April 2 2002. Today we should have been more relaxed – no one got blown up today. There were a few funerals here, lots of terrible news about our invading Jenin, Kalkilia, Tulkarem. Equally terrible news about a few suicide bombers blowing themselves up at checkpoints. But in general, a quiet day. I’ve been watching the news for signs of an Israeli response to the Saudi peace proposal, but we seem to be too involved with making Arafat into a heroic figure to concentrate on anything else.
We bought a pair of red leather couches today – they are rounded and look like the seats of a 1957 Impala, or, if you put them together, like a pouting mouth. It was for my birthday theoretically, and we can't afford them even though everything is cheap now. But I clearly needed them to give voice to the sense of helplessness I feel. Why don’t I say something to help the peace movement here? Because I don’t trust their faith in the ultimate desire of the Arabs to make peace with us. Why don’t I support the invasion? Because I don’t trust Sharon and his vision. Why don’t I get out of here? Because I have some silly belief that it is still possible to work things out.
At dinner, the final evening meal of Passover, all we could talk was politics, security, survival. “Oh, look, we’ve upset Mother,” I heard one of them say at some point. But all I can think about it keeping us sane until we reach a more reasonable time. I mean how can war-torn shell-shocked people like us and the Palestinians make any logical choices now?
April 3 –
Dan Rather on CNN is being interviewed in Jerusalem. He talk about the effect of the suicide bombers – of course we know that, we who would be on the streets today if we weren’t terrified of being blown up. I keep imagining myself sitting at a cafe in Tel Aviv, maybe with that Palestinian woman from Hebron I met two years ago, talking about her love life. Then I think about how I could now trust her not to blow me up today. What a twisted sentence. What a twisted situation.
All nightlong I imagined myself in Bethlehem, a woman trying to get together food for grandchildren, trying to keep them away from the windows, worried about the cold, the electricity, cooking fuel…a woman who has been in these wars before, developed techniques to survive, but whose hysteria is rising. I know her hysteria. I know the humiliation of being invaded too.
And yet I cannot imagine being an American woman now – maybe a university professor in some comfortable faculty dining room, arguing with my colleagues about whether Israel is justified in its present actions or not. It’s not simply the model I used in so many of my poems, the one I borrowed from my husband’s kindergarten, “It all started when he hit me back.” I know that if we could turn around the mistrust, if we could change the propaganda, we could work something out. But I simply cannot forgive Arafat for turning away from the peace process. Even though I try to rationalize that maybe he was just using a little violence as a tactic and with our extreme reactions we immediately made escalation inevitable, I can’t in any way imagine him as some Che Guevara, some honest leader of an oppressed folk. I was dying to get out of the territories that summer of 2001, could taste the feeling of freedom of that terrible yoke. And he made it impossible.
All that sustains me are the words of Yitzchak Rabin, that peace is something one makes with one’s enemies.
A few weeks ago, when there was a bombing every day, we went to an evening of presentations. The evening ended with a song used by Tamar Raban, a Palestinian children’s song with many intriguing hand motions and a haunting melody. At one point she translated the words to Hebrew, but they didn’t suit the tune, and were presented as prose. I translate them into even more unsuitable English.
If it rains
I’ll go to Grandmother’s
She’ll make me
A big omelet.
I’ll eat it
And go to sleep
And wake up hungry.
I’ll eat it
And go to sleep
And wake up hungry.
The melody and hand motions got stuck in my mind. Ezi would be singing the tune in the shower, and I found myself whistling it on my way to work. A few days later I made Sharon listen to it, and told him it doesn’t seem to go in Hebrew. “That’s because it sounds like a Yiddish Lullaby.” That night I translated it to Yiddish – it works. I’m going to teach it to granddaughter Liora who will be crazy about the hand motions and loves foreign words.
The words haunt me even more now. When I first heard it I thought about the inbuilt disatisfaction. The kid can never be satiated. I can’t get those hungry Palestinian children out of my head. Bethlehem. Beit Lechem, the house of bread.
