Media coverage: Lionel from Air America radio, live from Israel

From January 12-14, UJC has been conducting a media mission to the embattled areas of Israel. Below is some of the coverage from that mission.

Lionel is a host -- who apparently doesn't have a last name in his radio persona -- on Air America, a talk-radio network with affiliates throughout North America. The network's hosts adhere to its 'progressive' politial perspective.

Here's an excerpt and video clip from one of Lionel's dispatches from Ashkelon during the mission to the Gaza perimeter region. He has also broadcast live from Israel during his show.

Gimme (Bomb) Shelter

This morning we checked out of the Ashkelon Holiday Inn and were off to the Nitzan Caravilla. It was an interesting night. I slept with my clothes on, as was suggested by hotel personnel. It made sense. If roused from slumber by the sound of a code red siren, with only 15 seconds to find a safe room or stairwell, being clad makes sense.

Later that morning, my traveling compatriots and I, along with our security contingent, comprised of two ex-IDF commandos, (I know this sounds pretentious as hell, but I swear they were actually once members of an élite Israeli Special Forces team and their constant security shadow was mandated by our travel coordinators) decided to stop by an Aroma coffee shop in Ashkelon in southern Israel. Ashkelon is the bull’s-eye of Hamas rockets: Qassam and Grads, mostly. As you may have gathered, the antithesis of the élite commando is the Hamas thug, a terrorist who uses children as human Kevlar, secretes explosives and rockets in the homes of Gaza innocents and is known to activate rocket timers and then run and hide. My, how gallant.

The mood was as you can imagine. The small shop was filled with IDF soldiers of every branch, many heavily-armed, and plain old folks like my group of travelers, all chatting and sipping incredible coffee. At approximately 11:30, a security officer of some sort opened the door and yelled something in Hebrew. I didn’t understand what he said, but knew what he meant within a split second, and I mean instantaneously. We were all off and running for the bomb shelter. First, a word about these.

In Ashkelon and Sderot, the bomb shelter is everywhere and I mean everywhere. Omnipresent, ubiquitous, on every corner, bomb shelters are everywhere. They’re not very large in size. They can hold 10 to 50 people or so, depending on the dimensions. They’re equipped with fans, maybe a radio and ventilation systems. Most have no lights. They may look like a bus shelter or an outdoor toilet. But they’re everywhere. And it became an immediate habit to find where the nearest shelter was. When I checked into the hotel last evening, I was given an instruction sheet that listed what I should do should a code red be sounded. I hadn’t been in Sderot and Ashkelon for two days and already code red was branded on my mind. Oh, sure, I heard about sirens and alarms two years ago on my first visit, but this was serious. The folks now looked very nervous. Even the soldiers. They looked serious. Very serious. And scared. This is war, folks.

So back to Aroma at 11:30. After a security person of some sort yelled whatever in Hebrew, everyone dropped what they were doing and that place cleared faster than you could possibly imagine. Quick, rapid, yet not clumsy or disorderly. If removing yourself as a group from a coffee shop were an Olympic event, this was a gold medal team.

Full posting on Air America...