[The 90’s raw: Nancy Cain – Interviews in Israel during the Gulf War]

A video journal recorded by Nancy Cain in Israel during the opening days of the Gulf War, January 1991.

00:00Copy video clip URL Various shots of a harpist busking in a town square in Israel.

03:06Copy video clip URL The videographer asks the harpist where he’s from. “New Zealand.” He says his mother is Jewish. When asked if he is concerned to be here at this time, he says, “Yes, a little.” When asked if he has a gas mask he replies, “It’s coming.” Continued shots of the harpist playing a gentle song.

05:42Copy video clip URL The videographer stops and re-starts shooting. B-roll of the town square. The videographer says to one of the vendors, a couple with a small infant, “it’s the 15th of January (1991) and this place is usually crowded. Why is it so deserted?” They answer that the war is about to begin. People are getting themselves ready, filling holes in their homes where gas can get in. The videographer asks if they are scared. “Nervous.” The couple say they are prepared so that helps. “We’re waiting for the sirens. We have gas masks and a mask for the baby.” The husband says they’re trying to keep life normal as long as they can.

08:24Copy video clip URL The man says that on TV people respond to possible war, but he is not so much afraid of war as he is the Israeli government. He thinks we need to get rid of the Arab from the dictionary. When asked if he thinks peace is possible, the mans says, “It better be!” When asked if there should be a Palestinian state he says, “I think there should be a place where each human being can live with dignity. It means having a broad idea … that includes every one’s different beliefs.” When asked if he believes in a bi-national state he says, “It would have to be a bi-national world … put pride of religion aside, pride of family aside and just have pride of living and pride of life.”

12:34Copy video clip URL Videographer stops recording

12:44Copy video clip URL Change of location. The videographer is in a car with a driver. They are driving down a road. She notes it is the day after the US attack on Baghdad. She adds she is on her way to Jerusalem. She asks the driver if he’s afraid. “No, I  trust the Israeli army.”  Do you have a gas mask with you? “Yes.” What do you think about Americans? “I think they did the right thing.” What do you think of Saddam Hussein? “I think he’s crazy.” He adds that since the Americans have attacked he doesn’t think Hussein can get to Israel. “My family tells me not to go far, be close to the house.” Shot of the road ahead. Only one truck is ahead of them. The driver says, “the government says we shouldn’t go out of the house because Iraq can still attack.”

17:31Copy video clip URL Change of location.The videographer is in an apartment with a French friend, Leah. She notes it is January 17 (1991) and that Israel is in a state of alert. She notes the room  they are in is sealed with plastic, all the windows and doors are sealed to prevent gas from entering should there be a gas attack. She notes the canned goods they have stored and wine they have opened to toast to the end of war.

19:45Copy video clip URL The videographer says that everyone’s instructed to stay in their room and have gas masks ready. They demonstrate putting on the gas mask. Also in the package is an injection in case someone inhales gas, and a powder in case of chemical burn. She asks Leah if she’s scared. “No. Last night I was.” What do you think of the American attack? “Great! I watched it all night on CNN.”

22:27Copy video clip URL The videographer records a second take of her intro to the room, the canned foods, and the gas mask demo.

25:55Copy video clip URL The videographer says they’ve had CNN on all the time and comments that, “it’s great we get news right away.”

27:09Copy video clip URL Israeli news on TV, Israeli newspaper and canned food stored.

28:59Copy video clip URL English news  about the war plays as the videographer shoots b-roll of the room, the sealed window.

29:30Copy video clip URL Israeli TV shows US military briefing for US news. General Colin Powell gives update on US attack. Shots of the food and of President Bush commenting on US troops in Iraq. “All of us are very pleased that, so far, the operation is going forward with great success. And we keep praying that the loss of life will be … absolute minimum.”

31:26Copy video clip URL In the room, Leah with gas mask on. The news is advising the public to put on gas masks. Leah puts a plastic bag over her. News advises to put wet rag under the door for extra precaution. B-roll of their wet towel at the base of their front door which is sealed with plastic.

33:16Copy video clip URL Leah in gas mask and wrapped in plastic. Videographer says that Israel has been hit with something, but we don’t know what.

34:01Copy video clip URL An Israeli news report. The man on TV holds a gas mask as though giving instruction on how to use it.

36:09Copy video clip URL The videographer notes that Central Israel has been hit by gas attacks. We’re instructed to get in to our sealed room, keep the news on, and wait.

36:50Copy video clip URL Leah on the phone. The videographer says we’re instructed to take masks off, but stay in our sealed room. She notes the instructions given on news radio are given in Russian because there are so many immigrants here.

37:52Copy video clip URL Israeli TV showing children at play and advertising gas masks, and what to do in case of a gas attack. The spot demonstrates gas proofing a baby’s crib.

41:48Copy video clip URL The videographer gives a diary update noting that they’ve been told that  two other cities have been hit by chemicals and citizen in Tel Aviv have to keep gas masks on. “We’re allowed to keep our gas masks off. Leah checks the deal on the door and asks how much longer will they have air.” She notes there’s a limit to many hours we can stay in a sealed room.

43:30Copy video clip URL TV and radio news reports in English. The reports give emergency numbers and war updates. Leah says she thinks the threat is over. No one really knows what’s going on. The phone rings. Leah answers.

45:28Copy video clip URL TV reports that show destruction, bombed cities. Citizens are interviewed. The audio is low.

47:28Copy video clip URL Change of location. The videographer is in a grocery store the following day. She asks some of the shoppers how they spent the previous night. Were you scared? “No.” What do you think of America? “I think she did what she had to do.” A grocery worker says “I was not afraid. Saddam doesn’t frighten me. Last night I slept.”

