August 10, 2006

Tel Aviv Photos

Tel Aviv at Night 1.jpg

You could pretend, if you want, that Tel Aviv is a normal place even while Israel is at war.

Tel Aviv at Night 2.jpg

The city is fun. Beirut always had the reputation of being a fun place even in war time. I don’t know if that’s true right now (I get the sense that it isn’t), but it’s true in Tel Aviv at least at the moment.

Military Aircraft Over Tel Aviv Beach.jpg

But you can’t ever forget this is a country at war, even if the war is “far” away. All day long military planes fly low over the beach on their way to pound Hezbollah. I can’t say I feel comfortable knowing that those planes are on their way to bomb a country I used to live in. But I’m not comfortable with Hezbollah’s rockets pointing in my direction either.

Tel Aviv Sunset.JPG

May the two best countries in the Middle East find a way out of this soon, and try not to hate each other too bad when it's over. Wishful thinking, I know. But how you can not think wishfully with a sunset like that, the exact same sunset they're seeing in Lebanon?

UPDATE: Doh! It's easy to get details wrong in a new country. Apparently (thanks to Krik in the comments) the planes are flying low because there's another airport (not the main one) just north of the city. They're landing, hence the lowness. Thanks Krik!

Posted by Michael J. Totten at August 10, 2006 09:06 AM
Comments

Michael, I do not wish to sound too ignorant about the Israeli way of life but I have a question. I understand all Israeli's at some point serve in the armed services, but what is their position on guns. Is it normal for a family to have a few rifles or such in a household? If no, do they rely upon rapid mobilization of all reserves to defend them.

Posted by: Mantis at August 10, 2006 09:13 AM

Those planes you see flying over the beach where you're staying (you're either in the Renaissance or the one just south of it) aren't on their way to Lebanon to pound Hezbollah. They're flying low because they're about to land at a small airport just north of where you are and most of the planes aren't even military. Go have dinner at Pasha (8 Ha'arba'a). Awesome Turkish food.

Posted by: krik at August 10, 2006 09:26 AM

Krik,

Hmm, okay, they may be landing. (Didn't know that!) But some of them are definitely military. A US military guy I was with confirmed that much, and he ought to know...

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at August 10, 2006 09:29 AM

"May the two best countries in the Middle East find a way out of this soon, and try not to hate each other too bad when it's over. "

Amen. A peaceful, prosperous, democratic Lebanon next to a peaceful, prosperous, democratic Israel. With beach parties for all! This is the best possible outcome for everyone.

Posted by: Daphne at August 10, 2006 09:37 AM

Mantis: I think your question is excellent. I have a number of good friends in Israel. Most all Israelis (men and women) serve some time in the military - it is prerequisite. There are exceptions for conscientious objectors out of certain ranks of the orthodoxy, and some, if I understood the explanation correctly, substitute military duty with civil service. But, in essense, every Israeli (out of necessity) has deep ties to, is serving or has served in the IDF.

Posted by: Mark Rosenthal at August 10, 2006 09:58 AM

I'm so glad to see you are safely there. As you did with Beirut, you do a good job of presenting the city in a flattering (and I'm sure accurate) light. I hope when it all calms down you can do the same for PDX ;)
-L

Posted by: lindsey at August 10, 2006 10:07 AM

Reply to 'Mantis':

I think that rapid mobilization of reservists is expected; the most well-known case of this happening is, of course, the 1973 Yom Kippur war. Israelis are generally greatly restricted on the number and type of firearms they can keep. For some details, see
http://www.gunownersalliance.com/Rabbi_0068.htm , which has an English discussion and copies of the Israeli documents (the latter in Hebrew).

Posted by: Henry Bowman at August 10, 2006 10:54 AM

Another comment about those planes you see landing again. The one in your photo is a C-130 Hercules, a military transport aircraft, so it is not headed north to bomb Lebanon. It might be hauling military cargo to a point close to the Israeli-Lebanese border.

