the First Gulf War
Compiled by Roslyn Bailey from Israeli sources.
The Gulf War lasted from January 17, 1991, to February 28, 1991, about 6 weeks. While it was a terrifying experience for all Israelis, resulting in trauma which took some years to overcome, there were also stories about amazing deliverances and curious "coincidences". The reader can decide whether these were indeed miracles or not, but most Israelis made up their minds long ago. As one secular woman put it: "If you live in Israel and don’t believe in miracles, you’re just not being realistic."
Instructions from the Israeli government to the public
"Do not use the bomb shelters; instead, prepare a room in your home by sealing the windows and storing food and water there. When there is a missile attack, gather everyone into the sealed room, shut the door tightly by sealing it with masking tape, and make sure that all keep their gas masks on until the all-clear signal is sounded."
Instructions from the Lord through Isaiah
"Come my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself for a little while until the wrath is past." (Isaiah 26:20)
No missiles landed in the city of Jerusalem. Any hits in that area (besides threatening life) would have destroyed ancient archeological sites which could never be replaced. (It was reported afterward that the Iraqis had argued about this, and finally decided not to target Jerusalem for fear of hitting the Dome of the Rock.)
The first night of the missile strikes against Israel, 27 missiles were fired at once. Patriot missiles knocked out all of them except two.
During missile strikes in the West Bank, only injuries were suffered; no lives were lost.
A missile landed in a garbage dump but didn’t explode. Another missile landed a few feet away from a gas station, but didn’t explode.
One missile landed between two buildings, completely destroying them but not killing any people.
Several missiles aimed at Israel fell into tile sea to the west.
Another missile was blown off course by a strong wind.
Two missiles aimed at the IDF base in the Negev desert landed without causing damage.
One missile that fell was discovered to have concrete in place of an explosive warhead.
Two missiles fired from Iraq suddenly disappeared.
A missile hit a bank, but only one person was in the building at the time.
A missile went down an airshaft of a 9-story apartment building with 20-30 apartments; it did not explode.
Palestinians stood on their rooftops cheering for Iraq as a barrage of missiles hit Israel. (They were following the lead of Yassar Arafat, who openly supported Saddam’s war.) The next day, some missiles landed in their own villages. Israeli media filmed their panicked race to the nearest security station to demand gas masks for themselves. There were no more rooftop celebrations…
A Tel Aviv man was in his house when a missile hit his garden. He walked out of the house with only minor injuries.
An 84-year-old lady was in her house as it was hit by a missile. Not only was she unhurt, but as she looked at the devastation she only said, "Who’s going to help me clean this up?"
A man walked into his bathroom just as a missile strike began. When he came out, the rest of his house had been destroyed.
A lady was in bed during a missile attack. Her ceiling collapsed from a hit, causing the steel door frame to fall over her bed and lean on the wall. Because the frame kept the ceiling off her, she survived.
A lady slept so soundly she didn’t hear the air raid siren. The exploding missile woke her up, whereupon she rushed to her sealed room. It was gone, blown away by the missile along with the whole side of her house.
A man in his sealed room was leaning back against a closet when the force of an explosion knocked him into the closet. The room was heavily damaged, but he was unhurt. He reported, "The closet saved my life."
A man was buried in rubble standing up. When he was finally dug out after an hour, he was found to need only a band-aid on his forehead.
A mother with three small children spontaneously decided to go to the bomb shelter (contrary to government instructions) instead of their sealed room. During that attack, the door to that sealed room was blown open.
A family with their 18 month old baby were in a sealed room when the wall collapsed on the baby, who had no protection over it except the plastic infant tent (issued for gas protection). The woman was filmed later in a hospital room holding the baby, who didn’t have a scratch on it.
A 3-year-old child was seriously injured in the first attack. Although he needed 2 hours of surgery to remove all the glass and shrapnel from his body, he survived.
A couple driving in the Negev (southern Israel) saw two missiles in the sky. Their explosions were close enough to make their car shake, but they were unhurt.
A Tel Aviv man was driving his car when the air raid sirens sounded. He ran into a nearby home to take shelter. He came out to find that missile fragments had totally destroyed his car.
