and the Israeli Mamad
Today, for the first time, I watched the popular National Geographic so-called reality series: Doomsday Preppers.
Two families were described, each with their own fears.
The first was in Florida. Bryan Smith was preparing for an imminent national economic collapse – China will buy out America, and all mayhem will break loose. Food will be scarce. Thugs will roam the streets and country roads.
He bought a piece of land for a quarter million dollars to assure his family’s doomsday survival. To prepare for this eventuality he was raising sellable crops, hoarding weapons, manufacturing his own ammunition (200,000 bullets), stocking food and collecting oil from old electrical transformers to operate his tractor and pump water.
The cherry on the cake – he bought a bunker, built and sold by another “prepper”, to withstand any eventuality, including an atom bomb. The bunker, with its escape route and warning camera, reminded me of the prairie dog tunnels. It is equipped with filters that would process gases bad people might try to interject inside. In the bunker, the family can continue living for about a year with food, a generator and water barrels. To prevent claustrophobic stress, it is equipped with various utilities, electronics, a fireplace, nice furniture and a water heater.
The reality series clearly encourages that behavior and the fear behind it, by giving him “only” 78 points for this superb preparedness. He objected, saying his family lived on the land for 9 generations (150 years), out of which a 100 were without a big supply of water or electricity.
The second family, from Virginia, is headed by a strong and commanding woman with two blonde girls and a supporting husband. Her main worry in life lies 5600 km away in the Canary Islands. It is called Cumbre Vieja and is a volcano with a potential to create a mega tsunami reaching all the way to the eastern United States if it collapses. It woulde take 6.5 hours to get to Virginia at the speed of 800 km/h.
Christine Hobson with her doomsday food storage
Christine experienced a smaller tsunami in 2003, caused by hurricane Isabel, and barely escaped intact. Now she wanted to be perfectly prepared for this upcoming “Big One”. The main on-going activity is stocking up on canned and jarred food, as well as other household portable items. The plan is to get family and supplies into the car ASAP, and escape to a discreet location inland.
She has been drilling her family regularly on tsunami emergency calls, but it still takes too long to get all the food into the car and leave, considering everybody else would also be on the roads. Plan B? Load inflatable boats into the car and use an inland waterway to take the family to safety. Parents and children practice inflating the boats.
Notwithstanding, Dutch scientists reported that the volcano is stable and will not break apart, as some predicted, within the next 10,000 years.
Cumbre Vieja, Canary Islands
The article mentions further that even under the worst case scenario, Eastern United States would be hit mildly compared with other places. The tsunami will only be a “mega tsunami” in the middle Atlantic.
So what’s going on in America?
According to the finder.com statistics, more than 160 million American adults are estimated to have either recently purchased survival gear or are already in possession of it, keeping it always on hand. The remaining 85 million are not preparing for the end of the world as we know it. Generation-wise, millenials are the best preppers, followed by generation X while the baby boomers lag behind.
Here’s a New York Times article about the prevalence of prepping and how it is good for business
According to NBC news from March 16th, 2017, bunker sales are soaring. An 8-by-12-foot underground bunker sells for $45,000 — and that’s on the low end. Here’s a New Yorker article about how the American super-rich prepare for the end of civilization.
Israel's Existential Threat - Here, Now, Always!
Ironically, today the New york Times published an opinion piece by Bret Stephens: “When Anti-Zionism Tunnels Under Your House“. It states: “Anti-Zionism is ideologically unique in insisting that one state, and one state only, doesn’t just have to change. It has to go.“
Instigating the writing of the article were three tunnels discovered in northern Israel, designed to allow Hezbollah warriors to infiltrate into the country. According to Stephens, Israelis do not experience anti-Zionism as “a bold sally in the world of ideas, but as a looming menace to their earthly existence, held at bay only through force of arms.”
