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ISRAELIS, ESPECIALLY IN JERUSALEM, UNRUFFLED BY WAR

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ISRAELIS, ESPECIALLY IN JERUSALEM, UNRUFFLED BY WAR

And as the first bombs dropped over Baghdad on Thursday morning, they still weren't focused on it.

Despite Israeli orders for citizens to carry their gas masks with them everywhere, most people in Jerusalem were without theirs. And many still had not stocked up on food and water, or sealed a room.

Most have done the bare minimum.

"We changed our gas masks. We bought only water and food for the baby, and diapers," said Dana, a teacher and mother of two. "The probability that the war will come to Israel is very low. This isn't Israel's war."

It wasn't in 1991 either when Scuds landed in the Tel Aviv area. And many people here are basing their expectations for this war on the previous Gulf War experience. If Israel is attacked, many believe it will occur at night. And in Tel Aviv.

Dana's nonchalance is characteristic of the population as a whole and especially those in Jerusalem. The capital city is seen as off-limits to Iraq's inaccurate missiles since many Arabs live and work here and the Al Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock, Muslim holy sites, are in the heart of the Old City.

Even some Jerusalem Arabs were getting rid of their gas masks, selling them to Palestinians. Palestinians have not received gas masks from the Palestinian Authority.

Israel's coastal cities, however, reflect much more wariness from their citizens. About 60 percent of students were kept out of school by their parents on Thursday, the first day of strikes against Iraq. And many people were more prepared and concerned about the war than in the holy city Jerusalem.

"We moved to our daughter's house who has a bomb shelter," said Rivka Blustein. "It's a new house and by law all houses are built with enforced rooms."

Rivka and Jacob plan to return to their apartment if nothing changes by Sunday. They believe the chance that Israel will be attacked is minor, but could come out if Saddam Hussein gets desperate.

"The Scuds are not so frightening as something with a different head of munitions (chemical and biological)," Rivka said. "The really hard stroke didn't come yet. As I watch the news I think by the time they come near to Baghdad that is when he [Saddam] will feel very desperate."

In Jerusalem, however, not all students even brought their gas masks to school. Some were turned away if they were without their mask and employers instructed workers to bring theirs to work under threat of being closed by the government.

But overall, only awareness has been raised since the war began. No lines were forming at supermarkets or sealed-room supply stores. Foreigners and recent immigrants are preparing more seriously as long-time residents take the war in stride. Many just have leftover supplies form the 1991 Gulf War.

"People are crazy not to do anything - you still have to do your part," said Adina Openden, 20, a New Yorker who has lived in Israel for a year and a half now.

Openden attends a Yeshiva school that has a sealed room and gave gas masks to the students on Wednesday. Of the 55 students, over 30 of them - many from America - left the country already. Openden plans to stay although she believes that Israel could be a target.

"I need to be with our country at this time," she said. "And I don't think America is necessarily safer."

Up until the long-awaited incursion into Iraq began, internal politics has dominated the talk here, with a fresh wave of terrorist attacks against Israelis and the appointment of a prime minister in the Palestinian Authority this month.

The army's Home Front Command has ordered Israelis to seal a room, stock up on supplies and carry their gas masks with them from now on. Sirens will alert citizens to attacks and instructions will come over the radio in Hebrew, English, Arabic and Russian as to which citizens should go to their sealed room. Further instructions would follow.