In the Jaws of Hezbollah

According to the GPS in our vehicle, we are currently in the Dahiya neighborhood in western Beirut. The software seems to have a mind of its own, adding kilometers, confusing the information and offering routes that don’t exist. As we were warned in advance, the IDF has deliberately tampered with the satellite signals in order to confuse the guided missiles. But now things are really ridiculous, as it tells us that we are deep inside Lebanese territory.
Actually, we are on our way to Metulah, the northernmost town in Israel. The farther north we travel, the wider the expanses and the emptier the roads, which are somewhere between winter hibernation and colorful spring awakening.
We soon approach Kiryat Shemonah, a city that has absorbed more than its fair share of Katyusha rockets. The last time I was here it was the middle of summer and the place was full of vacationers. Since then, however, it has been drained of life and a death pall seems to have settled over it. The shopping centers and stores are shuttered. No one comes and no one goes; people are nowhere to be seen. Here and there an olive-green army vehicle drives past. This is the largest town in the border region situated in the Naftali Mountain Range. Like virtually all of the border communities, its residents were evacuated at the beginning of the war and have yet to return.
Hardly anything moves, and there are almost no cars on the streets aside from military vehicles. The municipality is grateful for the soldiers who are protecting the area and its banks, which is why even the street signs are mostly for IDF purposes. Even more bizarre, there are plenty of posters referring to the municipal elections with various candidates trying to persuade people to vote for them. How is anyone going to vote? I wonder. Who do they think is going to see these billboards?
But the questions melt away as we come upon an elderly man walking along slowly, an umbrella and his tefillin in one hand and a box of candy in the other. We have finally found the lone voter for whom all these posters have been put up. His name is Yosef Azrad and he is almost 80 years old. He is very proud of the fact that he hasn’t fled along with everyone else.
“I didn’t leave, and I won’t leave,” he says. “We’ve lived through harder times than this. In the past, Lebanese terrorists shot Katyusha rockets at us from morning until night. We didn’t run away then, so why should we run away now?
“I’ve been here since Menachem Begin was prime minister,” he shares. “He came here to encourage us not to run away, and afterwards he sent soldiers into Lebanon and drove the terrorists away. He was a good prime minister. But then the troubles started up again when Barak withdrew from Lebanon. The only solution is to bring Menachem Begin back,” Azrad concludes. “The problem is that there’s no one like him to be had, which is sad.”

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