have to warn Israelis (or Americans) to stay out of Gaza. Thanks to 60 years of warfare, you can’t really stumble into Gaza by mistake and if you’re going there, perhaps as a journalist or whatever, you know already that there are dangers.

I don’t know why this one “tickles my fancy” but I’ll post it here. Perhaps it is the formal tone – so different from Israeli society and culture. My son calls his commanding officers by their first names; his soldiers call him, “Elie.” And this warning is so…so formal in its tone.

It is so diplomatically correct – using both the Arab and Jewish ways of referring to the Temple Mount area, citing the Israeli police as the source for this recommendation, or at least part of it. It is so different from the kinds of warnings we receive from Israeli sources – and all these thoughts come just from reading this post:

The Israeli National Police are reporting the possibility of a large demonstration Friday, January 16, 2009, in the Old City and other possible demonstrations throughout East Jerusalem in protest of the ongoing situation in Gaza. There is expected to be a heavy police presence in and around the Old City throughout the day. It is recommended that United States Government employees avoid the Old City and its environs all day on Friday, January 16, 2009.

Access restrictions to the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount and a heavy police presence may spark disturbances at entry points, to include the Damascus, Herod’s and Lion’s gates, in addition to random security checkpoints setup throughout the areas leading to the Old City.

Heightened awareness should continue to be practiced when approaching established and random security checkpoints throughout the Jerusalem area, where crowds and the possibility of spontaneous disturbances may occur. American citizens should exercise caution, stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times.

In addition, the Department of State urges U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to the Gaza Strip. Conflict and violence can occur and spread rapidly and unpredictably in the Gaza Strip. The State Department strongly recommends that American citizens refrain from all travel to the Gaza strip. This recommendation has been in effect since the deadly roadside bombing of a U.S. Embassy convoy in Gaza in October 2003. It applies to all Americans, including journalists and aid workers. No U.S. government official travel is permitted inside the Gaza Strip at this time.

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