50:00Copy video clip URL Shoppers. One comments that he was not afraid last night adding that “we are young … and will always be fine. We’re optimists.” He adds that he thinks America is a great country: “This mission America makes is a great mission.” When asked what his opinion of America was before the war the man responds, “I always know it’s a great country … Now I really like America.” Shots of the grocery store. The videographer asks a customer if he has a gas mask. “In the car.” Do you like America? “Yes. It’s very good.”

53:49Copy video clip URL Another customer shows his boxed gas mask. He like the US very well. Before the attacks he says he still liked America: “On one hand I see them as a boss.”

55:32Copy video clip URL More shots of the grocery store. The videographer notes that it’s now January 18 (1991).  Customers checking out at the grocery store. Leah loading the conveyor belt with her items: water, canned food, cheese, yogurt, frozen chicken.

57:06Copy video clip URL The exterior of the shopping center. A sign in English reads: “Dear Customers, we’re closing at 5pm today.”

58:13Copy video clip URL Back inside their apartment. A guy and a woman wearing a gas mask seal the front door with tape and plastic. There are 4 people in the small room, all wearing gas masks. News plays on the TV. One woman is on the phone. Her voice is muffled through the gas mask.

01:03:07Copy video clip URL Everyone in the apartment takes their gas mask off. The radio news is stating that the “all clear” signal just rang. The inmates speak French to one another. A man removes the tape and seal from the door.

01:06:16Copy video clip URL Everyone is again wearing their gas masks and listening to the radio news.

01:07:36Copy video clip URL The radio news announces alarms have rung and that everyone is to put their gas masks back on and go into a sealed room.

01:08:03Copy video clip URL Interview with an unidentified woman. It is January 19, 1991. The woman notes they’ve sustained two attacks in Israel. “Last night was the performance; the night before was a rehearsal.” She notes that in responding to the attack she didn’t think about it, she just did it. She admits that during last night’s attack she was frightened, afraid that she would not function: placing the seal on the door, towel under the door,t he mask on her, the mask on her son… “You have no control of your life.” She notes she went out today to breathe fresh air and brought her gas mask with her. She demonstrates putting on her gas mask. She adds, “I make phone calls at night wearing this.” She tells an anecdote about her mother. People are getting allergies from this mess, she says. I had a burn in my left eye, my mom said she had a rash in her hair (scalp). She prepared with a scarf for her head. She says the routine action, when an attack comes, is first with the glasses on. Second take a bucket with water into the room, then her son brings in the cat, he puts on his mask, she tapes the doors, he puts the wet towel under the door, they put on their masks then we sit. She notes she is out of tape and worried about that. “We keep taping and un-taping the seal on the front door.”

01:14:11Copy video clip URL The woman says she thinks that the action of the US is the right thing to do. Before the war, she says, she lived in the US four years. “It was, for me, ‘What are they able to do?’ They talk and talk. They have all this technology, but I’m not sure they’re the ablest of people. Now, “I’m surprised in a good way … When I saw pilots on TV, the last two or three days, I thought I was seeing Israeli in ’67 or ’73 … I felt it’s right thing to do, not only for my sake as an Israeli …. I didn’t believe America would do it. I didn’t believe we’d sit in our rooms for three nights … Maybe the world will understand that we are a little democracy in a big Arab world of people that are threatening, that have rules of behavior that we, as a democracy, do not understand.”

01:18:06Copy video clip URL The woman adds that she’s always thought Palestinians have the right to their own state. The question is how to have safe borders. I  hope today Arabic countries will make peace with us. The Palestinian problem is a problem of the whole region. When talking about the Gaza Strip, the left and right in Israel  understand the problem, but what do you do to help people to have what they want?

01:25:31Copy video clip URL The woman talks about the Palestine/Israel issue. It’s not an issue of human rights. They have no leader. Arafat can’t be a leader. A terrorist can’t suddenly be a leader. What’s the alternative to resisting speaking with the PLO as the Palestinian representative? The majority of Palestinians consider the PLO their official representative and Arafat as their leader. For me, Arafat can be a leader if he aims to stop terrorism. When asked what role the US can play, she says maybe as an adviser to peace talks.

01:30:03Copy video clip URL When asked what the woman thinks of America, she says she loves their fairness. “I don’t like this ‘have a nice day.’ No one means it.” What don’t you like? “I lived there from 1983 to 1987. It was America: the center of the world. People didn’t go out from their little states. They looked out at strangers as though we fell from another planet. They lived in a little vacuum. Old fashioned Europe was old fashioned. American looked at themselves as the new people. I didn’t like it. Their attitude was we’re from America you are an outsider. The South didn’t accept outsiders. I lived in Atlanta, Georgia. On my drivers license they listed me as colored. I asked why. They said, you are from Israel, that’s part of Asia so you are colored. In Atlanta on one street the whites will live on one side, the blacks on the other.”

01:33:34Copy video clip URL “Is there racism in Israel?” “I think there are differences between Jews. There are a lot of mixed marriages now. In the 1950s the Jews from Africa were a problem for the Jews from Germany and Russia. They didn’t know Arabic Jews. Never met them in  their lives. I don’t call it racism, I call it a difference between way of life. There is racism against Arabs.”

01:40:40Copy video clip URL On the subject of the differences between those living in Israel, the woman says, “I feel I’m proud that I’m living here. We didn’t lose our sense of humor when the war started. We know this war will be hard, but the sense of resistance of the people is high. I appreciate it.”

01:41:46Copy video clip URL END



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