A few hours left until August 1, but I am longing for a new month, a new beginning. The terrible attack today, the explosion at Hebrew University, in which students - Korean, Arab, Jewish - were purposely and indiscriminately killed and injured - can't be incorporated... There are no details yet - they can't identify some of the people because of the extreme explosion - and it is impossible to gauge the fear and the dread felt by everyone I know. They kept asking student witnesses, "Were you worried about your friends being there?" They answered, "At first I was just determined to get the wounded out, to help..." There were Jewish students interviewed and Arab students as well. [Even when I studied there almost 40 years ago as a foreign student, I knew as many Arab students as Jewish ones] They all said the same thing.
And Sheikh Yassin and the other Hamas, who proudly claimed reponsibility for this attack - because, as they kept repeating, we kill their children - I want to put them behind me. Their twisted logic, their selective blindness - there seems to be no way to even begin a dialogue.
And the taxi driver who brought the suicide bombers to their fatal destination in the old Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv, an pleasant and personable Arab named Challed Yashur from Yaffo, explained that they had wanted to explode themselves in Shfayyim, the shopping center I usually frequent, but were surprised to find it closed. The driver explained to them it was Tisha B'Av and then they got instructions to go to Tel Aviv. The driver explained that he was afraid of the bombers, and then was afraid to go to the police. In between both worlds. Fearful of all sides. I want to put his situation behind me for the moment, together with this sad month, and start again.
But we have been warned that there are 60 warnings of bombings - we've only gone through 5. What am I rushing into August for?
I have an aunt who is, among other things, an agoraphobic. Living in the enormous country of the United States, she stays at home whenever possible. Part of this may be based in her experiences of Auschwitz and other horrors of the Holocaust. Yet we always laughed a bit at her madness.
Tonight, walking the dog alone on a dark street, I was suddenly struck by the absolute normality and rightness of her agoraphobia.
In fact, with all the assertions of Hamas that it will take 100 Israeli lives in revenge for the death of Sallah Schehade – who in turn was responsible for the death of numerous Israelis –both Jew and Arab – walking around the streets freely seemed the "starkest madness," as Emily Dickinson used to say.
The names of victims of yesterday's attack begin to emerge. I heard some on the radio as I was watching the celebrations in Gaza on TV. The dissonance was resounding. I keep repeating this one naive cry - how can people rejoice at the death of others? Any people. Any death.
My friend John Williams writes from Liverpool: "one does not have to be afraid to go into the street to be deemed agoraphobic; one simply has to close one's own avenues of thought."
A talk between me and Sameh at Nona’s today made me run home to re-read my Kierkegaard. His sadness at what he is finding during his visit home to Nazareth, at the apathy, fear, and despair of most people he meets prompted me to pontificate about the possibilities in the depths of despair. And I found myself using Kierkegaard’s term from Fear and Trembling, “leap of faith.” Kierkegaard, I remembered when I came home, was talking about returning to religion in the 19th century, and I was talking about something completely different. I was thinking that people like Sameh, whose very natures are positive and connecting, should be able to just jump through all the mistrust and fear and take a chance on trust. Knowing all we know about all the mutual betrayals, the dangers, the basic differences – we need to create our own hope.
Kierkegaard himself would probably have gone the other way – supported the religious right or hamas – but I am alive and Kierkegaard is dead. And I want to stay alive for a while and maybe help create a situation in which others remain alive too.