It was one of those days. We overslept by just a few minutes, but those minutes meant my kids missed their school bus. Not wanting to be any later than they already were, we quickly got dressed so I could take the kids to school. I strapped my 6 year old into her booster, while my 12 year old got the coveted front passenger seat, and we set out for the seven-minute drive to their respective schools.
Driving out of my neighborhood, we pulled onto the main “highway,” a two-lane road that travels between the Gush Etzion neighborhoods, and found ourselves right behind a police vehicle. Barely 200 meters along, the police car suddenly stopped short for no apparent reason, made a sharp partial U-turn, and left his car blocking traffic in both directions, as he jumped out of the car, gun drawn, and clearly aiming at something or someone.
I slammed on the brakes, my body in full alert mode, as my eyes darted in all directions, and, in particular, in the direction the cop was aiming his gun. Turns out he was pointing it at an Arab who was standing on the edge of the road, very close to the cars, holding a large tool of some sort with a long wooden handle and a metal end (an ax? a hoe? we couldn’t tell…).
My son and I were both in shock, watching as the policeman was clearly instructing the man to drop the object and had him raise his shirt to show if he had any (other) weapons on him. My daughter meanwhile, oblivious in the back seat, kept jabbering on, telling us about whatever TV show she had been talking about all along. I didn’t want to stop her or make her nervous, but I can assure you, we didn’t hear a thing she said… We sat for a few tense moments waiting to see how this would unfold, half-expecting something — bad — to happen.
Who was the Arab man? What was he doing? Was he just an innocent farmer in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or someone with evil intentions? We never found out of course. Once we had clearly established that there was nothing more dramatic happening than what we had seen, we decided to tentatively go about our business and we slowly inched around the cop car, alert for any reason not to do so. No one stopped us, so we carried on.
As we drove away, my son and I realized that both our hearts were racing and we needed to just talk it out. This was the same son who, along with his friends, was once witness to the aftermath of an actual terror attack at our local grocery store from the window of his school bus. Of course in this instance nothing had happened except a cop taking every precaution to protect us all. Nonetheless, the adrenaline was pumping. After all, we knew too well that something could easily have happened. And perhaps might have, if not for the vigilant policeman…
Then, on a dime, my son started telling me about a movie they had seen in school. I was relieved that he was able to move on, and listened encouragingly as he told me how they had watched the entire “Goonies” movie while they were receiving report cards.
But he hadn’t moved on at all. He reminded me of a scene toward the beginning when bank robbers escaped from jail and a car chase ensued, and one of the more memorable characters, a kid named “Chunk,” saw it all. He went running to his friends to tell them, “Listen, okay? You guys’ll never believe me. There was two cop cars, okay? And they were chasing this four-wheel deal, this real neat ORV, and there were bullets flying all over the place. It was the most amazing thing I ever saw!”
Then my son stopped and looked at me meaningfully and said, “Mom, that was just a movie. But these crazy things? This is our regular life.” My heart broke.
Truth be told, we go about our business and live our lives. Our kids go to school. We go to the grocery stores. People work. And exercise. We go out to eat. Friends go to movies. People hike. They go to the beaches. But we are wary. And we are alert. And we take precautions. Lots of precautions. Because we are living among hostile neighbors who actively encourage our murder.
We can want peace so badly we can taste it. But how can we make peace with a people we cannot turn our backs on for fear of being stabbed? The way Palestinian society celebrates the “martyrdom” of those who murder Jews, it seems that peace is more elusive than ever.
Meanwhile, we will just take things day by day. We are not going anywhere. We will remain vigilant. We will be prepared for anything. But, dammit, we will live our lives.
Video posted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 2, 2016.