There's something familiar about this latest sudden overseas assignment. When my son was less than a month old, my news director at the time asked if I would be willing to travel to Israel during a very turbulent time to cover stories of interest to our viewers back home. I was working in Chicago at the time, and it would be my first trip to Israel.
That was 1991, during the first Gulf War. Saddam Hussein was attempting to destroy and disrupt Israeli lives using those infamous Scud missiles. During our time there, most of the scuds managed only to prompt hurried trips to sealed rooms; few actually hit their intended targets. Israel's Iron Dome system did its job back then, as well, intercepting and vaporizing the incoming missiles while they were still airborne.
That's not to say it wasn't nerve-wracking. There were quite a few nights of interrupted sleep, as the sirens sounded, signaling the timed mad dash to the hotel's sealed sixth floor. Before long, there would be an "all clear," and we would go back to bed or check in at home to let colleagues and loved ones know we were okay. But on the last night of our stay, one of the scuds did hit a Tel Aviv suburb. At daybreak, we ventured out to see the damage. I'll never forget the sight of the large crater and mangled debris of an apartment building. Then there was the image of a seemingly frail elderly man who was obviously trying to come to grips with the loss of his home and belongings. I came to find out he was a survivor of The Holocaust during World War II. He agreed to an interview and his resolve was so very palpable: He had survived Hitler and now Saddam? Yes, he said. Neither managed to rob him of his life, and for that he was thankful. But he'd lost just about everything. He had a steely look in his crinkled eyes that said much about the strength of those who were living under constant threat. His place in history and some simple math tell me he can't possibly still be alive today.
As I head back to Israel after getting the call from my current news bosses, I'm amazed at how fast it seems those two decades have gone by. There's also that inevitable sense of deja vu: The Middle East is still a place of wonder, complexity and, yes, danger. This time, that infant son of mine who was three weeks old during the Gulf War is certainly old enough to share that sense of what we're about to encounter. I could hear it in his voice as I said goodbye before we boarded our flight.
This week, my crew--producer Karen Araiza, photographer Jason Ryan-- and I expect we will encounter similar strength and determination on both sides of this latest tug of war. We will endeavor to find stories of particular interest to our viewers back home-- local connections will be our focus. And we will try our best to include voices that help paint a vivid picture of the impact of conflict as seen from myriad points of view.