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Bringing the Middle East Conflict Home

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 at 3:19 PM

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In an age of satellite TV and cell phones, Greater Clevelanders with Israeli or Lebanese connections have been closely following recent events in the Middle East. ideastream's David C. Barnett spoke with some area residents for whom the conflict is very close to home.

Claude al Najar smiles when she talks about her baby-to-be. She’s about six months pregnant and, until recently, was looking forward to having her mother assist with the delivery.

Claude al Najar: I’m waiting for my mom to help me, to come from Lebanon, but now it’s hard to come.

In fact, it’s even hard to communicate. This past week’s series of strikes and counterstrikes across the Israel-Lebanon border have apparently cut the phone lines to her family in the Beirut suburbs. Her husband’s relatives live further north, but they too have been unreachable in recent days. So, a satellite TV station from Lebanon is all she has.

Claude al Najar: I watch TV all the time because I can only know by TV.

She says her friends worry that the images she’s watching are too stressful for a woman expecting a child in November, but they too are having communication problems.

Claude al Najar: I talk to some friends who live in Cleveland and nobody can contact their families there.

Across town, Avi Goldman’s brand new grandson has passed out in his stroller, blissfully unaware of the conflicts circulating in this new world he’s recently entered. Granddad knows those conflicts all too well. As a member of the Israeli Navy in October of 1967, his ship was targeted by a couple of missiles. He says he spent five hours in the water, waiting to be rescued.

Avi Goldman: Seeing what’s going on today in Israel with all those missiles, it’s very hard to defend.

Goldman ended up resettling in the Cleveland area in 1969, but he has maintained his Israeli citizenship and has been back a number of times. He spoke with family and friends in Israel over the weekend and got differing reports.

Avi Goldman: In central Israel, they are living their regular life. They are all worried, they are all hesitant, but in the north they are living in the shelters and they are very alert of what’s going on. Many of them can hear some of those missiles when they are fired.

He’s concerned that the rocket attacks are getting deeper into Israel. The recent strike in the port city of Haifa was 45 minutes from the border.

Avi Goldman: I wouldn’t be surprised if they had the range to hit much closer in Israel.

The charred roof of an apartment building in Lebanon struck by the Israeli military brings despair to Claude al Najar’s face. She says nothing will be accomplished until both sides put down their guns.

Claude al Najar: After that, all the countries - the Arabic countries, the American country, the European countries - can sit down together and find something good for Lebanese and for Israel.

That’s the sort of goal that both Claude al Najar and Avi Goldman could agree on. The question is, will it be achieved in the lifetime of a grandchild - or a child yet to be born? David C. Barnett, 90.3.

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