Most recently, last April and May we watched the 24 hour news channels as large regions of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi were hit by the largest storms since the early 1900s, and the Morganza Spillway was intentionally opened, destroying nearly 5000 square miles of inhabited land to spare total destruction of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, on the heels of the 2005 hurricane that nearly wiped out the whole Gulf region. What if the people who lived there or were visiting the area then had no way to escape?
The prospect is frightening and for just about all of us, unimaginable. Now imagine the threat is not a tidal wave, rushing floodwaters, a violent tornado or some other natural disaster, and something that can wipe out life as we know it for years to come, destroying not just property, but everyone and everything in its wake. Imagine the threat is a nuclear explosion, the mushroom cloud in the distance, the flash of light and the torrent effect of the ripple that tears through everything in its path, leaving death and darkness then nothingness.
This is a fear that we face living in a nuclear world, but one that we here in the United States feel is either so remote or could hit elsewhere, but not in my backyard. However, in Israel, the fear is real. With the entire country being just 8,019 square miles; extending about 200 mi north to south and just 70 miles east to west; with its narrowest point being only 12 miles across, there is nowhere to go to outrun a nuclear attack, nowhere to hide and nothing to do but watch the end of the world take hold.
A recently released short film captures the gripping moments of Israel's hypothetical destruction. Israeli filmmaker Ronen Barany, who has a knack for creating bizarre short films, just released a five-minute film on Youtube called, The Last Day, or Yom Ha'Acharon. It is made in the style of an amateur video shot on the future date of February 23, 2013, just about one year from now. The home video is the remnant of a flash drive recovered by a United Nations reconnaissance team after an Iranian first strike with nuclear warheads.
It was taken by a couple desperately trying to flee Jerusalem as missiles are seen flying overhead. They are driving on "Highway 1" and capture on camera explosions from conventional warheads along the way, while listening to an emergency radio broadcast advising that there is no more contact with Haifa or the southern regions in what appears to be a concerted surprise attack on Israel. All the while you can hear the couple's exasperated a voice speaking to one another in Hebrew wondering what is happening, where is Israel's army and expressing concern that they cannot raise their parents by telephone. The announcer reports that the communications network across the country is failing.
A flash of light appears and the radio goes dead. The couple stops the car to help stranded drivers and runs to the aid of a young boy who stared at the flash and is blinded. As the camera pans the distance they see a huge pillar of smoke begin to expand and more people appear wounded alongside the road. A man recites "Shemah Yisroel", the Jewish prayer recited by one who senses death is near -- "Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is one," as Israeli war planes rush overhead and more explosions seem to level a mountain up ahead. Suddenly an almost dull sound begins to rumble and the sky lights up in shades of orange and yellow with black clouds rising from the ground.
All you hear is the explosion and a large ripple drawing near, then the image appears to become pixilated; then blackness and nothing at all. The film ends.
This is hard to watch and seems as real as if it had happened, and the fear sent a shiver down my back. In Mr. Barany's film, Israel is presumably attacked by its neighbors, and destroyed in a final act of aggression by Iran. The people had nowhere to run, but watched as the end of days consumed them.
As the war of words heats up between Iran and the west and as Israel grapples with just what to do, artists such as Ronen Barany are not alone capturing the fears of the people. A new author, Jonathan Bloomfield, published a book last summer aptly named Palestine. That book depicts a very similar scene of Tel Aviv residents escaping the city as conventional weapons destroy buildings, bridges and roadways.
The threat of an Iranian nuclear launch has been eliminated by a pre-emptive Israeli strike using Saudi airspace with permission. What remains is the threat of localized nuclear detonations from Iranian bombs that were smuggled into Israeli cities. That chilling tale ends with Israel's ultimate victory, and is told in an almost Tom Clancy-like manner where Israeli agents find the plot and the bombs before the timer finishes its count-down.
These are both works of fantasy, and the hope is that it remains as such, even as the genuine possibility exists and is a very real threat for Israel. Some say these are scare tactics to get people worked up enough to force leaders into some unknown action. Others, however, believe it is an imminent reality and must be dealt with. Yet there are those who just chalk these up to entertainment and have no real meaning at all.
As the Republican primaries rage on, and candidates try to emphasize just how much each supports Israel and Jewish communities, Israel's safety and very existence is a common theme. While stumping in Florida this week, Newt Gingrich sent out a robo-call to Jews suggesting that Mitt Romney endangered kosher meals for seniors in Massachusetts, and it raised enough concern to make it onto the daily news reports. Just imagine what the thought of endangering Israel's existence and risking the annihilation of its people can do.