The Symbolism of a Bird
A Minute to Myself (126)

Israel Story: Touching Evil

The following are a couple of difficult memories of life in Israel. Difficult, because, really, why can’t the Jews just be left alone in their own little country on the Mediterranean?

When I first moved back to Israel in 1983, after deciding that I was going to make my life there (the dramatic epiphany to be told in a later post), I lived in Jerusalem for a few months while I attended an ulpan (Hebrew language class for new immigrants). One day, when I went to the neighborhood supermarket to get some things before it closed for the afternoon siesta, I was told that it was already closed. Someone had placed a bomb in the bread section. In Israel in those days the two most popular kinds of bread were not pre-sliced and stuffed in bags, no, they were fresh and bagless. You could get “white” bread which was a really long loaf (a little shorter than a baguette, but with the width of “standard” bread) with a slightly crunchy crust, or you could get “black” bread which was a whole wheat bread, this loaf was smaller, browner, and grainier. Both fresher than anything my mother would get in the bakery in our Queens neighborhood. (Remember those, neighborhood bakeries?) Bomb in the bread section. I just couldn’t get my mind around that. Who would do such a thing? What higher purpose is being served by blowing up someone as she thinks about her pastrami sandwich with mustard and a pickle on the side?

One day, on Purim (the Israeli equivalent of Halloween, but the kids are supposed to go to school dressed up because it is a religious holiday), I imagined that I was living in the US and did not need to listen to the news before I got my daughter dressed in her Queen Esther costume (she saves the day—and all the Jews in Shoshan), and walked with her through the park in our neighborhood and to the government-sponsored pre-school. There were beautiful shade trees around the two-room school and no one seemed to worry about animals pooping in the sand (well, not too much). But as we walked in I could tell that something was wrong. In my mind, I’m thinking normal mom in the suburbs thoughts that I got the day wrong and they’re wondering why I dressed my daughter up today. But in their minds they’re thinking “why is she bringing her daughter dressed up and with rouge on her cheeks when a suicide bomber just blew himself up crossing the street in front of the most popular mall in Tel Aviv, killing children in their Purim costumes?”

On another Purim someone blew himself up right next to a mother sitting with her baby in his carriage. They kept showing the twisted carriage on the news.

Then there was my pregnancy with my older daughter during the first Iraq War. I’m not quite sure if I can relate to you how relieved I was when on the first night of the war my ex-husband told me that the loud booming sound I heard and felt was the sound clouds make when they collide and no, of course it was not rockets slamming into a building on the other side of town.

And it is an odd thing to plan your shopping, not around sales, but around where you will feel the safest. Where a suicide bomber hopefully won’t go—or won’t go again.

I always told people that I felt safer in Israel than I did growing up in New York City in the 60’s and 70’s. And that statement still holds, because the random, senseless violence of muggings and rapes and murders in New York seemed so pointless, so random—so selfish. In Israel, because it came in spurts and often, because we convinced ourselves, only in certain parts of the county, it made life feel safer. I didn’t have to worry about someone ripping my necklace off me, I just had to live life as I would normally and hope that I am not in the wrong place at the wrong time. And if I was to be taken in an act of terrorism, at least, as my mind saw it, there was, somehow, a purpose, a meaning. I would have died because I was Jewish, not because I had a gold chain around my neck.


This current war or offensive or whatever it is called in Gaza does not bode well. Nor do the reasons why it came to be. Because without fine tuning any arguments or discussions here, if Israel left Gaza in September 2005, uprooting its citizens and all of their lives and livelihoods, and that was not enough, then really, what hope is there for lasting peace? (And this from a person with a master’s degree in conflict studies.)

It is horrific to once again see dead children in the arms of their mothers. And it is horrific to see people covered in blood and dust, and buildings destroyed. And it is horrific to see terrified people running for shelter when nothing can shelter them. And it is horrific to see people drained by fear, and frustration, and helplessness. It is horrific to live in a land of hate and divisiveness, when, really, all most people should want at the core of their lives is stability, hope, and a sense of calm, and peaceful purpose that encompasses all. 

