It has been a while since I last posted. Here is a story I wrote for Yom Kippur. I believe it is quite important.
The man sticks his hand out to shake mine. He is wearing a cobbled-together set of winter clothes. His hands are protected against the cold by a pair of garden gloves.
“Jim,” he says, in a friendly tone.
“Joseph,” I say, extending my own hand. I am lucky enough to be wearing real gloves.
“What do you do, Joseph?” he asks.
“Analysis,” I answer, although I haven’t touched a spreadsheet in months.
“IT for me,” he replies, a bit of a wistful look in his eye.
It was painful, but in these times people continue to define themselves by what they used to do. There is no room yet for their new reality.
“You have a family?” I ask.
“Two kids,” he answers, “A wife and two kids.” He smiles now. But only for a moment.
We are, after all, standing in a breadline.
It had all started one perfect Tuesday afternoon. A converted fishing trawler had entered Israeli territorial waters. Flying a Greek flag, it was ostensibly en-route to Ashkelon to deliver aid to Gaza. It had gotten within 5 miles of the coast when it was intercepted by the Israeli navy. We still have many of the audio tapes. An astute naval officer had noticed something wrong: there were only two visible crew members. Shortly before the Navy boarded the trawler, the unexpected happened. The ship detonated.
The explosion was nuclear.
Instantly, the waterfront of Tel Aviv was erased and tens of thousands were killed. Thankfully, the weapon had been far enough to sea that only the waterfront was erased. The bulk of the city was spared.
Moments after the weapon was detonated, Hezbullah launched its own rockets en-masse and Syrian tanks began to roll towards the border. In a desperate bid to survive, Israel began to fight back – brutally.
All fingers pointed to Iran. Israeli leaders and American hawks called on the US and the UN to retaliate with a nuclear assault of their own. A nuclear war had been launched and protocol demanded a powerful response. The President of the United States addressed his nation. Yes, he said, a nuclear assault had been launched. And yes, it was likely that Iran had launched it. But it was not moral to kill millions of innocent Iranians for the probable sins of a few men. No nuclear response would be forthcoming. A massive conventional assault was being prepared.
Minutes later, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, broadcast his own message. He explained that although he supported the attack on Israel, and although he regretted Israel’s tight border security, his country had not launched the assault. Nonetheless he had foreseen the possibility of unwarranted Western aggression. As other countries lacked Israel’s security, Iran had taken the precaution of placing heavily shielded nuclear devices within their major cities. Any assault would be met with a truly destructive nuclear response.
For a few hours the world watched as Washington wavered. And then it folded. The assault was called off.
Hours later, the Gulf states realigned themselves with Iran and politely asked their US soldiers to leave.
Saudi Arabia tried to resist. In another TV address, they were supplied with an address in Riyadh. A functional nuclear device was found there. They were warned that there were many more. Their fancy American-supplied Air Force had come to naught. Iran controlled the region.
Iran then used the leverage they had. They turned off the supply of oil to the West.
Now, without significant oil imports, and limited domestic production, the US government has cut off the use of private cars. For the most part, the economy has collapsed. While some could telecommute, nobody else can drive to work or shop. Non-emergency medical care has ceased. Most schools and shops have closed. Foreigners have stopped buying US debt, and most of the government has simply ceased to function. Goods that wore away – from bike parts to kids’ shoes and from dish detergent to refrigerator parts – are not being replaced. Slowly, our reality is decaying. Europe is worse.
All food is coming from a breadline – like we are refugees in a foreign land.
Those unready for the change in seasons – like Jim – find themselves wearing garden gloves in winter.
Truly, we have all been caught by surprise.
Everybody knows the United States cannot allow the nuclear blackmail to stand. We suspect that the US is shipping arms to Israel – the only country in the world that is somewhat secure from the Iranian threat. But something more is needed.
And we know that when it comes, the price will be terrible.
With the belching of ad hoc repairs, a truck begins to come up the street. The crowd, orderly, gathers around the designated spot.
Jim rubs his cold hands. Then, with a wry smile, he expresses the thoughts of millions.
“All of this,” he says, “Could have been prevented.”