Lenox Israeli-American family has son on Middle East frontline


LENOX -- As a fragile cease-fire hangs by a thread in Gaza following eight days of violence between Israel and Hamas -- the political party governing the narrow strip of land bordering Egypt -- a local Israeli-American couple whose first-born son is on active duty with the Israeli Army is torn between their tranquil life in the Berkshires and their preoccupation with hour-to-hour events in the Middle East.

With family members living in Tel Aviv and after personally witnessing three decades of on-again, off-again violent confrontation involving Israel, the Pales tinians and the Arab states, Eiran and Michele Gazit, owners of the Gateways Inn, confessed that their stress level has been relatively low, much to the surprise of a visitor. At the same time, they find the current truce not particularly reassuring.

"This is a movie that repeats itself over and over, it's a rerun," said Michele Gazit. "It's a cycle."

Their son, Adam, 21, a Lenox Memorial High graduate, is an Israeli Army tank gunner currently stationed on the Lebanese border, with six months remaining on his three-year stint in the military. He and his parents are in frequent contact; Adam remembered to call with Thanksgiving greetings.

"He's complaining because it's too quiet," said Eiran Gazit. "He wants to be in Gaza, where the action is. But I told him there is no [ground invasion] action yet in Gaza, and hopefully there won't be. But if there will be in Gaza, there will also be in Lebanon."

After graduating from Lenox Memorial High School last June, the couple's second-born son, Lior, 19, returned to Israel to prepare for military training. Their youngest son, Matan, 15, is a sophomore at the school and will be studying in Israel next year from January to June.

"It's not just about having a soldier in the Army," said Eiran Gazit, describing his own anxiety level as a "3," while his wife described hers as a "4."

"We lived through it before," he explained, noting that Adam was born during the first Gulf war, Operation Desert Storm, when the family was living in Jerusalem. "Even then, our anxiety level wasn't too high. So this situation is probably easier to handle, and even though we're here, we're in touch every day with our sons, my brothers and sisters in Israel, with friends."

But, he added, "it's very strange for us to live a double life. On the one hand, we have this safe haven of Lenox on the other hand, we have this constant connection with Israel because our kids, families and very close friends are there. So we're on the phone to Israel six times a day. It becomes more of an extreme double life because of this inn, which projects calm and a certain tranquility. Guests ask how we can keep so calm."

The couple, in their mid-50s, emphasized that they have been deeply touched, gratified and overwhelmed by expressions of support from friends, neighbors and guests at the inn, which they purchased last January. They have lived in Lenox since 2004, drawn to the area by family ties and cultural amenities.

Eiran Gazit, who travels to Israel next week on one of his frequent visits for business and to see his sons, noted that the family has lived through two previous, prolonged Palestin ian uprisings, known as Intifadas, since the late 1980s. "The anxiety level then was much higher, with bombs blowing up every other day and buses exploding, you just didn't know what to do," he recalled.

In his view, the Gaza confrontation is not about Hamas and Israel, but stems from Iran's attempt to shift international attention away from its potential nuclear-weapons program and from the civil war in Syria. The crude missiles Hamas had been firing into Israel before the cease-fire have been supplied by Iran, according to media reports.

"If a ground operation were to begin in Gaza," Gazit suggested, "Iran's other proxy in the neighborhood, Hezbollah, would be ordered to join in the action from Lebanon. As usual, the Palestinians in the streets are pawns in a game being played at a much higher level."

An added complication for Gazit is his second job as CEO of the Alexander Muss High School in Israel, which hosts students from the U.S. and Australia for eight-week foreign study programs. Some of the students had to be transferred out of a potential danger zone at its campus in southern Israel to a second site north of Israel during the eight days of hostilities. Fifty students from the Boston area just returned on schedule, having completed the program.

In connection with that position, Gazit travels frequently around the U.S., helping recruit students, as well as to Israel.

Michele, a New Jersey native, lived in Israel for 20 years, starting when she was 30, and became an Israeli citizen. Both agreed that despite the conflict and continuing tension, life in most of Israel goes on normally.

"The beaches in Tel Aviv are full, and the cafes are packed," Eiran Gazit observed.

As for the prospects of peace, Michele Gazit was skeptical.

"After having lived there, I don't ever talk about peace," she said. "I talk about quiet. A real peace may never happen, but if there's relative quiet and respect for differences, borders and shared territory, that would be wonderful, an enormous step forward."

To contact Clarence Fanto:
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto


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