The U.S. uses a version of the C-130 as the Spectre gunship, but I'm not aware of an Israeli version of same, and it wouldn't be smart to use it in an area where there are SAM's. C-130 Spectre's have been shot down on occasion.

Posted by: PineKnot at August 10, 2006 10:57 AM

Much appreciated Mark and Henry!

Posted by: Mantis at August 10, 2006 11:13 AM

Mantis,
I am an Israeli, having served in the army (as all my friends); I was an officer. Although legally I may buy and own 1 gun, I do not have a gun, and NONE of my friends have guns. I just don't see why I need a gun, and the same goes for my friends. So, although (as pointed out by Henry) there are very strict laws on owning guns in Israel -- the de facto situation is that the number of guns is even MORE strictly limited than stated by the law: the large majority of people who are aligible for holding guns, do NOT in fact hold them. Thus, the number of guns owned by Israeli citizens is MUCH SMALLER than in countries such as the USA, Lebanon, Palestinian territories, or Switzerland. BTW, in Switzerland (the country from which Israel "copied" its military-reserve system in the 1950's) all men undergo military service, and then they keep their weapons AT HOME, so they can be rapidly mobilized if necessary (hasn't been necessary for the last 400 years... but this is still the Swiss law). In Israel, in contrast, the army owns all the military weapons, and when you go to do reserve duty, the army issues you a rifle; you have to return this rifle when you finish your reserve duty.
Nachum

Posted by: Nachum from Israel at August 10, 2006 11:31 AM

Mantis:

Just to add to what's already been written. When travel to Israel weapons seem to be everywhere. That's mostly because the armed forces are such a presence in the country and soldiers walk in open society with the weapons. Howver, those weapons are government issue.

While private ownership of weapons is permitted for various limited reasons (e.g., settlers in the territories can get licenses to possess privately owned firearms) it is strictly regulated. Unlike in the States, the Israeli government takes gun ownership seriously, and those who possess firearms must be licensed, and the weapons registered.

Also, Michel, I suggest you eat at Manta-Ray. It's on the beach just south of the Dolphinarium and the David-Intercontinental. The best fish and sunsets in town.

Posted by: bruce at August 10, 2006 11:35 AM

I'm not sure what was said here about the planes landing is correct. There was some talk in the Israeli news yesterday or the day before about planes flying low over Tel-Aviv.
But it is true that the Sde Dov airport is in the area...

Posted by: Nadav at August 10, 2006 12:15 PM

And to Mantis:
No, the vast majority of Israelis do not own a gun, and only when you are called up to reserve duty do you get one for that period of time.

Posted by: Nadav at August 10, 2006 12:20 PM

How would you know where those planes are going? Please, we have enough misinformation from the media as it is.

Sde Dov is right there, those planes are landing. Cargo planes, passenger planes ... not just military.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sde_Dov_Airport

Posted by: zulubaby at August 10, 2006 12:42 PM

Those photos are lovely, and I'm quite jealous of your camera.

Posted by: Lizzie at August 10, 2006 01:42 PM

FYI- the Herc in the picture is landing, notice the wheels down position...

Posted by: tomax7 at August 10, 2006 02:04 PM

Guys,

For those of you looking askance at the C-130 and wondering if it couldn't be doing something aggressive, trust me, it isn't.

One does not do anything remotely aggressive with the gear and flaps hanging...this guy is obviously on final for a full stop. Granted, the Herc does drop the gear/flaps when doing a tactical pallet drop known in the business as a "LAPES," for "low-altitude parachute extraction system"--basically sliding the stuff out the back a couple of feet off the ground without touching down in a place where it's too dangerous to land--but that would be kinda weird at a full-up airdrome with thousands of feet of nice flat concrete in your own country miles from the front lines.

