"This is how we live," said the woman being interviewed on CNN. It was mid-February, the height of the recent American-Iraqi crisis. The woman was standing in line at an army depot in Jerusalem with her three children. They were there to exchange their old gas masks for new ones. The correspondent had asked her how her family was coping with the renewed threat of a chemical weapons attack.

Israel had faced a similar threat in 1991during the Gulf War. Though it had been on the sidelines of that conflict, Saddam Hussein, in an effort to break up the American led coalition, lobbed thirty-nine scud missiles--none of them contained chemical weapons--into Israel causing widespread damage.

Israel was not involved this time either, but, mindful of 1991, nobody was taking any chances. Hundreds of thousands queued up at army depots throughout the country to exchange gas masks. When local suppliers failed to keep up with the demand, masks were brought over from Norway and Sweden. Millions of dollars worth of antitoxins were imported as well, just in case, and Israelis became intimately familiar with exotic sounding names like anthrax and botulinism.


This is how we live, never knowing what's going to happen next, at the mercy of events that routinely intrude on our day daily lives.

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