On the television is a children’s program – I put it on without sound – it comforts me because it means there have been no bombings this morning. And that allows me to work. But then I become restless. Sari Nusseibeh talking to Christianne Amanpour. He’s the guy I’d vote for. Even though I don’t see any way out but an arbitrary decision about building a big wall. If the US came in and announced the building of a wall – you have a week to decide where you want to live and under whose sovereignty – get yourself in place. I’d love to have Sari Nusseibeh on my side. But then I used to think that about Marwan Bargouti.
We'll go to the Front for lunch. Of course I mean Nona Cafe (Ivn Gvirol).
CNN announces that we have broken the Nativity Church door. The reporters talk to someone on the phone who says he’s a lay churchman and there are no terrorists in the Church, just terrified, injured women and children. There were no shots fired from the church, they say, and the Israelis are just bullies. I start. Someone reminds me that this morning the documents found in Arafat’s office listing the potential suicide bombers and the payments made to their families were claimed to be forgeries by the PLO.
In the meantime I suddenly realize I have been breathing easier for the past 2 days because we have not had a bombing. How I feel for the people in the church, the children of Bethlehem, and how I am relieved that I am not as terrified today as I have been.
And how I know that if the situation were reversed, people would be dancing in the streets.
This morning, at Danny’s memorial service, I noticed the difference in the cemetery. Last year, at his funeral, the whole section was empty. This year it is populated. As usual at funerals and memorial services, I mitigate my mourning by subtracting birth from death dates on the headstones– 86, 79, 91. Then I subtract my own age from the largest number and think – look how much time I’ve got left. This year something kept me from my little obsessive activity, the graves of very young people, ‘cut off brutally before her time.’ The names are familiar to me. The people killed in terrorist attacks are mentioned in the news, the day they die and the day they are buried. So I’d heard them twice.
It’s a big cemetery, but well designed, cut into many small independent sections, to give you a sense of intimacy.
Ambulances – A siren breaks the eerie silence we’ve been living in. Before this rash of terrorist attacks, I always remember what Rochi once said when we saw an ambulance: “Somebody’s troubles are beginning or ending.” But for the past week I turn on the TV immediately, hoping I won’t see someone in a suit sitting at a desk with a map of a city of Israel behind him/her.
Ambulances have changed for me anyway. Almost twenty months ago there was some unrepeated footage of ambulance drivers in Gaza, dropping off Molotov Cocktails as they picked up wounded, stopping only to fire their M16s almost randomly.
But there are wounded now in Nablus, in Kalkilya, in Jenin, in Bethlehem. And CNN says we’re not letting the ambulances through.
So now we’re burying as many people as we were last week – only now they’re soldiers instead of young girls or old men. Nineteen-year old boys, young fathers, sons who were just in touch with their mothers on their cellulars a few minutes ago. Somehow their deaths did not register in my mind at first, even though my heart stopped each time a new one was announced. A new one.
Sometimes I identify one of them from their other existence – the husband of a former student, a man I once spent an evening with, a son of a friend. Even if they are drafted, the army is only a part time activity, something they must do for their country so they can get on with their lives. It is never how they are identified.
Until they are killed in action. Then they are buried in the military cemetery.
Rochi sent me this picture of the National Theatre, Habima, in Tel Aviv. Note the sand bags.
Habima, war time (courtesy Rachel Ramraz)
NONA - Saturday Night.
Well you don't have to wait in line to get in tonight. But maybe because of the armed guard and the closed-off sidewalk there's a pretty good crowd. A bit subdued. I don't think it's because of fear, though. People are thinking about the soldiers, the losses, the danger to others.
Never thought I’d be listening to a Texan. I had a brief ‘romance’ with a guy from Texas once – that is, he promised me trips to Texas and lots of presents if I was nice to him – and ever since the accent makes me laugh.
But right now I really want us to listen to Bush. Not only because I’m terrified over what we’re doing – in Jenin in particular (we don’t get details, but we do get the news – both on Israeli news services and CNN). I don’t know any Israelis who are happy over Palestinian losses. But many accept it as part of the package. I can’t.
I want us to listen to Bush right now because when you move outside the umbrella of your allies you get wet.
And it’s about to rain – all over the world.
Some of my best friends think I’m just too obedient. I listen to my conscience. Sometimes people who listen to their conscience lose.
