To be sure, this has been a scary week. The other night when I was walking home I passed a building site and noticed two men looking at me, in that way. And then a siren wailed, and a strange hush swept across Jerusalem that made the street I was on feel even more deserted than before. Quickly, I calculated that I had more chances of being raped if I sought shelter nearby, than of being hit by a rocket if I ran. So, I ran, heart pounding and legs shaking. And then I heard the booms. And I am telling that story only because it’s mine, not because it comes close to approaching the truly scary stories this week has produced.
Of course, I wouldn’t be thinking these thoughts if I lived in Beer Sheba or Sderot, or in Gaza, or if I was back in the army. I know how lucky I am to be able to say this; but to me, in spite of my personal brush with danger, this week is, strangely, less scary than last week.
This week has a mission, and a name. This week has commanders and commands and legal terms like “self-defense” and “collateral damage,” and everything seems a little more organized. We are scared, but as our collective hearts beat rapidly together, and we listen to our leaders tell us what is happening and to stay calm and strong, we know exactly who the enemy is and exactly what it is we are scared of, and what we have to do.
Last week, though, the ground erupted under my feet. Distinctions I had made easily for so many years vaporized, all the old categories vanished. I saw that ‘we,’ too, were capable of producing the vilest of extremists. And they, too, were capable of compassion. Rocks were thrown in every direction, racism was screamed in different languages, protesters were beat, and everything was a mess. And three dead young bodies were found on the ground, and another boy was burned to death. The spotlight shone on us and all our hands were bloody: a few million people on a small, hot sliver of the planet, ripping each other apart, burning each other alive.
Last week everything came to a boil. Last week we saw our hideous reflections in the tears of the grieving parents who had lost their young sons. Last week was an open wound, fresh with red blood and seeping with puss, about to get infected, and nothing made sense.
Last week we sank deep into the pool of blood and mud we’ve created. Last week we saw where our evil could lead us. I spent all of last week in fear, fear of what we had come to and fear of where we were going, but for some reason I naively ended the week with a little hope. Hope that maybe this was the slap in the face we needed. Maybe the end of four young lives would be the beginning of something. Of an understanding that we cannot go on like this. Of an understanding of how real the suffering and the pain is, all around, and how desperately we need a change. Sure, it was frightening, but it seemed to me that once we’d sunk so low there would be nothing left to do but to take baby steps back up.
But the wound was quickly covered, and the raw fear was replaced with a more organized channeled fear, and all my old categories fell back into place. The enemy is once again far and evil, not near us and certainly not a part of us. ‘We’ do not need to look at our reflections as we huddle in the shelter; and ‘they’ do not need to think about the future, as they count the dead. They can fire rockets and we can drop bombs and we can all get each other back, again and again and again, and nobody needs to think about tomorrow.