– Rabbi, do you have a spare pepper spray I could take with me by any chance?
That was my last call before going out into the night. For more than 10 minutes I was trying to decide not what to wear (like any normal girl would), but which weapon to take with me. My only choice presented either a bag-sized umbrella or a large glass bottle, which is still waiting to be taken to the mikveh. The bottle won, in case you asked.
It took me another couple of minutes to decide which shoes did not spoil the outfit, but would also be sufficiently comfortable in case I needed to run for life and, instead of a regular handbag, I took a rucksack in order to have my hands free. No, I was not going jogging; to be truthful, I haven’t jogged in a couple of weeks because somehow it doesn’t feel safe enough to venture alone in the evening. Yes, I know I could jog in the morning. No, I am not a morning person. Normally it wouldn’t bother me to go for a walk at night. I love nights. But all of the sudden, as I walk, I look over my shoulder. I am cautious with approaching cars and I do not stand close to the road while waiting for the bus. Tonight I walked through the city with the bottle stuck under my armpit ready to swing it, should the need arise, knowing that despite how much I like it, I would need to buy a new one.
So you think it’s crazy that I so casually assess what weapon I need to chose before I go out? Or, do you think it’s crazy that I anticipate an attack? Or perhaps you think that I am crazy to even attempt going out? Or living in Israel?
How about this: as blood flows in Israel, the world is either silent or the mass media distorts the truth victimising the Palestinian Arabs and demonising the Israelis. I honestly don’t know which is worse.
Since 13 September there has been unrest in Israel. As time flows, the Palestinian terrorists invent new and ingenious ways of murdering Jews. First came the firebombs, then rockets, then attacking civilians on streets, shooting them, stabbing them, axing them, running them over with cars… we even had a suicide bomber. How much of this have you heard about in the outside world? There hasn’t been even day that it would be quiet. Just this Shabbat alone there were ten attacks across Israel.
For days the streets have been half-empty. Those that need to get to work or drop their children off at school, or kindergarten, think twice about leaving their homes. Walking on the street you see tension, looking around, people stopping when the car approaches or simply taking a cab to avoid public transportation. Why? Because buses have been attacked and travellers were both shot and stabbed. Because civilians were ran over by cars driven by Palestinian Arabs. Because an elderly man was axed in the broad daylight. Because they want us to know that no-one is safe.
Did you know that 13 year-old Palestinian Arabs run around with knives and stab random people? Do you understand what that means? It means that whatever system the world wants Israel to adopt in dealing with the conflict will not work here. Here we are not fighting with the cause, or logic for that matter. We are fighting hatred, pure, overflowing, causeless hatred. “Causeless?! But…!” Yeah, there are other brilliant articles that are tackling all your objections to my statement. I invite you to read them. I don’t have strength to argue about it at the moment.
Am I afraid? I don’t think so. Do I feel safe? Strangely yes, however, I am cautious. You know what? You should come here now. Not when everything is fine, but exactly now when things are hard. You would see us mourning those that died, but refusing to give into fear. More than ever you would see people spontaneously bursting into singing or dancing on public transportation or on streets. You would see people being kinder to one another and coming up with new initiatives to make sure that they can show how much they love each other. Few days ago, I went to the Machane Yehuda market with a friend of mine and though it was almost empty, the Israel national anthem was being played and everyone joined and sang together. We went to our favourite sellers and while buying goods, we chatted with them. We laughed. No, it’s wasn’t a regular laugh. But it was a tender and an honest one.
Two days ago in class, while we were busy decoding what was written in the Chumash our teacher pulled out a hammer out of her bag while looking for something else. We looked at her. We looked at the hammer.
– My children broke my rolling pin. – She said innocently.
In an instant we knew what she was talking about. There has been a picture circulating showing an orthodox lady, who carried a rolling pin in her bag for defence. Our eyes didn’t even blink when we discussed that having a hammer is probably a better idea than buying a pepper spray. The latter would be impossible anyway, simply because there is not even one pepper spray left for sale in Israel. It looks like everyone has one apart from us. With the same breath, we carried on arguing that wearing high heels may be better for defence, but they would be disadvantageous if one needed to run. We suggested that we could simply carry one shoe in our bags in case we need to use it. We liked the idea of the hammer most though, seeing how long the handle was.
You are raising your eyebrow, I know. Everyone would. Any normal person would. But we have passed the point of what is socially normal. The abnormality of the situation is our daily reality and the fact that we can conduct such conversations in between the discussion about the function of a letter in the text shows how we relate to the potential intifada.
We stopped asking if there will be an attack. We ask when. We know it’s going to happen. We only pray that no one loses their lives.
Such is the reality in Israel. Such is our psychology. We continue living as if nothing happened, but knowing that things happened. We continue learning, working, meeting new people, organising events… as I see it written down now I know it’s crazy. I know however, that the moment I close my laptop, I will forget about how ridiculous the situation is and carry on as if the situation we found ourselves in was perfectly normal.