Yesterday I didn’t write because I had a shock. Some of my friends will laugh at me but for me it was new. I was looking at a picture of Arafat and suddenly noticed that the insignia on his shoulder of Palestine has a map that includes all of Israel. All. Just like the maps in the schools of Jenin. Just like - another revelation - the maps on the Fatach flags. The right around here has been claiming for years that that was why Arafat could never sign the Camp David agreement, no matter how much is offered.. I always thought of that as disinformation.
It took me a while to write about this. Someone wrote me that he heard Machmud Darwish reading at Swarthmore - and all I wanted to know was whether he read any of those poems like 'Identity' that basically call for the erasing of Israel. His pain, his displacement, the beauty of his verse - all of which I identify with - disappeared for the moment, erased the way he wished I was erased.
If this were a love affair I can imagine myself reading 'Smart Women, Foolish Choices.' If this were a feminist issue, in other words. the advice would be clear. Don't sympathize with someone who doesn't recognize your existence.
But it isn't.
Anyway I can't divorce the Palestinian people.
And already today I am back trying to incorporate this information into a greater picture.
Greater picture. Most people when they think about politics they think in the abstract. It helps to focus on the issues. Me - I need an individual to relate to. I used to have a thing about Asmi Beshara' the Arab Knesset member. I think I even wrote him an e-fan letter. Goodness! I think I even wrote about it before. But since I don't allow myself to erase I've got to accept the eventuality that I may repeat myself. And contradict myself.
So it was Asmi Beshara and Marwan Barghuti. Both of them seemed to me to have something of a Yiddish sense of humor - the perspective of the smarter outsider.
The idea of identifying with an individual is not totally adolescent. First of all it gives a 'face' to the Other. Also it reflects the idea that I feel characterizes this country -- that every individual has importance and responsibility here. Individuals change things - for the good and the bad. One suicide bomber not only kills a few dozen people and mutilates another few dozen, but alters policy here. A single do-gooder is a bit more of a problem - we tend to cancel them out, not notice it. So the doctors in Jenin who saved civilian lives - bringing women to the hospital to give birth, performing emergency appendectomies, treated wounded residents - they haven't been mentioned (even though I personally know 3 of them). And the Arab medic I know who has been to at least 3 suicide bombings, bringing Jewish and Arab victims to the hospital, giving emergency treatement, etc - he isn't noticed either.
maybe that's why i chose this public confessional mode. because me and a few million others have to take some kind of role in this mess.
This is the first day in ages I didn't really pay attention to the news. I heard two items - warnings about renewed efforts at suicide bombings and an announcement that the people in the church in Bethlehem would be going free - even the scores of men with blood on their hands. The two announcements made perfect sense together.
and I realized how much I had gotten used to not living in terror.
Students day at the university is this thursday - I go every year - What about this year?
The luxury of philosophy – it's been almost two weeks since I've reported anything but thoughts and convoluted speculations. And last night an enormous suicide attack – In my youth we were not allowed to count people for fear the Angel of Death might overhear and become covetous. My fingers remembered this just now as I was about to write the number of dead and wounded. It isn't clear yet who is dead and who is wounded – and sometimes what the difference is between dead and wounded. Some of the wounded I've heard about from other terrorist attacks would rather be dead.
There is something so inhuman about these bombs – with their rusty nails, their compressed hatred bursting out. A Philippine lady in Jerusalem who made her living by taking care of an old woman lost both legs and an arm a few weeks ago. I wonder if anyone has counted the lost limbs in these attacks.
And I wonder how many people have counted the number of attacks – not in the 'occupied territories' as they call it – but in places of entertainment (restaurants, cafés, dance clubs, hotel seder halls, and now a pool hall) in the center of 'undisputed' cities - Tel Aviv, Rishon LeZion, Natanya, Haifa.
Now we wait for the lists of dead and wounded. I don't even know where my kids were last night. Nephews, nieces, students, friends. And those terrified inquiring phone calls have become boring…
who is to blame. I wrote a poem a long time ago about the Achille Lauro incident, where the terrorists pushed an old Jewish cripple off the highjacked boat to his death. It was about how the media was blaming Israel, and how we have overrefined our sense of morality. I'll dig it up and link it here. Hostage Crisis
So we are now assigning blame here – to Arafat of course, but also to the club which did not hire a guard for the door, to the police who didn't expect an attack this early…
We're Jewish. We like to blame ourselves.
Today I was reminded of another fact I had forgotten (so hard to keep everything all at once in one's head at all times) - that while it is true that Arafat had been offered 97% of the territory, it was not clear that all the territory would have agreed - towns like Teibe and Tira, for example. I don't know who has seen the maps as Camp David outlined them. I do know that everyone who was involved - including the Americans - say it was a good deal for Arafat.
We talk all the time about the terrorist attacks and how many were killed. We don't talk about how many terrorist attacks have been averted. One today - when the suitor bomber had faulty equipment.
A man walks into a gambling casino with a suitcase at 11 at night... why does this sound like the beginning of a joke?
Why am i not laughing?
I am going to have dinner at Nona's tonight - so this may be my last entry. I think it was Peres who said recently in an interview with the foreign press that attacks were a constant presence but one doesn't think about them constantly. I do.
There was an escaped prisoner caught yesterday after a two day chase - the police said that he had performed an amazing escape and had managed to elude them miraculously. But when they finally caught him, asleep in some deserted building, he was too exhausted to resist.
That was the atmosphere in the cafe last night - it was full, people were talking, but in a strangely subdued manner. The mood was "So kill me already - I'm tired of trying to elude the bombing."
Even the suggestions that Israel might move into Gaza today could bring no reaction. "Do it already. Get it over with."
Got involved today in a conversation on email with a guy from the U.S. – he's been sending me stuff about how many Arabs and how many Jews won Nobel Prizes, and how many terrorists have been Arab and how many Jews and all that. He's not Jewish and not Arab – I told him what I heard that Peres teaches his grandchildren – to cultivate their imaginations and not their memories. He stopped writing.
People are looking around for something positive to do in this time when everyone is feeling so desperate and helpless. This is a good site to check out: The Source It tells you about helping out terrorist victims, supporting students, sending flowers, donating blood, stuff like that.
Another bomb in Beer Sheva. I think of how the people of Gaza must feel right now - terrified that the Israeli army is lining up to attack. Can you imagine what a child in Gaza dreams of tonight? When my daughter was little we used to go to Gaza with my husband. While he was negotiating business with the men, she and I got to 'fraternize' with the women and children. She used to disappear into the fields with the kids and the goats, and I would sit by the window, keeping no more of an eye on her than i would have in Tel Aviv. And yet, and yet, they would still kill us at any opportunity. There's a cartoon someone sent me today from this site: Oliphant . The last Israeli and the last Palestinian meet and...
Sometimes stereotypes comfort us...
So we're not going into Gaza right now – a little saber-rattling, a little diversion.
you think that kid is going to sleep okay tonight?
As for the grenades thrown and shots fired in Beer Sheva today ---
What's the problem to get to Beer Sheva, she says to me – my relative who's a doctor down south. A few months ago I volunteered to treat a kid in Dura who'd suffered some nasty burns. They took me to the church in a town on the border and then I waited for this guy in a tractor to bring the kid over. Then I treated him – there were a few visits. I was good – the kid doesn't even have scars.
I've heard another story like this – recently. From a dentist from Tel Aviv.