One family had their entire flat sealed rather than one room (against civil defense instructions, as it cuts off ventilation). During the night, the mother collapsed and the children came close to asphyxiation. The cry of one child woke the father who got them all out just in time.
Two families whose pets ran away in fright at the sounds of the sirens worried that they might be injured in the attacks. Both families saw their pets return a few hours later unharmed.
A family had decided to run for their bomb shelter instead of the sealed room in time of attack (there was public debate as to which was safer). When the attack came, they couldn’t find the key to the shelter and were forced to take refuge in their sealed room after all. Their bomb shelter was hit and destroyed.
Two families running for the community bomb shelters couldn’t find the key to the first one, so they ran to a second one. The first one was destroyed.
Ramat Gan (just north of Tel Aviv) suffered the most in the war – 3 or 4 attacks – due. to the location of strategic military buildings there. None of the missiles hit a building directly, but always fell in the open. The only damage was to property.
A couple in Ramat Gan were preparing for the Shabbat, when the wife suddenly got the urge to spend Shabbat elsewhere. The husband resisted at first but finally gave in. When they returned they found their house completely demolished by a missile. The husband (a religious Jew) recited the prayer of thanks for deliverance on the spot, and his neighbors came and danced around the rubble.
The seasonal rains, which usually arrive in Israel in November, were nowhere to be seen. Suddenly they began in torrents, on January 17, the first day of the war. They continued almost without letup for the next 4-6 weeks, together with high winds. This weather was credited by US military sources as helping to convince the Iraqis that chemical weapons would not be smart (the prevailing winds were blowing from Israel directly toward Iraq&hellip. The same phenomenon was observed in Kuwait (900 km to the east), where wind patterns had shifted from their normal direction for that season and were also blowing toward Iraq. (Jerusalem Post, 2/91)
A national day of prayer was called for February 27. The main meeting, held at Jerusalem’s Great Synagogue, was attended by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, President Haim Herzog, Religious Affairs Minister Avner Shaki, and both Chief Rabbis. On February 28, Iraq agreed to a UN cease-fire plan. This was also the eve of Purim, the holiday which commemorates the deliverance of the Jews from their enemies through Esther.
Neighboring Jordan was a de-facto ally of Iraq during the Gulf War, since their economy is heavily dependent on Iraq. But since relations with Israel had been unofficially warm for many years, they were unwilling to offend either side. Risking Iraqi anger, they went so far as to forbid Iraq to bring missile launchers onto Jordanian soil (using as an excuse Israel’s declaration that if Iraq did so, Israel would respond by "invading" Jordan to get them). This severely limited Iraq’s ability to strike at Israel, forcing them to shoot from the southwestern edge of Iraq behind Jordan, hundreds of kilometers away. (Jordanians went on record after the war as saying that the only winner in this war was Israel; and that the Arabs "would not live down the humiliation for a hundred years.")
Israel Wins a No-Win Situation
Israel came to within a hair of entering the war directly, but at the last second was pressured by the US to stay out of the conflict – no easy task for a country being shot at! (The reason was that several Arab allies with the US vowed they would never fight on the same side as Israel, and it was feared that Israel’s involvement would break up the coalition.)
Defense Minister Moshe Arens had already ordered a retaliatory attack on Iraq by that time; the jets were ordered back only minutes from their targets. Yitzhak Rabin (at that time a previous Defense Minister) said, "That Israel was not involved was a miracle… if they had become involved there would have been untold casualties."
It was generally agreed that Israel could not have defended itself against a full Iraqi attack. But to not respond would have been interpreted by all Arabs as weakness and an invitation to attack. The pressure from the U.S., therefore, allowed Israel to stay in the background, saving lives and also saving face.
How did Israelis react?
After nearly 40 Scuds were shot at Israel over the six-week period, only one person was killed directly from a missile attack. As a result, many Israelis created jokes and songs about Iraq’s missile attacks, thinking that the light casualties, missed targets and failures to explode were due to poorly designed Scuds and/or Iraqi incompetence.
It was only at the very end of the war that the true capability of a Scud missile was shown, when a single missile hitting a US Marine bunker in Saudi Arabia killed more than 40 men. A much-sobered Israeli public quietly put away the songs and jokes, realizing that the credit for their safely was due elsewhere. Even self-proclaimed atheists began to read their Bibles.