“If the situation turns into another Intifada, what do you want to do?”
This is what my parents asked me in our last phone call.
For those who might not be aware, in the past week there has been a huge increase in terror attacks in cities all over Israel, unusually including one in Tel Aviv. Most of these terror attacks have been stabbings, throwing rocks at civilians, soldiers, and cars (this has caused a lot of fatal accidents), a few rockets sent over from Gaza, and, more recently, suicide bombers. I don’t know if I can describe what it is like watching the riots on the television and reading the news, knowing that what you are reading about – what the whole world is fixated on and has been since the Holocaust, really – is going on only forty minutes drive away at best. Israel is a small country … and you feel it where ever you go.
At first it didn’t seem real, all these terror attacks. It is so easy to be here and be in your own bubble. We were on a four day hike; camping in the rain with no tents, doing our own navigations in the mountains in small groups with no guides. Bubble. We had our own problems of wet sleeping bags, not enough sleep, dividing the food properly, staying warm, trying not to get lost, and completing our mission on a time limit. This is a story for another time, but when the head of the mechina told us all that things have not been good, I thought, “It isn’t that bad, it won’t touch me.” Even when my madricha, Sasha, sat my gap group down before the weekend started at the end of the hike to instruct us to be aware all the time, be careful, keep an eye out for suspicious, unattended packages or bags or suspicious people, I still thought, “Eh … it won’t touch me. Things happen all the time here.” But then I started watching the news, all the riots, the dead bodies, the fires, the stabbings, the shootings, the soldiers, the anger, the hate … the chaos, and my friend, Oryian, who I was staying with up north this past weekend, was expressing how scared she is and her mom, too, was saying to me how these stabbings were not normal … I understand now.
Today, I had a long talk with a friend of mine, Liza, who lives in Jerusalem about the situation. She’s terrified. Absolutely scared for the lives of her friends and family. For herself when she is there. And she is no stranger to terror; she told me that her family’s cars have been lit on fire twice before by terrorists. I tried my best to comfort her; seeing Liza’s pain and terror and inner conflict about being in Tel Aviv (a much “safer” place right now in terms of terror) and leaving her friends and family in Jerusalem all made me feel so helpless. She said to me it is her reality to look for where she would be safest from potential terrorists in the train station and to want her friends to stop taking the bus to get to work because of fear. She said it is weird for her to feel so aware all the time, but only because its normal. Not because she has to be aware, but because she just is automatically. And what can be done to stop this cycle of generation after generation of terror being a reality? Peace. But what can be done right now? I feel helpless.
Liza said to me that she hated sitting there, waiting for news from her friends on if they were OK (there was an attack today in Jerusalem and her friend, who was at the scene of the attack, was lucky and had arrived only minutes before the attack happened. That was how this entire conversation started) after each terror attack. And I thought about this past weekend and how when I was watching the news, a fear in the pit of my stomach, a fear for someone I know and love, developed. It grew slowly. It was the first time I realized that this situation could possibly develop into so much more. And right now, at this moment in time, I can’t do anything about it. All I can do it go on living my life here, as Israelis have been doing for generations. Because this is their reality and now I need to choose to make it mine.
I also said to Liza, “if you are worried, here, about your friends and family, there, imagine what my parents must be thinking … ” And she laughed, which was my intention (I phrased it slightly sarcastically). But this weekend, after hours of watching bits of the news and talking with Oryian and being worried for Liza, I talked with my parents. I’ve read a few articles about the situation that have said many Palestinians are calling for another Intifada, but it is unclear if there will be one because as of right now, there is no clear leader or organization. Either way, I asked my parents what they would want me to do if another Intifada commences and their response was “what would I want to do?”
Your answer to my question just makes me want to say to you, Mom and Dad (since I know you read these religiously), how much I *insert any word one hundred times stronger than appreciate here* everything you do for me. I know how much you must be worried. And Mom, I know you never wanted me to know what you knew growing up, but still, you let it be my choice. And I know you support me. For you to trust me so much that you let this be my decision means more than the world to me!
The answer to their question: I don’t know right now what I would want. I don’t think I need to have an answer right now, commitment in these situations might not always be the best choice. I don’t think I would want to leave Israel and my program, regardless. And I do know my friends here do not have the luxury of this choice. (OK. So, I guess a tentative, I would stay)
And after all, as my Talmud teacher said today, the terrorists win if we are afraid.
P.S. I apologize for two posts about terrorism in a row. It has never been so present in my life before now.