As far as the attack jets are concerned, you probably won't see them around Tel Aviv if they're ingressing southern Lebanon to engage...they'll stay high to avoid the "golden BB," or the occasional hit from small arms thrown up by the opposition, and to make their visual acquisition by the bad guys more difficult...F-16s are hard to see even if you're looking for them if they maintain their distance.

Oh yeah, flying low in a jet burns gas like an SUV in a Los Angeles traffic jam...they'll keep 'em high to conserve fuel for the yank-and-bank portion of the post-strike target area egress, assuming they don't have to low-level ingress for a serious radar-guided threat. Near as I can tell, Hizbollah hasn't been given those kinds of SAMs yet (although I wouldn't be surprised if the French are trying to sell them some).

I could be wrong, but that's what 25 years in fighters tells me...

Posted by: Instapilot at August 10, 2006 02:25 PM

Well done, Instapilot. Love to listen to people that have been there, done that. How about another question? Extra credit, of course!

There seems to be some puzzlement all around on why there is on appearances to be very few airstrikes against the Hezb's dug in near the border. At least not to the extent of dinting their ability to launch the numerous missiles seemingly at will. If you can offer up some informed speculation on this, you'd have some grateful listeners. Thanks, if you can help out.

Posted by: allan at August 10, 2006 03:34 PM

This post's first troll.

This is a comments thread Fares.. if we want to read some insane one-sided article, we wouldn't be here.

Posted by: Jono at August 10, 2006 09:11 PM

Fares seems to have that "Arabs are always innocent victims" act down pat.

Of course taking responsibility is hard under despotic regimes, but it's still dishonest to always look for an outsider to blame.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at August 11, 2006 12:00 AM

Allan,

RULE #1 for artillery: Never, ever stay put after sending rounds down range. This is known to old artillerymen as "shoot and scoot." So, by the time you get jets there, the launchers are either gone or hidden...happened a lot in Bosnia during ALLIED FORCE and NATO wasn't the only group of people taking notes during Wes' War (Clark, that is). The best way to do a real-time duel with arty is, well, with your own arty.

It's called counter-battery fire and is directed by (believe it or not) phased-array radars that watch inbound projectiles, calculate their appoximate origin and feed that data to the guys firing back.

So, that's why you have all those Israeli tubes pumping rounds out (going the other way) behind the talking head du jour on CNN, Fox, et al. They're the quickest response to a fleeting target, given the right systems supporting them.

Also, a Katusha launcher may look big, but from 15,000 feet at 400 knots, you're not going to see it. If you're lucky enough to actually be looking in the right direction when the thing is fired, you may still have to get permission to attack--depends on the Rules of Engagement ("ROE"), something that makes a see-roll in-shoot/drop scenario unlikely in this information war (see "Qana").

No, the Israelis are using their air for targets that lend themselves to an airborne pummeling--fixed command and control, supply depots (those rockets have to be stored somewhere), contonement areas, troop concentrations, etc.

Bottom line? The bad guys are using an relatively ineffective kenetic weapon to great psycho-political effect. Finding them is a needle-in-a-haystack proposition for fixed-wing air power...the good news is they don't do that much damage...so it's up to the artillery and good ol' infantry boots on the ground to take 'em out. Which is why, if I were Olmert, I'd be going after these guys hammer and tong on the ground and "cease fire" (this was as blatant an act of war as Pearl Harbor) nonsense be damned. To not do so allows Hizbollah to harass the Israeli population for an endless length of time. This is a boil that had to be lanced but only by cutting well will the wound heal well.

Hope this helps...

Posted by: Instapilot at August 11, 2006 12:06 AM

Nachum and others,
Since the issue of guns is brought up, I'm curious: is hunting a popular activity in Israel? Or are people essentially saturated with the presence of guns in daily life that recreational hunting isn't interesting to most?

MJT, Keep up the great work. We're all waiting with baited breath for the next report.

