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Under attack: Life in Israel

Kai Ryssdal Jul 17, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: Israeli air strikes killed at least 42 people across Lebanon today. It’s still less than a week that the fighting’s been going on. But Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora says the attacks have done billions in damage to Lebanon’s infrastructure. South of the border, rockets are reported to have struck an Israeli hospital in the city of Safed. And a three-story apartment building was hit earlier this morning in the port city of Haifa. David Rudge has lived there for more than 20 years. I asked him earlier today how people are coping.

DAVID RUDGE: I went out to the supermarket today, during a break. We had an alert at 6 o’clock in the morning, with the siren sounding. And we heard a distant explosion which, you know, for us, that’s a good thing, if it’s distant.

RYSSDAL: What happens during one of those alerts. What do you do?

RUDGE: When the siren sounds, you have between 40 to 60 seconds. That doesn’t sound like a lot of time — it isn’t a lot of time — to find some place of safety. Basically, stay in your homes. Which means most have been told not to go to work. Most business have been closed. Small businesses, the banks . . . have been closed. People have been trying to get to, you know, get money out of an automatic teller. And there’s no money in there because the workers aren’t there. They’re not putting the money into the machines.

RYSSDAL: These small businesses are the sole livelihood, I would imagine, for the proprietors. What are people doing who own these businesses? How are they getting by? How are they shopping and stocking up on supplies?

RUDGE: In our local supermarket here in Haifa today, many of the shelves were empty. There was no bread. Strangely, also, there’s no milk. They said they hadn’t received their supply for a couple of days. And you also need drivers to get the milk to the supermarkets. And the drivers are also under threat when they’re on the road. Given the fact — as I mentioned before, you’ve got about 40 seconds to find shelter — if you’re out on the road, that doesn’t give you a lot of time to do anything.

RYSSDAL: Do you know people who are trying to leave Haifa? do you have friends who have left?

RUDGE: Not many, to be honest. Most people are saying, you know, I mean, this could go on. The rockets could hit farther south. We’re not going to be forced out of our homes. But some businesses, small businesses, the non-essential businesses have been forced to be closed because of the instructions from the army and the police.

RYSSDAL: So has the government made any arrangements for those businesses to be made financially whole?

RUDGE: I heard the speech tonight by the Prime Minister saying that the government will do everything that’s needed to compensate people whose businesses have been affected.

RYSSDAL: If this goes for a week, though, Mr. Rudge, how are you going to have money in your pocket to go to the market and buy bread and meat and cheese and milk?

RUDGE: If you go to the market, you’ve got a problem. Because there you supposedly have to pay, you know, in cash. So I think most people are sort of saying, OK, I’ve got no cash now. Hopefully, when this is all over I’ll have some cash in my pocket. I’ll be able to draw some out of the automatic teller or something. But, for the most, part people are going to the supermarkets and they’re paying by Visa and this is how people are getting by. But for the small businesses that have had to close, they’re losing money. The same as all the tourist places in the north. Basically, what’s happening is not just the terror of the rocket attacks, it is also an attempt to paralyze the economic situation in a third of the country.

RYSSDAL: David Rudge lives in Haifa, Israel. He spent 23 years working for the Jerusalem Post. Mr. Rudge, thank you for your time.

RUDGE: Thank you.

RYSSDAL: Tomorrow: Same questions, different city. We’ll make a call to Beirut.

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