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Air Raid Sirens Keep Israelis On High Alert


Hamas rockets were bound for Tel Aviv yesterday when we reached Etgar Keret, who's a novelist. Two minutes before we got him on the phone, he heard a warning of the latest attack.

ETGAR KERET: It's an air raid siren, and I even have an app for that on my phone.

INSKEEP: You have an app for that? So...


INSKEEP: ...Do you get a sound of a siren on your phone?

KERET: Yes, yes. My son - he tries to find a way to activate it when there are no alarms, but it's child-proof.

INSKEEP: Etgar Keret was able to chuckle about this, though, he also thought of where his family was just then. At that moment, his eight-year-old was at the mall with a relative. His wife was at an event to remember Palestinians dead. Even though Tel Aviv was under attack, many people there are thinking of the civilians killed in Gaza.

KERET: Well, you know, it's very simple. Many of the people being killed in Gaza are not Hamas militants. They're collateral damage. You know, Hamas - many times, they hide weapon or (unintelligible) from densely populated areas, and the idea is while trying to hit Hamas, they kill many children and elderly people and - and, actually, in this very unique situation with the Iron Dome - so far, it's successfully blocked the rocket attacks. You know, some people in Israel think that if we are not in danger right now, then this doesn't seem the right or the moral action to take.

INSKEEP: I'd like to mention your writing in the LA Times this week about this, and you mentioned a distinction that you see in Israeli culture and dialogue right now between the idea of compromise and the idea of peace. What's the distinction?

KERET: Well, you know, if you talk to everybody in Israel - the most militant extreme Sunni right-wing people or the most radical (unintelligible) leftists - they all would say to you that they really want peace, but the thing is that most of the people yearn for peace without giving anything in return. You know, it's kind of a peace of earth kind of thing. You know, you pray to God to give you peace. But if you exchange this word for compromise - when you say you have to acknowledge the fact that it's an agreement that you have to reach with somebody else and that it's an agreement you have to pay something for. So I would want to differentiate between people who seek peace and people who seek compromise because a lot of the people here seek peace - don't want to compromise. They want peace with God not with the Palestinians.

INSKEEP: You know, earlier this week on this program, we heard from a Palestinian writer Adania Shibli in Ramallah.


INSKEEP: And asked her how she thought that this long-running conflict has affected Palestinians and especially young people. Let me put the same question to you as an Israeli and a father. How do you think this long-running conflict has been affecting Israelis?

KERET: I really feel many of the young people that I know are just kind of closing down in this kind of story that they're telling themselves - you know, many times about the impossibility of peace, about the nature of Palestinians who do not seek that peace or who never keep it, you know. And this is very depressing. You know, I'm old enough to have lived in a time even before the Palestinians are dying, to have the Palestinian friends visiting my home, you know. And right now, my - my kid, you know, - the only time he sees a Palestinians is when there is a suicide bombing and they show his face, you know, on the TV. So I bet for him, it will be harder to believe that we can live in peace.

INSKEEP: How does it affect you as a writer to be surrounded by - by this kind of conflict?

KERET: Well, to be honest, you know, in times like this when there are such operations and attacks, I find it impossible to write fiction, you know. And to be honest, I love writing fiction, and I hate writing nonfiction. I really hated writing op-eds, but, you know, when there are people dying and missiles exploding above your head or even above your child's head, I cannot sit down at the computer and make up a story of girl who never existed. I have too many urgent things that I have to address.

INSKEEP: Well, Etgar Keret, thank you very much for taking the time.

KERET: Thank you.

INSKEEP: He's an Israeli writer in Tel Aviv. It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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