Ehud Manor just recorded a new song about how we feel about being Israelis. Its like a love song about someone who gives you grief all the time and tests you all the time but you love her/him. He always gets it right.
This is the evening of Holocaust Day. I wanted to go the hairdresser to see if he would fix the mess he made of my hair yesterday but he was already shut down at 4 for the day of mourning.
Holocaust Day scares me silly. I think one of my daughter’s first memories is of my mother sitting before the television set on Holocaust Day and weeping uncontrollably.
Not only did my mother lose her sisters and brothers (seven of them were shot in the town square in Lida) but also all but one of her nephews and nieces. One nephew, Moshe-Aharon’s son, Sasha Kaganovitch, escaped to Dneiperpotrovsk and was saved from starvation by a woman who took him home and married him. I heard they had 4 sons, but my mother was unable to get in touch with him or any of the sons, except for a brief period in 1950.
I figure if each of the seven had 2 children that makes 21 people lost in one day. But there may have been more. She used to mention the twins, but I think they had died in the previous war.
So basically she was the only survivor of all her brothers and sisters. It was something she felt incredibly guilty about.
She found out about them after the war, when I was a baby. I grew up expecting Hitler to come again at any moment, to finish off the job
In his address this morning, Aric Sharon announced that he wasn’t going to pull out the troops until the mission of destroying the terrorist infrastructure was finished. But, he added, he’d be happy to meet with anyone at any time to talk about peace.
After the news one of my favorite popular songs came on:
everyone’s talking about peace
nobody’s talking about justice
to one it’s heaven to the other it’s hell
how many fingers on the trigger
I can’t imagine anyone influenced by the Holocaust enjoying taking over a village.
The cartoon today in Ha’Aretz has two suicide bombers walking through the empty streets here. One of them says to the other, “Not a living soul.”
The Israel news says we’re bulldozing houses in Jenin with people still in there. I was sure Israelis would be outraged at hearing this, but people here are so angry they can’t think straight. Now I know how humanity gets lost.
In the meantime one guy i love is giving different reports from Jenin. He’s got a cell phone and no charger so his calls are very short, but he talks about taking a woman to the hospital to deliver her baby and treating the many wounded.
Holocaust Day seems like a luxury. I’m ignoring it today, just like I’m ignoring everything else that isn’t immediate and critical.
I'm not even setting something up here to make my writing easier.
I cheated - when the siren went off announcing a one minute silence, I burst into tears. Images of the family I never saw, my grandmother who was younger than me when she was murdered in Treblinka because she was Jewish, the survivors who lived in my parents' house for months on end, scarred for life from what they saw, everything came back. And mixed with images of Jenin, the innocent people who are dying together with the terrorists.
the guy from Jenin has not been heard from since yesterday. If we're killing them it's terrible, but if they're killing us it's worse.
He's fine - probably changed forever by what he's seen.
No one will ever be the same
Everyone here knows the shit is going to hit the fan. As soon as the Israelis pull out, the press will move in. People I know from the international news are all excited about what the Palestinians have been setting up for them - the display of bodies, the destruction of property. I don't know but it seems that if we've been as careful of the citizens as the army keeps saying, there shouldn't be all that many bodies. The generals repeatedly emphasize the fact that they could have saved a lot of Israeli soldiers by bombing, but they didn't want to hurt innocent citizens. But if the rumors from the Palestinians have any accuracy, we've been behaving badly.
Soldiers are coming back from Ramallah and Jenin. They're reservists and get released, replaced, or at least furloughed as soon as possible. The facts they're telling don't jibe at all with the stories circulating on the web. They talk about pinpointing terrorists, minimizing wherever possible civilian casualties, and unavoidable civilian damages. They talk about ambulances with bomb belts in them, hospitals used as safe places for terrorists to shoot from, children used as human shields.
The number of dead from the seder Netanya rose to 28. 8 more died yesterday on a bus.
The Map - this time Jerusalem
Every time there's a big movement to peace, there's another suicide bomber. So far there are no dead, but 4 are not expected to survive. Thirty wounded. The kids are around here - time to check the friends.