Note to my readers: This post was obviously delayed and I really struggled over writing it and thinking through what really was on my mind. Suffice to say that I am conflicted. This post was finished today, March 31st.
The newspaper was really fun to read this weekend, although at least we had a few days to digest the events of Thursday night at Merkaz Harav Kook before seeing the pictures of the fresh-faced kids, the youngest 14, who were killed/murdered/gunned down while studying.
We were on our way to eat dinner out for Ira's b-day. Heard a billion sirens and saw a local ambulance whiz down our street. Alan confirmed what had happened the first. We drove downtown, listening to the news and Daniel working his 2 phones. Daniel's TRY-Ramah High School kids are here for 6 months of learning, enjoying the country, and events like this try the composure of all the parents. He likes to send out an email right away to reassure them but in this case, the kids were actually out having a free evening (with supervision of course - it's funny when I think of how free kids used to be on their trips - ask Ira about Ramah Seminar in 1978) and over the next hour, he spoke to staff, rounded up the kids who were either downtown, at the mall or at the Hartman Center (they all were sent them home in a taxi), drafted the email (after hearing from one parent) and breathed a sigh of relief when they were all back at the Havat Ha'noar, where they live when they're here. We stood and watched the TV in a few places and eventually went and had our dinner - Alan stayed home though (Lisa was with us and Jessica and Daniel) and Natan met up with 2 friends after his rehearsal and went home with them. His friends were downtown at the bus station, which is quite close to Merkaz Harav when they heard what had happened and decided not to hang around that area. They slept at our house on Thursday night, which they sometimes do anyway, as they live in a moshav in the Jerusalem hills. I was glad when they were all home.
We spill blood and call it a military action - collateral damage, to borrow a term I learned during the Iraq war (the bombing period). They spill blood and we are shocked and horrified - but is the Jewish country, the Jewish way? Are we fighting for our survival the way we did in '48? I don't think so. We have our survival to think of and we face the threat of universal hatred and muslim extremacy but we're not the few anymore or the weak. We have a powerful army - well-trained, impressive, with the ability to wreak havoc, especially in densely populated places like refugee camps and Gaza City. I'm glad that we have an army, a country, bad politics, good and bad Jews, etc, but I worry about the direction of people's thoughts, the level of their distrust, hatred and general belief that most Arabs are only capable of the most minimal kind of modern thinking towards others. I argued about this with my mother the other day. First we argued politics and the state of the upcoming election in the US. I'm proud to report that she called me a Communist (I'm not, but hey, it was my first time) because of the depth of my distrust of how big $$$ operates in the US and my feeling that there's too much collusion of the rich - they run the show an the rest of us just spin around in their orbit hoping for the best. And let's not talk about socialized medicine, etc.
Once we finished the election - trust me she won't vote for Obama, and that has a lot to do with his last name and possible Muslim connections - Israeli's are very jittery about this, regardless of how many articles have been written and I don't suggest that you speak to my sister Sarah about this as her views are fairly poisonous and she lives in the center of the country so my hypothesis may be shot to hell - we moved onto Israel. Needless to say, my mother feels that I am too free and easy and not willing to face the facts that are on the table - they hate us and we hate them and there really isn't anyone to talk to and never will be.
I wonder if this is the Jerusalem thing as I now know what a bizarre bubble I live in. Jerusalem, much as it pains me to admit, is not a normal place. Populated by the ultra-religious, Arabs, regular religious types and others, it is not a place of regular thinking. It is both alternative and conservative, hippyish and straightlaced. People are fairly bigoted here which always bothers me and yet capable of enormous kindnesses to each other, regardless of social group and ethnic background. They live here and never go elsewhere in the country - except to their home countries (if they're from the West) and maybe a bit to Europe. Israelis love to travel, mind you, but J'lemites are again, a different breed which yields a strange insularity not found in Petach Tikva or Ra'anana (forget about comparisons to Tel Aviv), for example.
I lectured Lisa Smith about this when we were in Rome together. Thing is, when you live in J'lem you can forget that problem and it's not a good thing.
A few weeks removed from the events of that night, I can still say that I shudder when I read the newspaper and think of how lousy it all seems lately. Those boy soldiers were kidnapped in 2006 and we're no closer to working out a deal? Sderoters are still getting bombed? Palestinians are still getting harassed by soldiers on their way to the hospital, or coming home from the store with new purchases (the dreaded washing machine story from Ha'aretz - I can't find the link to the story but it was a tale of abuse of power on the part of young soldiers - and this on a day that Natan had to go off to the Enlistment offices) and Gaza'ans have no freedoms. Doesn't anyone want to live differently in this part of the world?
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