May peace, sanity, understanding, patience, compassion, and empathy reign.

Comments

Ahmed

Dear Israeli Lady ,
i found your writing by a real chance , as i don't see posts or whatever websites by Israeli persons often,

i fully understand what u meant up there, as we are all humans in the end ,disregard of our nation,religion , language and gender , we are all humans and we all are common in the most essense core parts of the whole life,(stability, hope, and a sense of calm, and peaceful purpose that encompasses all.)

and somehow i can understand that maybe for many reasons you guys think that you are hated cause you are jews or cause you look different , or cause we are just animals who hate others and some of us are ready to kill themselves in an explosion just to see your blood !!

but have you ever think about it in a different way??
now its a matter of fact , jews have taken over a part of the land and they are living there but the problem is that most of you guys are never satisfayed , as u mentioned mothers are holding there killed children in there arms..and for the tragedy of life , they are killed by random bombing , i can't imagine i would kill an 16 years old israili boy or girl !! even if he's holding a gun and he's facing me,

regretfully not only you but all of us have smothered all our devotions and we kept holding hate to each other till we cant take it anymore , but honestly the ppl in Gaza the mother that lost her child , the little guy wo lost his parents and family
have nothing to do with all the issue , they are civilians and unarmed, why didnt u target the armed ( terrorists ) as u call them while they are defending themselves, you guys frustrated the whole ppl there,,what are you expecting from them ???
they have no life , and u started to cut off every single thing that would give them hope for tomorrow , power , oil , bombing hospitals , schools , police stations ,mosques and churches . bombing the refugee camp that is under the direct supervision of the united nations..i may sound offending you i know ,but i know it was not you who pressed the bottom to release the bomb !, but just tell me what are you really expecting ???
when i was a kid i always though that the jews have many rights that the world abandoned from them , but now really thats horrible ...

and regarding the idea beyond sucide bombing?
those ppl are fully frustrated , most of them lost a brother , uncle ,father and sometimes the whole family ....if i was one of them i would do the same , you killed all the ppl i love , and now i dont wanna live anymore , but i wont die alone , you will have to taste the same ugly taste that you forced me to taste ...

violence generates hatred and unforgivness , may god bless you guys and bless the souls of the dead innocent ppl from both sides , that are not related directly or indirectly to all of this wars because of diplomat insanity..btw iam not palastienien , but always if u dont understand why the other side is behaving in a freak way, think if you are facing and living his life, surely you will understand why it goes that way....
as i really dont understand how you guys dare to bomb a primary school or a hospital :)and i think from your point of view but i couldnt understand still:)

Laura of Rebellious Thoughts of a Woman

Ahmed, thank you for reading my post and for commenting. Regarding what is bombed and who is targeted, I don't want to go into he said she said of explanations of where the Hamas men were hiding and where they were sending rockets from. Let's just say war is war, and war is bad, for everyone. A key problem here is that the sides do not have stories that coincide, they don't have narratives that can overlap, and that cannot lead to peace.

If Israel believes that Hamas wants to destroy it, and that is, indeed Hamas' aim as they have stated in their charter, then what's the incentive to talk? Does weakening one side make it more likely to talk? Maybe, but whatever comes of those talks would not be a long-term solution, since people do not like to feel that they are the underdog. The only solution, or the only way to eventually come up with a viable solution is for people on both sides to recognize the validity of the other side's claims. You cannot think that only you are right or deserving, and that the other side deserves nothing.

Ahmed

Thank you Laura for commenting.,
well actually those kind of extreme strict ppl exist everywhere even in Israel itself, Hamas ppl are Strict , they have seem to want everything i fully understand that,but still in Israel there are a lot who have no middle solutions they want it all too..and that's why every now and then this conflicts happen

and by the way i will assume that Hamas are lunching rockets from schools and hospitals and civilians buildings....but do u think they lunched there missiles from the refugee building that follows the United nations??!! if you really do believe so iam sorry i wont communicate with you anymore cause there will be no need..and i felt i have to tell u that cause i like to respect others ,because as long as both sides believe they are totally right and the other side are totally mistaken and wrong there will be no solution ,