I’ll add my own small contribution and say, that this existential threat had been clear since Zionism – the national movement of the Jewish people – commenced at the end of the 19th century. It continues, unabated, until today, adapting forms and names according to the times, but in essence is unchanged. I don’t remember a moment in my life when it wasn’t lurking in the background. And that includes the time before the six-day-war, the “occupation” and the settlements, as well as the war itself, of course.
Every Israeli knows that right at the borders, people are busy day and night plotting to destroy our state in ever more sophisticated ways. They do not aim to co-exist with us. As the article clearly states – they aim to replace us. They get up in the morning with a single idea in their heads. Hezbollah without hating Israelis – all of us, each and every one of us – would not exist. Hammas, PLO and the rest subsist for the sole purpose of destroying our state. And, as the article says, nothing about this is theoretical. It is a constant, ongoing threat, a few meters from home, right here, now, and it’s relentless!!!
Since it is an ongoing existential situation, we live with it like you live with the drone of the refrigerator. It takes getting out of the country to realize the drone can stop. Hence, the big escape. Later I’ll elaborate more on why international tourism is not a luxury for the Israeli person, if s/he wants to keep sane and sound in the homeland. It is a psychological necessity.
Six Day War
In 1967 we, of course, didn’t!
The Mamad wasn’t even a thought in the ether – then.
At the school
When the Jordanians started bombarding Jerusalem, I was in school. The teachers herded us to the gym that served as a shelter. We sat on the floor and somebody brought us candies. It was mayhem outside. I was 14.
The lucky kids, those whose parents had cars (still rare these days), were picked up early. My family did not own a car. My father did not want a car and could not drive.
Despite that, after several hours, he finally managed to come to my rescue, getting a ride with another parent. When we got out of the school, I noticed a huge hole in the lobby’s ceiling – a direct hit. The school is located near the university and the government and not too far from the Knesset shrine that was inagurated a year before. The area was heavily shelled, and the Israeli army had some posts near the school due to its sensitive location. Shooting was a two-way street, and we, kids, played games trying to figure out what each sound meant.
It was non-stop shelling all around us as we drove home. At that age, it got me excited. Papa was here – fear wasn’t.
This is the hole in my school’s ceiling , six day war, 1967.
But at home there was no shelter and the staircase was outside. The underground floor of the 3-story building was a one-room apartment, inhabited by a mother with twin teenage boys. When shelling got intense, we went down there and joined this family, but my father quickly brought us back home, saying we were intruding on their privacy.
Then we sat on the floor in the corridor in our second-floor apartment.
At night, after peeping outside to see the exciting illumination bombs (the city was darkened, of course), I went back to our apartment and slept soundly on the living room couch. In the morning we found out that a shell dropped on the pharmacy on the opposite side of the street. Two splinters scratched the metal shutter in my bedroom. I slept so well, I did not wake up from the commotion.
During the First Gulf War in 1991, Israelis were sitting in sealed rooms wearing gas masks on their faces. Baby cradles were placed under plastic sheets, all dispensed to the citizens by the Home Front Command (yes, by the government!!!). When the sirens went off, everybdoy crowded into the “sealed rooms” with plastic sheets pasted on their windows. I was in America at the time, but my parents were sitting in the sealed room, like everybody else.
I was much more nervous and scared during the Gulf War than I was in the 1967 and 1973 wars when I was physically in Israel. For one, I was extremely concerned for my parents. Secondly, everything was covered on TV 24/7. In 67 we had no TV, and news on the radio were scarce. In 1973 I was blissfully unawares of all the awful things that were happening. Bot now, in New Mexico, I stayed most of the time at my Israeli friend’s house. Two television sets were blasting the news at full volume in the living room and the kitchen, to make sure we won’t miss anything.
And Meanwhile in America...
Some Americans were apparently nervous enough as well. They decided the danger was real over there too, and took matters into their own hands. According to an LA Times article from January 23rd, 1991, people were rushing to buy gas masks 12,000 km away from the Middle East “just in case” … :“
One woman in LA bought a mask for her dog. Some people were carrying their masks around with them as they went around their daily business…
The Mamad (Merhav Mugan, or Protected Space)
The Mamad, or Merkhav Mugan (protected space) can withstand attacks from conventional weapons, and offers protection against chemical and biological warefare. It has reinforced concrete walls and ceilings, 20–30 cm thick floors, and airtight steel doors and windows.
