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Editor's Gas Mask in Israel


The buying and selling of gas masks on ebay has soared recently

Sept 3, 2013


There's one thing more in demand in Israel these days for Rosh Hashana than apples, and it’s not honey but rather gasmasks.
With the possibility of a looming US strike on Syria, there are fears that Syria could rain down missiles with chemical warheads on Israel in retaliation, or in order to create regional chaos.
While the Israeli government is warning Syria not to seek to engage it in conflict, Israelis have been lining up for gas masks in a rather feverish pace and readying bomb shelters. 
If you are planning to travel to Israel anytime soon, you will need to know that unless you are a citizen of Israel, you will not be able to get a gas mask distributed by the state.


I have a gas mask in Israel that a friend of mine on her own initiative brought me last summer when a friend of hers was leaving Israel and moving back to the  United States (after a failed suicide attempt !). Already, my friend has asked if she can borrow the mask to lend to someone she knows of  who is a not Israeli  and who will be renting a place in October in Israel. My gas mask is now officially “on loan.” (But the truth is I am not even sure if  the mask would work as the box for it has been opened a while ago, and I am not certain of the shelf life once this has happened). 


If you are on a tour, I think you may want to be asking your travel agent whether there will be provision to provide you with a gas mask. If not, you will want to keep close tabs on the situation before you decide how to proceed. If you are planning on going you may also want to be asking about where the closest bomb shelter or protected rooms will be near your accommodations. ( As an aside, this past summer I was in an underground parking lot in central Tel-Aviv where there was paintings hung on the walls of the parking lot-a most unusual site. It was because the lot has been designated a public bomb shelter for the nearby apartments which were built pre-state and do not have bomb shelters. The artwork is designed to make the lot feel more “homey”) 
Of course, there is no way of predicting whether Congress will approve an American strike (now that Obama has decided to ask them), or when exactly a strike could occur, but  if  you are planning to travel to Israel soon,  you may well want to be inquiring  asking about getting a gas mask. 

As Israeli media has reported the buying and selling Israeli gas masks on eBay has soared in recent days as a military strike on Syria by the US has become a realistic possibility. True, some of those available are older versions of masks, and it is whether they would be effective in the event of a chemical attack from Syria. But Israelis fed up with long, lines have been purchasing them. The gas masks go for anywhere between $25-50, with a family pack of four masks fetching up to $165.  But this may be an option for non-Israelis who are do not qualify for a gas mask kit free from the state. 

I was in Israel during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, and if there is one thing I learned from that experience it is that once a strike is unleashed, you can never be sure of the consequences that it will create. And you really can not trust that everything that is occurring will be reported in Israeli media, nor that assumptions being made in the media are really correct. That's because during any war time  in Israel, not only is there military censorship that kicks in, but also there is media self-censorship. The media isn't likely to report anything that would really create panic and alarm amongst the population--they may end up reporting it but it will likely be delayed.
During the Summer of 2006, as war was unleashed I remember that in the beginning Defense Minister Amir Peretz boldly announced that Israel would kill Hezbollah's Nasrallah. Well, Peretz was wrong. Very much wrong and if Obama strikes Syria we may yet hear from Nasrallah this time around.


Israeli media also reported initially in the summer of 2006 that  Hezbollah missiles could only reach as far as Haifa.  They were wrong. In fact, a missile fell much further than that on the third day of the war (it fell into the sea near Caesarea) but it was censored (something I learned about only weeks after the outset of the war because I happened to overhear a conversation in Hebrew by someone who was well connected to the Israeli army. This missile was never reported officially that summer to the best of my knowledge).


Public bomb shelters also weren't readied properly by the outset of the war but reports of this came out only in a delayed fashion. 
In other words, even though Netanyahu is saying that the probability of Syria responding against Israel is low, who knows if he will be correct? 



If you want to read a very perceptive analysis about why Israeli officials are privately horrified by Obama's approach of waffling and sending the issue of a military strike to Congress, have a read of David Horowitz's editorial in the Times of Israel, "Obama Unleashes Horror in Jerusalem"

And you might also want to check out reports of how British companies (bless them!) sold nerve gas to Syria some ten months after the outbreak of its civil war


Finally, this past January, I went to the Druze village of Magdal Shams in the Golan Heights on the  border with Syria and reported on the fact that many of them were pro-Assad and denied any of his wrong doing. See


On Sept 3, Ynet just reported that in Majdal Shams hundreds just rallied in support of Assad denying his wrong doing.  Some things never change:,7340,L-4425563,00.html.




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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.