April 12 - They come home and they talk. No one wants to hear about battles won: what we want to hear about is how they survived and what they did. David talks about chasing kids wearing ammo belts in the Casba of Nablus. He’s a high school teacher and has been active in the left for as long as I’ve known him. Yes, he says, we may have shot at someone who wasn’t trying to kill us, but when everyone else is trying to kill us, we don’t always think straight. Some one else says, “Ambulance drivers shot at me. They carried ammunition and explosives. I didn’t have much of a choice.” I remember the mined ambulance from yesterday. Another “soldier” (computer programmer) breaks in the conversation – ‘I mean for me a pregnant woman is holy – but what if she’s wearing a belt of explosives?’ Then we hear that the woman who killed 6 people today was hiding her explosives by pretending to be pregnant. He’s got a point.
I told my mother-in-law how scared I was this week for Gilad. She had said to me – this was on Tuesday – that she couldn’t remember ever going through a time this bad. And she’s ninety four; Today she says – I was wrong. I was recalling today how scared we were when we thought Rommel was about to invade Palestine in ’43, how I hid under the covers with the girls and had no where to hide from him. I ask Ezi what he remembers about the Independence War. He begins to recall sleeping in his grandparents’ basement when there was shooting, a bullet going through their ceiling and letting the rain in, another one ruining the leather of grandmother’s sofa. Oh, yes, and how his father’s car was shot at one evening when he was on his way home from work. He was very young. Doesn’t remember very much.
It’s an old, old feud. When I suggest to David that we should try to organize a ‘living border’ a bunch of people from both sides who will hold hands and ‘create’ a border between Israel and Palestine, he says he doesn’t know who would work with us from the other side. When we used to get together for peace meetings, he says, they would always begin with a long list of historical wrongs done to them. Then we would respond with a list of wrongs done to us. We always won – we’ve got a worse history. But how do you move on from there?
The towns are like fan clubs, they say. Posters of Shahids, with their photographs, the names of towns they invaded, the number of people they killed, and blessings on their heads, cover all the walls as if the suicide bombers were rock stars and the whole village was the bedroom of a teenager. The men vow to fight to the death but scream massacre when they are shot for refusing to come out of their mined buildings. Pre teens shoot machine guns but cry they are children when they are taken. Maps of Israel all over, but the names of Israeli cities are missing, the name of Israel is missing, as if they were living in a different world in the same place. Yet chemistry books in Hebrew are everywhere; they learned from how the principles of blowing us up. The big houses, the ones belonging to the rich people, are empty and locked and the soldiers don’t touch them. The soldiers say that estimates of the dead include all those people who ran away to save themselves. As if they were dead to the village because of their desertion. After a day of stories, I turn on the tv to calm down – an interview with a girl from Tulkarem who was caught before she blew herself up in Israel. Shifa Adnan Kodsi. Her certainty is appalling – that she is not committing suicide, she is not murdering people. She is dedicating herself to a holy task. Her face is beatific. She faults us for thinking we are good when we murder her people.
Called the last of the people i know who could have been injured in the bombing on Friday. Every single person i called was by chance somewhere else, and is already feeling survivors guilt, the guilt of the conqueror, and the guilt of the victim. The people in Jenin seem to feel only that they have been wronged.
First pictures in from Jenin - looks like a lot of scared people, a few bodies it was too hazardous to get to in the crossfire, and a lot of destroyed buildings. Some bulldozed, some wired to explode.
In Belly Dance class today, the guard wasn't there when we left. Our class takes place in a big glass-enclosed room at the bottom of the stairs. The presence of the guard allows me to concentrate of dancing and not the identity of each person who walks down the stairs..
Like everyone else here I have become my own security system.
My most instinctive method of defense is hoarding food. The morning after the Yom Kippur war broke out in '73 there was pandemonium in the supermarket. A few cans left on the shelf, spilled sugar, a frozen chicken melting on the floor trampled by the terrified crowds. Everyone was scrambling for the checkout, the lines going all the way to the butcher at the back wall.
My mother sent me egg powder from the U.S., canned tuna, instant coffee. it was the first time I understand her Holocaust mentality. I wanted my house filled with food and comfort.
In the meantime soldiers were dying all over the place. It was the worst war because we weren't ready for it - Since then the lines of communication are kept open even on that most holy day.
My husband was absent for months. We had no phone so the only connection I had was with occasional unannounced visits. He would come home hungry and I felt the only way I could contribute to the defence of Israel was to feed as much into him as I could.
I was one of the only people with a driving licence in the neighborhood. So I spent my mornings driving around to Tel Aviv factories buying up batteries, milk, tape for the windows, etc. for all the neighbors.
It helped me to feel less helpless.
Now that in a few hours the siren will sound and Memorial Day will begin, I am drawn back into those memories. Tomorrow morning, when I visit the military cemetery, the names on the graves I pass will catch me like hooks. 21,000 men killed in battle. Here's Yitzchak, who studied English with me so he could meet girls. And there's Muli, whose death almost killed his mother. And I didn't know about that one...
