Lawrence resident Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel is paying close attention to news from Israel. His parents are there.
"My father is Israeli. Every summer, he goes there to visit his parents," said Tiechtel, who, along with his wife, Nechama Dina Tiechtel, opened the Chabad Jewish Center at Kansas University.
"A rocket went off 1,000 feet from where my father and mother were sleeping," Tiechtel said Monday.
The Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah has been firing rockets at northern Israel since last Wednesday and has kidnapped two Israeli soldiers during cross-border fighting. The provocations resulted in a fierce retaliation by Israel, and both sides have carried out daily bombings since then.
Tiechtel's father recalled the attack early Thursday morning near the Israel-Lebanon border - as well as a second encounter farther south - in an e-mail, which Tiechtel shared with the Journal-World.
"I have two kinds of reaction," Zalman Tiechtel said. "Emotionally, it's very hard to carry on with day-to-day activities, knowing this is happening. I feel that every person in Israel is my brother or sister. It is very disturbing that they cannot live in peace.
"My other reaction, on a more practical level, has been to get together a number of people to pray and commit extra acts of goodness and kindness," he said. "That is the way we can help a person on the other side of the world."
Fear in Israel
- From the diary of Rabbi Tiechtel Sr. (07-18-06)
- Westerners flee Lebanon as attacks continue (07-18-06)
- Thousands rally at U.N. to support Israel (07-18-06)
- U.S., Europeans arrange evacuations (07-17-06)
- G-8 leaders issue statement on crisis (07-17-06)
- Israel, Hezbollah continue bombardments (07-17-06)
Both Tiechtel and his father insisted Israel has no choice but to defend itself.
"Americans, today, have no idea the fear that Israel is living in," said Tiechtel, who is posting responses to the conflict on the Chabad Jewish Center's Web site, www.jewishku. com.A friend of Tiechtel's, Rivkie Kaplan, a 30-year-old teacher and mother of five, was in Israel when the rockets struck.
"I heard a tremendous noise and glass shattering. I gathered my children," Kaplan said. "What I didn't know was that a rocket went off a meter away from the minivan my husband was driving. The minivan was destroyed; it is amazing he survived."
Since the family fled southward, she said she hadn't slept for several days.
"Every time I hear a noise, my heart stops," said Kaplan, a New Jersey native.
Kaplan said she has grown weary of the debate over Israel's reaction to the attacks.
"Israel needs to be more concerned now about the security of its people and not so much concerned about world opinion," she said.
Phil Schrodt, too, is keeping close tabs on the conflict.
"What really worries me is how rapidly this has escalated," said Schrodt, a political science professor at Kansas University who's studied the Middle East.
"This thing starts out with a small group of guys in Gaza attacking an Israeli army base, and here we are - in a span of two or three weeks - dealing with a full-scale missile war between Israel and Lebanon that could escalate to Iran, easily."
Schrodt dismissed the often-heard notion that Lebanon or Syria should somehow rein in Hezbollah.
"That's nonsense," he said. "If it was that easy, it would have been done a long time ago."
Middle East-watchers, he said, have been surprised by the depth and breadth of the Hezbollah attacks.
"They are very strong, very popular, very well-organized," Schrodt said, "and, obviously, very well-armed."
Israel, he said, suspects Iran of supplying Hezbollah, which raises another worry: "What everybody fears is what happens if Israel attacks Iran directly with long-range aircraft. That means flying over Iraq - well, who controls Iraqi air space? Like it or not, that's our backyard now.
"If Iran then retaliates with a long-range missile on Tel Aviv - which they have the capability to do - those missiles will be going right over our troops' heads."
Paul D'Anieri, a colleague of Schrodt's at KU, said he expects the situation to worsen.
"Israel's policy has been that when Hezbollah attacks from Lebanon, it attacks Lebanon - the logic being that Lebanon will then put pressure on Hezbollah," he said. "That seems like it would make sense, but it's actually causing so much resentment among the Lebanese, it's had the effect of strengthening Hezbollah."
The violence, he said, tends to silence the region's moderates.
"When Hezbollah does its thing, it empowers the radical right in Israel," D'Anieri said. "And when Israel reacts, it empowers the most radical of the Hezbollah. The moderates lose out."