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new mask before reading the phamphlet to put it together
Orli Avior

Tanker out my front window in Netanya Israel
photo by Rhonda Spivak

picture from the instructional phamphlet
Orli Avior

A Mud Mask, anyone?
Orli Avior


by Rhonda Spivak, July 25, 2012

Last week, the kids and I noticed outside our living room window and a large ship in the Mediterranean sea-far bigger than anything else we are used to seeing.

"Is that an army ship?" my son asked.

I wasn't sure but a waiter at a nearby beach restaurant said that it was a tanker exploring for oil and natural gas reserves which have been found not so far from here. "There will probably be another one coming next week," he added. The ship stayed in front of our apartment overnight but was gone the next day. Then it returned a couple of days later.

We are definitely hoping that Israel finds more natural gas reserves in the Mediterranean, but just not right in front of us--it will ruin our sea view!

My son didn't see what the big deal was. With the 12 year old mind in high gear, he said, "But Mom, even if the Israelis find gas, it shouldn't take more than a day or two for them to get it out of the sea, and then the tanker will be gone and it won't ruin our view." (I chuckled at the idea that  he must have been imagining putting some large vacuum cleaner at the botttom of the sea to suck out all the gas in a few minutes)





The same day we were thinking about the notion of drilling for gas outside our window, other Israelis were thinking about gas in a different way -as there was a surge here  in lining up to get gas masks.

Israelis have become more fearful that Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles could be used against them, as the chaos there increases.

On Monday of last week, Syria threatened to use chemical and biological weapons if the country faces a foreign attack; (Apparently, Syria is believed to have nerve agents as well as mustard gas.)

 Israeli officials have been speaking more of the possibility that the weapons could fall into the hands of Islamic militants from Lebanon's Hezbollah or other groups should Assad's regime fall.

"For us, that's a casus belli, or red line," Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said last Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. Lieberman told Israel Radio that the government would act immediately to prevent that from happening as tensions rise along Israel's northern border.

The Israeli postal service, which hands out gas masks at specified locations, has witnessed an increase in demand for gas masks this week.

On average, 2,200 masks are handed out per day, but on Monday July 22 the figure rose to 3,700 and on Tuesday July 23 to 4,200, the Associated Press reported.

Although approx. 4.2 million Israelis have gas masks at home, “the remaining inventory won't be enough for a population of nearly 8 million, a spokesperson from the Postal service told the Associated Press. ”The home front command has said time and again that the budget has run out ... and there's not enough money to buy for all."

Some Israeli officials fear that a power vacuum in Damascus could turn the Golan into a haven for radical militant groups, (just as Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has turned into a lawless area and haven for radicals since the fall of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak). Israel is afraid that Hezbollah could try to raid Syrian weapons arsenals under the cover of chaos ensuing from a possible regime collapse.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak revealed last weekend that he had asked the military to prepare for a possible attack on targets in Syria to secure strategic weapons in the event Assad’s regime collapses.

However, Israel's army chief, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, told a parliamentary committee that if Israel attacked Syrian weapons arsenals this could unleash unforeseen consequences and end up dragging Israel "into a broader offensive than planned."

There is concern that Hezbollah might launch a counterstrike if Israel were to attack a convoy transporting weapons from Syria to Hezbollah's base in neighbouring Lebanon.

Even though more Israelis have been getting gas masks, Israeli Orli Avior, who has served in Afghanistan in the United States Army says, "In the Army we always had annual training on the wearing of the gas mask, ensuring everyone had the right size and a good seal on the mask. In Israel, the government gives you a box with a mask and a little pamplet that tells you how to put it together, how to put it on and how to test it to ensure you have a seal. Most people put it on a shelf some place in their home. If the time comes when one has to wear the mask I wonder whether people would really have the time to run and get them, read the booklet, put it together and get it on in time...."

Postscript from the Editor: And in order to obtain a gas mask from a government distribution centre one has to be an Israeli citizen, so even if I wanted to line up for one, I couldn't get it. Tourists would be the last to get them I think.

So I figure that the only mask I could wear in my apartment is a mineral mud mask from the Dead Sea that I happened to buy for 5 shekels last week--The back of the package says it is 100% Silk. The mud has lots of ' magnesium, calcium, potassium, and is sodium rich."

On closer inspection, maybe I should get one of these mud masks for Bashar Assad. He looks like he has been aging recently.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.