Posted by: Boomaxer at August 11, 2006 08:04 AM

Instapilot,

Superlative breakdown on artillery vs. air attack. Now I can see the logic of the strategies on both sides. You have a marvelous ability to explain. Very appreciated, and way into extra credit. My 'expertises' are far removed from this theater, or I would offer them up myself. Building houses and trading stocks are categorically non-military endeavors. Thanks again! Hope you drop by here whenever you can to provide some more of your valuable insight.

Posted by: allan at August 11, 2006 08:58 AM

I din't bother with the first, but the "breaking the cycle", at freesyria, noted that many Palestinians, Lebanese, etc. wanted peace, before mostly talking about Israeli fascists. (Fares the half-troll.)

Israel pulled out of Lebanon 6 years ago -- when and where have these others demonstrated any willingness to give anything up?

Michael, I think most in Israel believe this is different -- Israel gave up in Leb, but the Leb Hez attacked anyway. "Land for peace" loses land, but doesn't get peace. Many, if not most, "leftist" Israelis don't know what else they can give, for peace, so support the war.

I'm very interested in any Israeli counter-opinions.

I haven't heard of much "Hezbollah must disarm for peace" action from the Lebanese, though -- so I don't think they want peace, enough.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at August 11, 2006 09:41 AM

Boomaxer: hunting isn't very popular in Israel for several reasons. Firstly we don't have the huge forests, wild land, herds of wild deer etc. I believe a few people hunt wild boar but there aren't many around. Secondly, yes, I believe army service gives most people the opportunity to get any thoughts of shooting for fun and recreation out of their system (although pistol shooting is an Olympic sport where Israel has done quite well).

Posted by: ilana at August 11, 2006 10:06 AM

Re hunting, it is true that Israel's forests don't offer much in the way of hunting; however, there is also Jewish law and culture to consider. In Jewish law, hunting is forbidden lest the animal suffer. Animals may only be killed in the ritually prescribed way (slit to the jugular) which theoretically is the most humane way. If the slaughterer's knife has a single imperfection or if he pauses during the procedure, he is not allowed to proceed. Now, obviously most Israelis aren't particularly religious, but because of this law, it's arguably just not part of the culture. Also, since Israel's forest are small and because there is such a historical Zionist ethos of connecting with the land through hiking, hunting would probably be too dangerous, since there are so many people on foot throughout the country's forests at any given time. just some random thoughts...

Posted by: Ari at August 11, 2006 10:40 AM

Michael: I was pleased (and of course horrified) to see your picture from Lebanon showing Hizbollah's sign with the severed Israeli's head and the dead soldiers and the funerals with the caption: 'Sharon - your sons are still with us."

I've been talking about this sign for a long time, having seen it myself when I produced a series of radio reports from Metulla and Northern Israel for the BBC (I was their 'token Zionist,' long story).

In any event, I'd be curious during your travels to discover what, if anything, the IDF has done with these grotesque signs and pictures. Have they brought them down - or perhaps they leave them up as a reminder of the brutality and inhumanity of their enemies?

As an aside, when I snapped a picture of the sign, the blue UNIFIL flag was visible in the background because a UN compound was nearby. I thought it was an amazing photo because it showed that not only is UNIFIL useless in disarming Hezbullah, but it can't (or won't) even take down a disgusting demagogic sign.

Cheers, Ari Goldberg

Posted by: Ari at August 11, 2006 10:52 AM

I second Bruce's recommendation for Manta Ray. They don't exactly have an address, but all Tel Aviv taxi drivers know where it is (phone: 03 517 4773) (no, I don't profit from your eating there). If you can't make it for sunset dining or you don't like fish, they have a fabulous breakfast/brunch.

Posted by: savtadotty at August 11, 2006 11:04 AM

For those of you who don't know yet, MJT just podcasted from Metulla for Roger Simon PajamasMedia/PoliticsCentral 2 hours ago:

http://politicscentral.com/2006/08/11/michael_totten_live_from_the_l.php

Check it out.

Posted by: jjdynomite at August 11, 2006 11:05 AM

Regarding the questions about guns in Israel.

