Since the stabbings and ramming attacks have begun in earnest, the average Israeli has become…more.
More alert, more suspicious, and more fearful. But also, more determined, more proud and more humorous… Let me explain.
We wake up in the morning and check the news. Not in the normal ‘Israeli checking the news’ way. We haven’t even turned off our phones from the night before. We aren’t even out of bed yet. And we’re scrolling the news.
Have the day’s stabbing attacks begun yet? Where was the last one, and what was the MO? How was the attacker fended off? Are there wounded? Dead? We figure out the odds of another attack in the next few hours with a made up algorithm in our head based on city, attack method, distance and number of casualties.
Out of bed, with a smile on our faces. Breathe and don’t let the kids see you sweat. Choose not to tell them about the news and hope nobody talks about it at school – a futile wish.
Make lunches while figuring out how close you have to bring them to school where the threat to their safety is less than the threat of you sitting in traffic for an additional 30 minutes.
Drop them off with a cheery wave and pull away praying to God to watch over your babies. Fight the urge to check the news because there are still kids in the car. Pass the construction sites with Arab workers who you are certain are just there to work – not slit your throat – but you can’t be too safe, so keep your eyes open.
Next stop has a gate to protect them but no guard… Lock the gate behind you and scope with newly opened eyes to see how far the closest construction site is. Pray.
Take the little one out of the car and convince him, or try to, that he really wants to go to gan. A blur and a noise from behind makes you jump. Heart pounding, adrenaline pumping you turn to see a youth in a jump suit sheepishly smiling as he realizes he’s just put you in your worst nightmare. And it becomes clear that the one self-defense class you took the night before isn’t enough for you to save your own tush.
Shaking, and reminding yourself to stay on guard, you drop off the little one, pray again- and go to work…
“Work” has become this thing that you try to do in between listening to the news and watching Facebook.
Thank God for Facebook and thank God for the people of Israel. For they make accessible the humor that helps terrified mothers get through the day.
The humor that has created fabulous one-liners, videos and memes.
Here’s a dark skinned men posed in a T-shirt that reads: “Please relax, I’m Yeminite.”
And a meme from a popular satire group advertising the new “Neutralizing Unit” of the IDF. Their symbol is a coat of arms made of nunchuks, umbrellas and selfie sticks, the every day, and not so every day items that Israelis have used to bring down terrorists.
There’s the advertisement for a personal Iron Dome System worn as a backpack, and hilarious videos mocking the thousands of actual self-defense videos making the rounds.
There is a sense of camaraderie in seeing these things. A sense that we are all feeling the same tension, the same absurdity at how we must live.
In between news reports, images of dead terrorists, wounded Israelis, and lists of those to pray for, we laugh and remember that we are alive.
And then, breaking news of a new attack, and our hearts stop and our tempers flare.
The posts in the local city groups begin:
“WE HAVE TO TELL THE CITY NO MORE ARAB WORKERS!!!”
“WHY DOES STORE X STILL HAVE ARABS THERE????? I DON’T FEEL SAFE!!!!!”
And I cannot deny having a similar passing sentiment, though I take pride that my sense of reason keeps me from giving the moment over to unforgiving annals of the internet.
Then there are those who feel they must remind everyone that it isn’t all Arabs.
Which, of course it isn’t.
And reality is far more complex than all or none. We cannot accuse everyone of being a terrorist and yet we cannot pretend that everyone doesn’t have the potential to be just that.
I admit that after seeing and hearing the video from the attack in the Old City when the couple was butchered and the local Arabs stood by, my reaction was, ‘Get them out! Every last <redacted> one.’
Not so much because of the attack, but seeing a man lean against a wall and drink a soda as a woman screamed for her and her baby’s life brings a feeling that we are up against something far worse than random attacks… we are up against such entrenched incitement, such a deep belief that Jews are to be slaughtered in the streets, that there is no future…. None.
And after hearing that a 13 year old stabbed another 13 year old, well we really feel that there is no hope.
But then, there is a post of the doctor, the Arab Israeli doctor, who saved the life of that thirteen year old boy, and I recoil at my own thoughts.
Because, it is bad enough that they have stolen the humanity of their own children. I cannot. I will not allow them to take my humanity too. To fill me with hate, as they do themselves.
It is not everyone. And there is hope.
I want to shut down Facebook and turn off life. But before I can, a post of Israelis dancing and singing Israelis at the site of a terror attack pops up.
And an eatifada is declared to bring life back to Jerusalem’s streets and friends are out eating and challenging their friends to do the same.
And then Abbas claims we executed the 13-year-old stabber, who is actually alive and quite well in an Israeli hospital, saved by Jewish doctors.
And even this lie, the embodiment of the incitement which breeds these attacks, isn’t immune from jokes.
Comedian Benji Lovitt quips. “If anyone is questioning the quality of Israeli health care, it seems our doctors just brought a kid back to life.”
How do we laugh at the things that cause us so much suffering? How do we not become angry, rage-filled, intolerant people?
It is a constant struggle. A back and forth battle within ourselves to remain human, despite the desperate attempts to make us not so.
Just as we must go on, even while being on guard, we must live in reality, while not giving up hope.
So that when this round of terror ends– and it will, we can go back to the regular things that drive us crazy. Which reminds me of my favorite comment so far. “Dear terrorist, please do not pass through our neighborhood in immodest clothing,” because the worst thing you can do in Bet Shemesh is expose yourself.
And being able to laugh through our own pain has kept this nation alive through the worst of times.
And now, I go to pick up the kids. No bus today, because, well terror. And I smile and hug them because, well, love and hope.
View PDF of article as it appeared in IN JERUSALEM / November 6, 2015