Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Supermarket Lines Are a Bit Longer, but Israeli Spirits Are Mainly High

January 14, 1991
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Israel’s largest city is bearing up well under the threat of missile attack from Iraq.

There are long lines at the supermarkets and other stores as householders continue to stock up on canned goods, bottled water and material to seal rooms against poison gas attacks.

But the shoppers are cheerful as they wait their turn at the check-out counters, telling each other they can always “use the extra stuff.”

“It’s only because of the children that I decided to buy a bit more than I usually do,” one housewife remarked at a supermarket Sunday. Her three shopping bags brimmed with preserves, chocolates and milk products.

“Is it going to help if I buy all the canned tuna fish in the shop?” she asked.

But this mother of three, and countless other Israelis, are following the Israel Defense Force’s civil defense instructions to seal windows with plastic strips and nylon sheets.

She has set aside one room for such treatment and stocked it with sweets, toys and a transistor radio, “to calm the kids.”

“Just in case” and “to be prepared” are the explanations repeatedly heard around town.

The Education Ministry has ordered schools to seal off at least one classroom against gas attack, in addition to preparing the regular air raid shelters. Principals have been instructed to keep school open until orders are broadcast for all citizens to carry gas masks.


There is tension in the air, camouflaged by cool good cheer and gallows humor.

Most of the city’s largest nightclubs and discotheques are booked solid for “end of the world” parties on the night of Jan. 15, the U.N-imposed deadline for Iraq to pull out of Kuwait or face the possibility of war.

Saddam Hussein and his foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, have said Israel would be the first target of Iraqi missiles if Baghdad is attacked by the U.S.-led coalition of forces.

Tel Aviv’s popular mayor, Shlomo Lahat, saw a humorous side to the threat.

“A missile from Iraq may reach Tel Aviv in five minutes, but it will take hours to find a parking space,” he quipped Sunday.

But the IDF does not indulge in one-liners.

Gen. Dan Shomron, the chief of staff, assured the nation in a television appearance Friday that all branches of the armed forces are fully prepared for any eventuality.

Other ranking IDF officers have played down the destructive effects of a missile attack. The Iraqi missiles that might get through to Israel are comparatively small and would be at their maximum range and minimum accuracy, they said.

“They are really not much more than the Katyushas which the Palestine Liberation Organization and terrorists have been firing toward Israel from Lebanon in recent years, and they have caused no casualties and relatively little damage,” one officer pointed out.

Recommended from JTA