On the car radio the main news channel was full of the new reality, with freshly recorded stings for the hourly bulletins.

”Israel at War” boomed a bass voice, punctuating reports of continued fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas infiltrators, and air raid alarms close to the border with Lebanon. On the other side of the fence is Hezbollah, the powerful Iranian-backed Lebanese militia that is Israel’s most formidable enemy.

The prospect that it might enter a two-front war is Israel’s strategic nightmare.

Outside a military base on the highway that goes south to Gaza hundreds of cars were parked along both hard shoulders and on the central reservation. They were left by reservists who had reported for duty. More were arriving.

A man standing next to the open tailgate of his hatchback pulled on a crumpled olive-green army shirt. He fished around inside the back to find his body armour, slammed the door, and went to join the rest of his reserve unit.

A middle-aged couple had managed to meet up with their son, a young man of around 20 who is doing his compulsory military service. The mother handed over a jar of home-made pickles.

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