Monday, 17 January 2011

20 years later - a Desert Storm diary

Diary excerpt:

Thursday 17 January 1991, Israel

At 3.30 a van drew up outside, the lights shining into my room. There was a hammering at Rachel’s door first. It took a few minutes to wake her and I lay there collecting my thoughts. I clutched Mosheleh’s hand very tightly: “I think something’s happened.”


“Did you hear all those airplanes?” For hours I'd lain awake listening to waves and waves of them flying overhead. I thought he'd been asleep.

“Yes. I heard them.” He said heard like 'hear' with a 'd' on the end.

Outside was Danny with a gun and a gas mask. Rachel stood behind him in green elephant pajamas, with a large grin: “America started bombing Iraq at 1.30. It’s started.”
Danny said: “Here’s your gas mask, open it, keep it with you." And was gone.

We all went back to Moshe's with our ominous cardboard boxes and instructions in four languages on how to save our own lives - which mainly involves stabbing yourself in the leg with a syringe. They'd said weeks ago that they'd only give them to volunteers if things got really serious. We saw no-one else as we crossed the kibbutz - it was strangely calm.

Mosheleh made us tea, translated the news anchorman’s jokes, helped us check the contents of our boxes, and stroked my hair when I snuggled up to him. He went off to work at 6.30 but was back soon - a Saturday had been declared. We watched TV for hours, until we knew Bush’s speech word for word, had seen dozens of repeats of footage of the first plane to return, interviews with Kuwaiti refugees, civil defense reminders of emergency procedures, and CNN bulletins which frustratingly started in English and drowned out by the Hebrew interpreter.

At breakfast there was a curious atmosphere of camaraderie; jokes were cracked across the room, people who hadn’t spoken for years shared a word. Now I understood the blitz spirit they talk about - the shared fears breaking down the usual barriers.

And what a fine thing to do on this sunny pseudo-Saturday - while we waited to know if we were going to be spared - than to bake cookies? He didn’t need to look up the recipe and talked about his country, kneeding and rubbling as he spoke.

Mosheleh said: “You want to be with me, this is where I am. You want to know Israel. This is how we live.”

I watched and listened in rapture. I felt so much love for him, his philosophy, his gentle shrug at the enormity of the problem. I was still glad to be there, despite everything. My heart lurched when I thought about how much I would miss him if I went away. Was I already caught?

Lunch was crap – as though the cooks had not expected us to live to see it. Afterwards we locked the door and made love. On TV it said the worst of the danger was past, Iraq's airforce destroyed. Rachel confessed vague disappointment not to have seen just one bomb (at a reasonable distance and one that didn’t harm anyone). It was the best kind of adventure – one that felt dangerous but was really safe.

Friday 18th January 1991

The first air-raid...

17 January 1991 was the date of the first air strikes of the Gulf War began - an operation called Desert Storm.

I was a kibbutz volunteer for the majority of the time between September 1990 - December 1993. A Ladybird book changed my life tells why I went there, and Kibbutz Volunteer gives a brief history of my time in both kibbutzim.


  1. Life was little different in Lincoln, where I was living at the time.

  2. September 1990 - December 1993. Two dates that sandwich your adventure. And a real adventure, it was, by your account.

    During the same period, I was taking a degree with the OU. It only got dangerous in 1993, when I damaged my leg in a fall at work, and was on crutches for six months.

    My brother and I thought 'kibbutz' in the 70s. Eventually, he took off for Afghanistan and India. I opted for a different kind of adventure, which occasionally took me to another planet, without leaving these shores. I take my hat off to you, Clare. You are an adventurer

  3. I always like to think what's happening in the world exactly at this moment - but it's interesting, too, to think what everyone you know now was doing on a certain day all those years ago - and it seems that ultimately it was more dangerous for some people to stay at home (Martin!) than to deliberately elect to remain in a what must have seemed (to friends and family) a ridiculously 'dangerous' place (... like Lincoln! haha)

    Rainy - thanks! It's part of a longer story, obviously, and all came down to lurve.