For Israeli Ambassador Zalman Shoval, who has a daughter living in Tel Aviv, there is an eerie quality to the televised immediacy of the Persian Gulf War. Speaking at the National Press Club yesterday, Shoval said that during World War II it often took months for a letter from a soldier to reach home. "This is a very strange war, surrealistic war," he said. "I mean, I sit at my desk in the embassy and see a missile fall, dropping down on Tel Aviv, and I pick up the phone and ask my daughter how she's doing."

Shoval's illustration of the immediacy of this war was similar to one related by a Washington business executive last week. The executive, who did not want to be identified, was watching the first Scud attack on Tel Aviv and began worrying about an aging friend who lives there. He picked up the phone and awakened the man, who hadn't heard the sirens, and told him to get out of bed and put on his gas mask. Out and About

The Persian Gulf War has everyone a bit jumpy. This is a time when no one wants to receive an unexpected package, especially one delivered to a U.S. senator's office suite. Sen. Orrin Hatch's staff came out of a meeting Tuesday to find a large, sealed box next to the senator's office. No one was expecting a delivery or knew how it came to be placed in Hatch's Russell Building suite. To carry the panic a bit further, the Utah Republican has been one of the Senate's most vociferous speakers against terrorism, so just maybe ...? The police and bomb squad were called, and the office was evacuated. After it was determined that the box contained no explosives, it was opened. It contained rolls and rolls of toilet paper that should have been delivered to the senators' gym across the hall ...

Someone has finally explained to President Bush how to pronounce the name of the Iraqi leader. In his address before the Reserve Officers Association, Bush for what must have been the first time pronounced the name "Saddam" correctly, with the accent on the second syllable ...

Hospital Report: Doctors at the National Institutes of Health have upgraded the condition of Rep. Morris Udall, who has been hospitalized since a fall in his home almost three weeks ago. The 68-year-old Arizona Democrat is now in stable condition. He had been in serious condition. The 15-term congressman, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, is expected to be out of the hospital by the end of the month, and then will undergo considerable rehabilitation. He broke several ribs and a shoulder in the fall ... Actor Guy Madison, best remembered as television's Wild Bill Hickok, is in fair condition at the University of California, Irvine, Medical Center recovering from eight hours of lung surgery performed earlier this week. The 69-year-old actor underwent the surgery to repair tissue damaged in a 1988 auto crash ...

The Persian Gulf War left Princess Diana as the only star attraction at the charity premiere in London Wednesday of "Postcards From the Edge." The stars of the film, Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine and Dennis Quaid, were banned by studio executives from making the trip across the Atlantic ... Andrew Lloyd Webber, creator of the techno-musical, has advised all 700 guests invited to his Feb. 9 wedding to Madeleine Gurdon in Hampshire, England, to ignore the war. "We feel we should not give in to the forces that have caused this situation and that we should continue with the party" ...

Playwright Neil Simon, telling yesterday's Congressional Arts Caucus luncheon about the depressed state of the New York theater, took a page from those carefully presented Pentagon briefings: "I would like to give you an official briefing of the state of the arts. I have some aerial photos to show you later on the theater in New York and here in Washington so you can see the extent of the damage. Over 50 percent of the audience has fled, and Ted Koppel and CNN are claiming a complete victory in a matter of weeks. One of my plays is lost in Yonkers, but it hasn't been confirmed yet" ...