As we prepare to originate Nightly News from the Mideast tonight, the violence appears to be reaching a new, frantic and lethal pace. The Haifa train depot rocket attack raised the bar (indeed Haifa is hugely vulnerable due to fuel stocks stored alongside the beautiful port) as did the deaths of the Canadian nationals. If the longer-range rockets do see action in this conflict, sirens will indeed be heard in Tel Aviv for the first time in years. And yet even the official tourist Web sites inform visitors that the "action" in Tel Aviv's nightclubs often doesn't get going until 2 a.m. That won't change because of a few rockets. It takes a lot to change daily rituals in the region, after all. Those who aren't firing something in this conflict look strangely paralyzed -- and in the meantime the cost to innocent lives and infrastructure is already scary. Saturday, it was said that 1 million Israelis were within range of missiles. Today, that number may have increased exponentially. And for those in Beirut and elsewhere in the southern quadrant of Lebanon: all bets are off.
When I leave on a trip like this one, I usually tell friends, well-wishers and loved ones that the ride to the airport is the most dangerous part of the trip. I'm hoping my maxim isn't proven wrong on this jaunt. It is a region I know and love. The randomness of these attacks is beyond frightening and beyond troubling -- unguided rockets raining down on a generation of people raised to believe that modern-day weapons are targeted with great precision. Now the first landmarks are being targeted, in a region where they are plentiful. And here we are again, moving an army of journalists into this familiar corner of the world, to cover something awful.
All of us who are frequent travelers to the Mideast have our own favorite places... the courtyard of the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem, and the small jewelry store adjacent to it (where the owner, who has never met my wife, nevertheless knows her taste in jewelry to a spooky degree). There are two or three spectacular sidewalk cafes in Tel Aviv, our favorite fish place in Jaffa, and of course our bureau in Tel Aviv, staffed with fantastic producers and steely-brave camera crews. We are all great friends, and I would gladly cover any story or war zone with any of them... anywhere in the world.
There is always the chance that cooler heads will prevail. Though I'm guessing if the Cooler Heads who just gathered as part of the G-8 chose to stop at the communique they issued, the prevailing view is that this fighting has to find its own natural conclusion. Let's hope for all of us, and all of those seeking shelter in the Middle East at this moment -- that the conclusion comes sooner rather than later. And if it feels like our world is falling to pieces these days -- well, perhaps that's a sentiment we should find a way to give voice to tonight when Nightly News comes on the air.