“Mom, can we wait for you outside the restaurant?”
“Sure why not?”
“Well you know…the matzav…”
The matzav – the ‘situation.’ The harmless little word that can refer to almost anything. In Israel ‘the matzav’ has been appropriated to indicate the almost daily knife attacks and car rammings that Israelis have been suffering at the hands of seemingly out-of-control Palestinians. It refers to pepper spray flying off store shelves. It refers to the recent habit that we all seem to have acquired of counting sirens: the sound of one emergency vehicle is a ‘typical’ emergency; more than two and we know there was an attack…
But we were in Kfar Saba that day. Nothing happens there. Do the people of Kfar Saba even know there’s a ‘matzav’ the way my children are so viscerally aware?
We had earlier gone to visit one of my soldier sons at a base in the heart of the Shomron – Samaria – where he has been busy protecting Israeli citizens from these very attacks. Though my home in Gush Etzion is part of the same ‘Judea and Samaria’ region, I can count the number of times I’ve been to Samaria on one hand. In my (presumably incorrect) opinion, Gush Etzion, with it’s proximity to Jerusalem, is practically an extension of it, while Samaria is more off-the-beaten-path (read: isolated).
We had every intention of getting to our son safely. If we simply opted for the ‘safe’ part we could have just stayed home. In fact there are those who would rather do just that. But that’s not how we roll. We can’t live our lives with fear. Statistics are overwhelmingly on our side. But the fear is still real…because as a Jew, as an Israeli, I am a target.
To make matters even more sketchy, my son’s base was in the middle of nowhere; literally an unmarked blip on a map on an unnamed one-lane road not too far from the hotbed of terror that is Shechem (Nablus).
Winding our way through the southern hills of Samaria, starting just a stone’s throw from Jerusalem, we were fairly calm. It was a beautiful, cloudless day and the views were spectacular. The traffic was light for a holiday, the cars an even mix of yellow license-plated Israeli ones and green license-plated Palestinian cars.
We passed Tapuach Junction and soon everything changed. Suddenly instead of open roads we were on the main street of a town…a Palestinian Arab town. I’ll admit it: we were pretty nervous.
What were we worried about? Well fear of the unknown was one thing. Was this village hostile to Jews? Was this whole drive a big mistake? And fear of the known: We KNOW that there have been countless attacks by Palestinians. We KNOW that our car was the one obvious Israeli car in a sea of Arab cars. Our fears were not irrational, statistics be damned.
We tensely drove through seemingly interminable stop-and-go local traffic, avoiding eye contact with anyone. Finally, after what felt like hours but was probably ten minutes, we were out on the open road and I think we started breathing again. We had yet to find the apparently non-existent army base with maps that refused to divulge it’s unmarked location. Miraculously we found it. We were happy to bring our soldier and his M-16 along with us for his few hour leave from base. He couldn’t understand what our problem was.
“Guys, we live in Gush Etzion,” he said, with a look of disbelief. “You drive through Gush Etzion Junction every day. Why are you worried about the Shomron (Samaria)?”
“Yeah, but -” I started. Then I stopped. He was right. Gush Etzion has become infamous of late for numerous terror attacks. The difference is that in Gush Etzion I don’t have the ‘fear of the unknown’ factor. In fact what I DO know COULD make me even more scared. But it doesn’t.
I know what I’m dealing with.
I know what is being done to protect us.
I know where I can go, and where I cannot.
I know everything I need to know. And so, I am not afraid.
Wary? Yes. Alert? Of course. But fearful? Absolutely not. Restricting my activity? Not even a bit.
Don’t get me wrong: the attacks are absolutely awful. They are anything but random as they are incited deliberately from the highest level of the Palestinian Authority. Did you know that thousands of rock-throwing terrorist plush dolls were recently confiscated in Haifa? This is what we’re dealing with. Even the youngest children are being incited.
But I will not let terror dictate my life. And even if I did? What choice do I really have? I can simply stay home; or I can go about my business as I would normally. For me, barricading myself in my home is not living. And ‘not living’ is not a choice.
There’s no ‘safe zone’. Within 24 hours of our experience there were two attacks in Samaria… and an attack averted in, of all places, Kfar Saba. I thought about my 12 year-old son and that simple question he’d asked: Could he and my six year-old daughter wait for us outside the restaurant, despite ‘the matzav’? My answer was yes. It would STILL be yes.
As parents – as people – we must each weigh every situation, every scenario, and make our own judgments for ourselves. We must know whatever we can know, and take what we know to make our decisions. This is not Israel advice, or ‘matzav’ advice. It’s life advice. It’s advice for anyone who wants to live their life the best way they can – the best way they know how. That’s what I have always done and what I intend to do.
Here in Israel we have an incredible army (and I’m honored to have sons among those soldiers) tasked with keeping us safe. My job – all of our jobs – is to keep on living. We can. We must. We shall.
We are Israel.