Memorial Day has a special significance at the university – where so many who were students fell in wars. So it is sad and empty by 4:00 in the afternoon before the evening ceremonies officially begin. I meet Amal at the exit and she reminds me that no one has been celebrating festivals in Israel for the past 2 years – Idl Fiter, Easter, Pesach, – they all happen behind closed doors.
She also notes – as she noted in class a year ago October to a stunned, silent group of students – that nobody wants to talk about this. We’re all shell-shocked, I tell her. You can’t expect people suffering from war trauma to carry on open, nurturing conversations. But she’s right. How can we expect any one to make peace if everyone is watching his tongue? I haven’t been to Yaffo since October 2000. But then again – except for standard talks about practical matters, I haven’t even talked politics with my next door neighbor.
what better day than Memorial Day to begin a new movement, a new attempt at conversation
“God of Mercy,” writes Kadya Molodovsky, “Choose another people.” She was talking about the terrible fate of the Jews in the Second World War. But I often thought that . When I was applying for colleges, my mother sent Rabbi Kossovsky to convince me to go to Stern College, the women’s college of Yeshiva University. She knew I was crazy about my Rabbi, with whom I studied Gemara every week, and if anyone could sway my pagan soul, he could. I remember enjoying every minute of our talk, because it clarified for me the certainty that I did not want to learn from a monolithic group of people. What I wanted was to be surrounded by people, everyone different from the other, everyone equal. I didn’t want to be one of the Chosen People. What I wanted was to be an individual and yet like everyone else, normal.
And yet I moved to Israel, over 30 years ago. My parents had been thrown out of Israel in August of 1939 and sent back to Danzig. My mother’s cousin had come here at the beginning of the 20th century but got gored by a bull and died. But I wasn’t thinking of any of that when I came here, fell madly in love with this country, and could not leave. I was thinking that finally I was going to live a normal life – where I didn’t have to remember at every moment that I was Jewish, didn’t have to be different, didn’t have to be special, chosen.
So today is the 54th anniversary of the State of Israel, and there are anti-semitic demonstrations all over the world, and the Syrians are screaming “Powell’s a Jew.”
And I keep thinking about what Mark Twain said – about how that old advice about not putting your eggs in one basket is wrong. He said, put your eggs in one basket, and watch that basket!”
More about Molodovsky and the Chosen People – maybe after the fireworks.
Warnings of terrorist attacks in public places
so even the fireworks made me edgy, scared.
we're still being singled out - news on the war in Afghanistan is parallel but opposite to coverage of Israel. We do the same things - but are measured by a different stick.
The man sitting next to me in the hospital as I wait for my mother-in-law to get out of surgery is watching CNN, even though the sound is too low and the hospital noises too invasive. He jumps up at the sight of a pile of rubble on the screen. Jenin! He shouts. I was there! I watched this building blow up – it was mined when we tried to enter! Went up with all the people in it! They blew themselves up!
The commentary on CNN, I’m sure, must be very different.
I used to hate the fact that my dog is still somewhat paper-trained, that she still pees occasionally on the newspaper left for her on the living room floor, even though she’s almost six. It was probably the reason the original owners threw her out on the street, because she’s otherwise pretty cute. I used to really hate that peeing. Lately, however, it gives me relief as well. I put out a picture of Sharon for her one day, then a picture of Arafat the next. This act gives me the only measure of control in my life nowadays.
Norma from Wisconsin writes with great sympathy that she would love to airlift me and my family out of here. I write back, thanking her, but does she really want to solve the refugee problem by making new refugees?
I know that if I were a refugee, and in a camp, I would go to great lengths to get out of there and go somewhere else. I’d go to the nearest big city and start washing floors in big buildings, make a little money, bring my kids. Maybe I’d try to go back to ‘camp’ later, build a villa. It’s pretty amazing to me that so many people stayed in those camps. When they were part of Jordan and Syria and Egypt, they weren’t allowed out. And the Israelis don’t let them move to Jerusalem. But what about Bethlehem? What about Ramallah? New York?
Occupation. Invasion. Withdrawal. Autonomy. Occupation.
Sometimes words don’t fit together.
If we’re already occupying Palestine, how did we invade it.
Most of the people in Jenin have never met an Israeli unless they work in Israel.
Most of the suicide bombers seem to get through not by disguising their identity, but the nature of that identity. bomb belt = baby.
The chemistry books in Hebrew in Jenin seem to indicate that they have learned something from Israelis, have studied in Hebrew. But only enough to destroy us. And themselves. we help them to destroy us,
and they hate us for it
i'm not sure we've even got the parameters of the conflict clear.
In the hospital where i sit with my mother in law there are two languagesfloating around other than hebrew-- russian and arabic. An interesting situation.