Since 1993 and in the wake of Sadam Hussein’s scuds, the Mamad (or Mamak, see below) is now required in every new construction in Israel.
Still, today, only about a third of Israelis have access to a Mamad (in their own apartment or house) or Mamak (one room for each floor in new apartment blocks or condominiums). The rest still have to make do with the old Miklatim, or shelters. Those are still considered the best solution since they are underground and have reinforced concrete. The shelters are often used for community activities and are normally locked. When an emergency arises, people might find their neighborhood shelter locked. In some cases unhelpful phone representatives were sending people from one office to another as they were waiting outside the locked shelter with their children…
The advantage of the Mamads and Mamaks, therefore, is the speed and ease of reaching them – right in your home or house. That said – if you have been using the Mamad as a room or a storage, as I do these days, it might be difficult to speedily empty it for you and your family in an emergency. In my case, it might even be faster and easier to run to the neighborhodd Miklat a few hundred meters away than to clear the Mamad from all the junk I accumulated there….
The Engineering "Miracle"
A 6-floor building in Rishon Letzion was directly hit by a missile, but while the home was totaled, the couple who lived there emerged intact from their Mamad. A Home Front Commander entering the safe room commented, “The books didn’t even fall out of the bookcase.” You can see the amazing ability of the Mamad to protect the family in the video on this post.
The commander added: It is not a miracle. It is engineering proper!
You can read more about the Mamad here.
On the other hand, when a Mamad is not available, and when people do not follow basic rules of self protection, bad things can happen.
For example, in the last missile barrage from Gaza, residents of Ashkelon had 30 seconds after the Code Red alert to run to the nearest shelter. In one particular case a Palestinian laborer was killed and a woman injured. There was a public bomb shelter doubling as a synagogue located about 10 meters from the apartment building, but they were obviously not aware of it.
Still, according to the Times of Israel report, Abu Asabeh may have been able to survive, had he been in an interior room of the apartment. Although the entire side of the apartment was blown apart, a row of Johnny Walker whiskey bottles stood in perfect order on a shelf in the living room.
All that enginnering marvel, and yet, how long can you stay in a 10 sqm room in case of a chemical war? Unlike the American doomsday preppers, the vast majority of Israelis do not own land, and if they do, it is not large enough to install a personal bunker. I guess most of us will have to make do with our Mamads for the foreseebale future. Our villages (kibbutzim, moshavim), and most towns and city neighborhoods will still go for the old and tested communal shelter solutions. Something to be said for a history of socialism.
And as to the "Rest of the World"...
Y Nosotros? No contamos???
When in Costa Rica in the early eighties, I bought a book: Para que Existe la Llama (For the Flame to Keep Burning) by Victoria Garron de Doryan. Garron was a Costa Rican writer and educator, and the first woman in Latin America to serve as a second vice president of her country. She died in 2005 at the age of 84 .
From this small book of 30 poems, a line stayed with me all those years:
“Y nostoros? No contamos?”
(”And we? We don’t count?”)
The context in the 1970 poem was nuclear armament: “More sinister, more terrible than kidnappings, strikes, mutinies, is the ‘secret atomic’ world coming to us from the North and the East”:
Firman tratados, conversan…
Se arman, se arman, se arman.
Y nosotros? No contamos?…
No cuentan los pueblos ni los hombres,
No cuenta el filosofo ni el sabio,
No cuenta el poeta ni el joven.
Cuenta la fuerza de aplastar, de dominar ….
On this happy note, wherever you happen to be, let’s all have a NICE DAY.
Who knows, may be it will be our last???
At any rate,
Don’t Worry, Be Happy!
And make sure to maintain a short distance to the nearest bunker…