I don't know what the statistics are but I can offer the perspective of someone who has visited Israel as an American tourist in times of peace and most recently war.

In America, we rarely see any long arms (non-pistols) and never see them carried openly in cities except in extreme circumstances (SWAT team called out to deal with a hostage situation, or the National Guard patrolling an area following a natural disaster or similar crisis). However, in Israel it is not unusual to see Israeli troops, carrying rifles, supplementing the local police. The police usually carry side-arms (pistols) but sometimes carry rifles in normal patrol and or specific guard duties. Also, in America traveling soldiers either stow their rifles or don't carry them whereas in Israel, it is not unusual at all to see a group of soldiers by the side of the road hitchhiking with rifles on their backs.

In America, I have never seen somebody (other than police) carrying a firearm on the beach. In Israel I have many times seen regular civilians at the beach, in parks, at tourist attractions with rifles on their backs. Not that every time you go to a crowded beach you will see a rifle, but I wouldn't be surprised to see one.

One thing on this recent trip that I had not noticed before, many of the large tourist groups that I saw had one or two escorts carrying rifles.

So while the actual numbers may be quite small and the number of people carrying concealed weapons in America may be higher, the perception is that there are a lot more people carrying weapons around in Israel.

Posted by: Dougie Pundit at August 11, 2006 11:14 AM

Regarding Israeli combat aircraft visible from Tel Aviv

I was in Israel on a two week trip to visit family ending August 1st. I was staying in the Hod Hasharon area which is just east of Herzliyah and very close to Tel Aviv. During that time I don't think I ever saw a plane that I could identify as an F16. Those that I might have suspected as such were flying way too high to identify. On occasion my father in-law (who was a mechanic in the air force and worked with planes in the military industry after that) would indicate that the sound we were hearing was an F16 but we were never able to find the plane making the noise. I think this supports the assertion that these planes are usually flying too high to be seen in the Tel Aviv area.

I saw several of the Hercs but saw more of them near the Sde Dov airport than anywhere else. While on the beach in Tel Aviv and Herzliyah I saw lots of army helicopters that seemed to be flying in groups of two or three indicating that they were traveling and not patrolling.

Posted by: Dougie Pundit at August 11, 2006 11:39 AM

Michael is featured in the following podcast. He's on the Lebanese border.

http://politicscentral.com/2006/08/11/michael_totten_live_from_the_l.php

Posted by: SirGlubb at August 11, 2006 12:39 PM

" Unlike in the States, the Israeli government takes gun ownership seriously, and those who possess firearms must be licensed, and the weapons registered."

The U.S. takes gun ownership seriously as well. Which is why we fight so hard to "keep and bear arms" as dictated by our Constitution.

As a Texan (proudly), I have a "Concealed Weapon License", which I carry next to my driver's license. After passing oral and performance tests, I can, and do legally carry my 38 hammerless revolver in my purse.

Sorry to be OT, Michael, but had to set the record straight.

Posted by: DagneyT at August 11, 2006 03:29 PM

Michael: I've been living in Israel near Tel Aviv for almost three years now. The plane you photographed may be military but it flies everyday many times a day following the same route since as long as I live here. I used to think that it was an early reconnoisance plane, to spot by radar enemy incoming missiles or intruderst, but it may be a cargo plane as someone else said.

In any case, it is not directly related to the Lebanon war, since it passes over Tel Aviv University on its way to the sea as I said, often during the day and night, and then turns to head north may be to land, I used to think that it continued north and then circled, but as some people pointed, the gear down shows that it will land soon).

I am glad that you are in Israel.

Best,
Fabian
Del Arte de Cruzar los Oceanos - Of the Art of Crossing the Oceans blog.

Posted by: Fabian at August 12, 2006 09:32 AM

There have been a LOT of Hercules landing somewhere south of Tel Aviv since the fighting began.
My baby daughter rushes to the window whenever a plane flies past our house, so I notice these things.

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