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Life During Wartime

Saw a Reuters newswire release on Intel (INTC) and how their engineers are continuing to work in Haifa even though the city is being periodically hit with Hizbollah (Syrian? Lebanese? Whose?) rockets.

The Intel article on wi-fi bomb shelters, while a surprise to some, was not a surprise to me. It reminded me of the time I first visited Israel for business, February 25th, 1998.

I was scheduled to meet with ECI, a small startup called Chromatis (3 guys in a one room office, later bought by Lucent for a Gazillion Billion Dollars), and other companies that escape my memory.

That evening, I landed in Israel at Tel Aviv aboard an Alitalia flight from Rome. As we passed though customs, the Israeli agent informed me that my government (the USA) had, while in the air, issued a statement advising all Americans to leave Israel immediately. Saddam Hussein was threatening to rain scud missiles down upon Israel for reasons that I no longer remember. I spoke with the Vitesse employee I was traveling with, and we both decided to stay.

Although my country had advised me that staying in Israel was a hazard, you would not have known it by walking and talking to the people who lived there. Life went on, regardless of the threat of high explosives (or worse) landing at any moment. We had dinner one night in Jaffa, an old harbor area of Tel Aviv and the restaurants were packed.

Customers were particularly surprised to see us. The fact that we were there even though the travel advisory was issued really broke the ice. Meetings seemed charged with energy, people were passionate (a good word to describe argumentative) and you felt very alive. I always left meetings with a clear idea of where I stood and what the customer needed. No crystal ball is needed when doing business in Israel.

I remember waking up early in my hotel one morning (a wedding party was blown up there several years later), walking the beach at Herzliya, and seeing the IDF jet fighters streaking over the Med. The three days I was there were a little surreal.

I always enjoyed returning to Israel for business. Their life during wartime attitude persisted regardless of current events. It’s part of their culture. And I like it.


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  1. Hi Andrew,

    Great website you got here. Hope your new post-Vitesse life is everything you hoped it would be.

    Just a quick note to clarify your question in the first paragraph. Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shia group, is heavily funded and politically glued to Iran and Syria. They act as a ‘state-within-a-state’ in Lebanon (ie. the Lebanese governement is so weak and fractured that they really can’t do much about this group). The rockets that Hezbollah has fired on Haifa seem to be Iranian-made and Syrian-delivered. It’s no secret that Syria and Iran have designs on being the spoilsports of the MidEast.

    The majority (but, alas, not all) of the Lebanese would like to see Hezbollah disappear. Lebanon is a pluralistic society with Christians and Muslims and the Lebanese, like the Israelis, tend to be a lot more Western-oriented than the rest of the Middle East (there are many Lebanese that want to see eventual peace with Israel). This latest misadventure of Hezbollah was done independantly of what the Lebanese people wanted and is costing everyone dearly.

    As you’ve surmised from visiting Israel, life goes on regardless of the dangers presented and, after all, the Mediterranean mentality is one of enjoying life passionately (or…um…hating passionately, unfortunately…).
    Here’s hoping for a quick resolution and an end to the stresses of war…

    Z. “ever the optimist”

    Posted by Ziad Matni | July 21, 2006, 10:42 AM
  2. Is the proper spelling ‘Hizbollah’ or ‘Hezbollah’?

    As I recall, Beiruit used to be the ‘Paris of the Middle East’ before the civil war in the 80’s and was in resurgence in the past few years. Looks like it is in retrograde again.

    Lebanon is proof that having free elections is not a quid pro quo for a stable democracy.

    Posted by Andrew Schmitt | July 21, 2006, 11:03 AM
  3. I agree. I’m of the opinion that “democracy” means nothing if you don’t have a stable and strong central government that can back-up a system of laws and protect everyone equally. The US Constitution would be rendered to nothing but ink on paper if it were not backed-up by national consensus, an empowered judiciary and a strong military. All of these are lacking in Lebanon. So, as beautiful as Beirut is/was, and as pro-democracy and pro-capitalism as most Lebanese are, Lebanon’s always been at the mercy of other forces around it.

    BTW, either way is acceptable spelling in English.
    Hezb-o or Hizb-o: Party-of (as in politics)
    Allah: well, I’m sure you’ve heard that term before.
    Can you imagine a US political party calling itself “God’s Party”????


    Posted by Ziad Matni | July 21, 2006, 11:34 AM
  4. Hate to break up this Israeli lovefest, but many of us saw the dead children from the June shelling of the Gaza beach and think Hezbollah was deliberately goaded into a move against Israel.

    The Palestinians elected Hezbollah, Israel didn’t like it and picked a fight. Firstly started with rhetoric (demanding Hezbollah recognize Israel, sonic jet booms etc.), then closing the border and blocking funds, then finally lobbing shells at them till they got a response.

    Finally it got a response, the capture of one of it’s soldiers (big whoop) which gives it the excuse to shell gaza (killing 80) and re-invade Lebanon and Gaza.

    It looks like the USA is not an innocent third party it pretends top be either, there was a major shipment of weapons in June to Israel and further shipment of $120 million in fighter jet fuel on the 14th July.

    To me it looks like they’ve cooked up a regional conflict to invade Iran. Ziad Matni comments only further convince me that this is true.

    Posted by They're after Iran | July 24, 2006, 9:45 AM