War supplies dangerously low in my bomb shelter

Helen Schary Motro describes how her emergency food supplies are dwindling fast as talk of war raises tension and increases …

Helen Schary Motro describes how her emergency food supplies are dwindling fast as talk of war raises tension and increases the temptation for snacking

My first mistake was jumping back and forth between the stations, listening to the commentators on CNN, BBC, Sky, and all three Israeli channels spout wisdom as if their fingers were on the pulse of Rumsfeld at the very least, if not the great white chief himself.

"It's a matter of a few days, weeks at most," they chanted like a Greek chorus on every channel.

They gave me no choice but to acknowledge the severity of my dereliction. We had reached this midnight hour - but my storage room a.k.a. bomb shelter held nothing but an assortment of bottled water which I had sporadically lugged home when it was on special at the supermarket or the gas station.


If we are stuck in there, what would we have for nourishment? Sadly, I had to admit, only the dusty bottles of wine left over from bygone Passovers. The next morning I hurried out to the market to finally buy the supplies I had so negligently put off.

I whizzed down the aisles, piling my cart high with all the non-perishables in the best example I have ever seen of impulse buying: juices, cookies, crackers, canned peaches, long-life milk, wafers, pistachio nuts, cereal, chocolate. Then into every available crevice of the cart I wedged corn, corn, and more corn.

At home I neatly packed three cartons with my bounty and stashed them in our "war room". The chocolate I prudently wrapped in an opaque bag so as not to arouse temptation.

I looked upon my work and saw that it was good. Whether it was to be sarin, mustard gas, or anthrax, whether a noxious green cloud or an invisible penetrating microbe - no matter what might rain down from the heavens, at least my family would not suffer hunger. I had seen to it that they would breeze through any siren call on a full stomach. The pistachios were the first to go.

"Do we maybe have some nuts?" my husband called from the sofa in front of the TV.

"Um, no - well actually, we do. I bought some pistachios today . . ."

He jumped up.

" but they're for the war!"

By then he was halfway down the stairs, calling out over his shoulder: "Are they near the masks?"

Next to go was the crisped rice cereal. As my daughter fished out the box, she extricated the chocolate bars as well, toward which her inimitable intuition for sugar had unerringly propelled her.

So it has been going ever since. All at once, someone develops an irresistible craving for just the kind of cracker nestling beside the mango juice or the chocolate milk.

Noticing the juice, they suddenly get thirsty too, so out it comes, along with the chocolate milk for good measure.

Watching Colin Powell saying they do, then Tariq Aziz saying they don't, then Hans Blix saying they might, then Joschke Fischer saying they won't, then Jack Straw saying they will - we get so nervous we just have to have something to munch on.

Anyone in our family hungry for a snack now bypasses the kitchen altogether, and heads straight to the treasure trove in the bomb shelter.

So slowly, inexorably, before any plane actually takes off, before any missile is launched, before CNN switches over to a non-stop war bonanza, the stocks I so soberly prepared have dwindled below the red line.

There are so many resolutions and deadlines our heads are swimming. Waiting with baited breath for the inspectors' report on January 27th now looks as remote as ancient history.

Will the attack be on the very night the full moon lights up the sky? Or precisely the next day, when the new moon shrouds troop movements in darkness?

Every minute a new international face pops into the picture, from Nelson Mandela to the Holy See. I can't keep straight anymore who is for who - is Poland siding with the US siding with Turkey? Or maybe it's the opposite? The tension is doing wonders for our palates. Since they've postponed this war, I've gained two pounds.

Try as I might to replenish our stocks, our war room cannot be restocked fast enough. If it actually starts it will catch us without recourse altogether. The only thing left will be all those untouched cans of corn. We can wash them down with our lifetime supply of extra sweet wine, Kosher for Passover. After that, the only thing we'll have to chew on will be our fingernails.

Helen Schary Motro is an Israeli-based writer