there is a keneset member , his name is Lieberman or something like that, that man for unknown reasons wants to bomb the high dam in Egypt, every now and then he come up with an irresponsible ideas of bombing there and bombing there , so eventually we 've been told that he's coming up with such ideas so that he guarantee ppl's votes in any future elections or at least to take a higher order in a party or something , which means that whenever someone wanna become something in Israel he starts to share his sick ideas of how its good to kill Arabs and make them suffer like if we are in the middle ages, ( thats what a lot thinks about you in Israel by the way ) but shall i say this is right ?? or really all the Israeli ppl are the same than that Man???

this kind of mentality exist in Israel too , and this is natural maybe he thinks that this is patriotism and he wont be a patriotism until he kills Arabs ,and that's how it goes in Hammas too as not all Palestinian peasants in Gaza are with Hammas, iam sure of what iam telling you most of them are poor & devastated enough to think all the day long about what how when they are gonna eat next time !! i have been there twice and i know what iam saying ...

Mrs,laura i have loads of photos , loads of videos , loads of articles showing that even if Hamas used all Gaza lands to lunch missiles toward Israel , the Israel Defence Army showed no mercy upon unarmed civilians,children and women..
fight back who are fighting you , but do not just randomly kill in the name of whatever , its your rights to live in peace anyway

again i do not mean that Hamas is not guilty , Hamas is guilty , but the Israeli defense army is more more guilty ,Cause Hammas are a punch of irresponsible group who are just insane , but for some reasons i think Israel should have showed Mercy upon the unarmed civilians in Gaza as Israel is a democratic civilized country the leaders should have considered civilians , considered that by targeting the whole ppl in Gaza with Tons of illegal weapons they are just behaving as Hammas behave ,terrorizing all thinking that by doing so Hammas will stop...

i donno how old you are but surely you were 12 or 15 years old before,u used to have a mother , father , brothers , friends .
a life i mean , the same ppl in Gaza :) they are not animals


because i know you guys inside Israel still don't see what really happens , they broadcast what they want you to see and what they want you to know ..and that's how hatred between Israel and all the societies in this area will continue growing and growing till i dunno what else may happen... calculate it as how many buildings in Israel were damaged as a reason of Hamas Missiles ? and how many building in GAZA damaged cause of the Bombing ( it would more realistic to ask how many buildings stand still in Gaza after the bombing

nothing deserve all of that anyway ,i believe you guys can live and let others live too ,regardless Hamas and there charter, they are not the whole Arabs in Gaza , and i believe by using aggressive stances is not going to solve anything , this problem will not be solved by hamas missiles or Israel F16..

in the End we are going to die sooner or later , so i think we all must make it to heavens :)

( Forgive my bad writing skills / Spelling )

Laura

Ahmed, let me clarify one thing, I am a 40-something woman who grew up in the US, then moved to Israel after college in the early 1980's, and then moved back to the states about eight years ago. Okay, second clarification, even though I am an English teacher, here what counts is that you are sharing your thoughts so you should not worry about your spelling and grammar, your thoughts are clear.

I'm not really sure what to say here because I think we both come from the understanding that most people do not want to kill, nor do they want their homes destoyed and their loved ones lost. But whether or not people who are purposely targeting civilians have the moral clarity to decide not to aim from a UN school, I don't know about that. I don't mean that in the "they are evil" way, but more in the "committed to achieving what they believe in" way, where what they believe must be done is done.

During my studies for a master's degree in conflict studies I read all different theories. One comes to mind right now, and that is that people/groups like to negotiate from a point of strength. A problem here is that both of these sides need to feel strong in order to stop the fighting, and how do they feel strong, by fighting more, by inflicting more damage, by proving their strength. This showdown surely must stop. Haven't both Hamas and Israel shown that they can shoot rockets and missiles? Strength lies in not shooting anymore, but in talking, in respecting the lives of those who they are supposed to be protecting.

Ahmed

i appreciate your reply dear Laura and i wish u the best of life in Israel , Palestine or anywhere else

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