Note: This post is dedicated to the memory of Marie Colvin, an American war correspondent who was allegedly killed by the Syrian government while covering the uprising there. If you want to learn more about the lives and sacrifices of war correspondents, I recommend watching the documentary “Dying to Tell the Story,” which I first saw in 1998 when I was a journalism major at Boston University.
JERUSALEM — “The real fear is not that Iran will nuke us; it is that a nuclear Iran will have a greater ability to sponsor and commit terrorism in Israel and worldwide without having to fear significant retaliation.”
That was a comment that an official at the Israeli Foreign Ministry told me in fluent English recently over dinner and beers when I asked him whether the Israeli government actually thought that Iran was seeking a nuclear weapon and that it would use such a device to kill millions of Israelis. (The official, of course, asked not to be identified on my blog, and I agreed.)
Israel is a small, dense country — roughly the size of New Jersey in area, but long and skinny — and Jerusalem itself is smaller than most people think. You can walk anywhere within roughly twenty minutes. As I wrote in a prior essay on the contrasting and polarizing extremes among Israelis, Jerusalem is poorer and more religious than Tel Aviv, so many people choose to walk everywhere rather than spend six shekels (roughly $1.60) on a bus ride. As a result of the size of the country, it is somewhat common to encounter well-known people in one’s day-to-day life here. I have seen Israeli movie stars casually walking down the street in Tel Aviv. Friends of mine here in Jerusalem have seen people including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (with a security entourage) come into a cafe at which they were sitting to grab a coffee.
I say this not to seem as though I have some secret source high in the Foreign Ministry. (I was laid off of my journalism career in Boston in 2007, and I have never been an official reporter in the Middle East. Still, I write on politics, culture, economics, and Israel here from time to time since I will always be a journalist at heart.) I had gone to a local pub to watch the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball game on a Thursday, and I wound up sitting next to the official, who had come to eat dinner after work. I struck up a conversation, and we talked for a while.