The 7:00 o'clock news report in English that spills forth from Kol Yisrael every morning is heralded by a brassy fanfare, a hora that conjures up disparate images of kibbutz halutzim encircling an evening campfire and latterday tourists in odd caps cavorting like the natives. Too often that musical measure sounds the brightest riff of the ensuing quarter-hour. Still, like virtually everyone here in Israel--sixth generation Jerusalemite and born-again newcomer alike-- Marcia and I are addicted to our twice daily news fix. It was different ten years ago when we lived fortified in the ranchstyle world of California's San Joaquin Valley. In those days the most appalling news would spot the horizon, perhaps tentatively shadow our lives, but always touch down somewhere else. We could with equanimity miss the news, for it could be depended upon to return the favor.
The hour is poor for concentration. Latest dispatches surface amidst the ceaseless chatter of our two schoolage children: inflationary percentages, political infighting, a bomb blast or casuality. A wry look or exclamation must suffice for commentary between us, the rest deferred--but not on the morning of May 3, 1983. BY 7:01 we were immediately aware that far more for us than for any other Israelis, the lead item was exploding with shocking force.
Our perfunctory shushing of the kids grew loud and urgent. Even the outbreak of war could not have dazed us more. A major earthquake had struck Central California. We abandoned breakfast and hovered over our radio like disoriented morning moths. The locale hardest hit was Coalinga, a map- dot of 6,000 some 60 miles southwest of Marcia's hometown