In the steaming heat, I walked outside of a semi-abandoned recreation center in North Tel Aviv carrying a gas mask box that, quite frankly, I could turn into a cutting-edge retro-looking new totebag…and this is what I thought…
Am I more Israeli now?
Last week I received an email from my father imploring me to get a gas mask. He was “serious.” And, while I’m normally not one to take external opinions about the security situation here too seriously, I commenced my search – because it seemed to coincide with articles in both the English and Hebrew versions of the newspapers that I read on the internet that day.
My search began with a question on Facebook, where my friend Benji Lovitt pointed me in the direction of a phone number. For a mere 25 shekels, a mask could be delivered to my front door – how convenient! Almost like Chinese food in NYC! This seemed too good to pass up. And so, in an atypically patient moment, I called and stayed on hold for almost an hour waiting for someone to come on the line and take my order.
The operator told me that they would be happy to deliver my gas mask – on September 5th, as they were backlogged in orders. If I didn’t want to wait, I could go to their pick up station in North Tel Aviv from 12 p.m.-7 p.m., Monday-Thursday. It seemed that if I was going to the trouble of calling for a gas mask, the least I could do is get one sooner than 3 weeks away.
All that being said, I didn’t get there. I didn’t even think about it again until this morning when reading another friend’s Facebook post (who was standing in a Space Mountain length line) in a mall in Jerusalem waiting to pick up gas masks for her family. Not Iran, and not my father, compelled me to run to my pickup location more than the sight of that line – and the newfound knowledge that apparently there are only enough new gas masks for 40% of the country.
And so, I figured that I would pair picking up my gas mask with a bike ride, partly because of the distance, and partly because I was in denial that what I was really doing was picking up an object that will, theoretically, save me in case of an attack – granted a very specific gas attack.
Someone told me recently, when I asked, that he couldn’t remember whether he had worn his gas mask during the Gulf War – and that he usually attended “End of the World” parties back in those days.
“End of the World” parties. Tel Aviv. A seemingly fitting response from a city that is best known for its start-ups and nightlife.
And I am thrust back ten years, living in Jerusalem during the second intifada where our lives were radically altered so much that at times we were fearful of going out to eat. It seems hard to believe that all of the rhetoric and threats being cast around by our ministers and others have serious implications for life as we have now come to know it. This rhetoric may or may not necessitate the use of the mask that I picked up today.
And it is radically difficult for me, and for most of us, to judge whether the Iran threat is serious enough, or warranted enough, to do something about it – unilaterally or otherwise. Do they or don’t they? Will we or won’t we? Will they or won’t they? These questions seem to have an infinite amount of interdependent answers – most of them not nearly 100% accurate enough to judge whether I will break the seal on the box that I just acquired today. You know…the box that says “DO NOT OPEN!” (and then in small print – Open this kit only under clear instructions from the Rear Command).
And so, today, as I carried my brand-new gas mask, slung casually over my shoulder like a funky accessory, I grapple with the tension between the threat of war and a party, living in a place where these two disparate notions collide.
And I wonder…Am I more Israeli NOW?