After a weekend of sirens and uncertainty, my mother and I arrived at our hotel room in Prague, put down our bags and breathed a sigh of relief. I looked at the emergency information posted next to the door in search of shelters, when I remembered where I was. I was safe. There would be no sirens here, no wide-eyed dash for shelter, and no nervous glance towards the sky. We were safe.
And yet, an hour earlier (just after landing) the sudden start of someone using an automatic hand-dryer in the airport bathroom made me jump out of my skin. A door slamming shut made me flinch. The quiet hum of vehicles as they shuddered to life after a stop light, and the rev of their motors as they zipped by on the road made my stomach lurch. I was in Prague, but I couldn’t leave Israel.
As we ventured out to explore the city, I couldn’t shake the feeling of uncertainty. Music spilled into the streets, and we found a new street-side-serenade on every corner. Artists propped up their easels along the Charles Bridge to paint the colorful, quirky world they called home. Nobody was scared.
So why was I?
It didn’t make sense. I stood on the Charles Bridge, and an entire word swirled around me. Music, laughter, languages all blended together in the most beautiful orchestration. The backdrop was stunning—Gothic towers that seemed to emerge from the pages of Frankenstein or Dracula towered above us all.
Soon, the music and laughter broke through the wall I had built and Prague had set me free. My mother and I took delight in the rich food, cheap beer, and fascinating history. We decided to forgo the trip to Theresienstadt, and take a walking tour of the city instead. I couldn’t face the anguish and horror of visiting a concentration camp. Over the course of the past month I had felt too much fear, and there had been too much death. There just wasn’t enough room in my already fractured soul for more. Prague healed me, and for that, it will always be a place of rebirth.
The night before we were set to return to Israel, I was ill. As I sat on the bed drinking water, I said “I don’t want to go back.” I hadn’t planned on saying it, but the words escaped my lips and suddenly the thought was out in the open. I was afraid to go back.
I’m back, and currently sitting on the couch in my Jerusalem apartment. The fears have returned. Loud noises now frighten me, and I am uneasy in crowds. But the sounds of the city stretching itself awake are a comfort to me. The light rail is running, people are out, and in two hours the guitar player on the corner of King George and Yaffo will begin his own street-side serenade.
I have seen outbursts of hatred from all sides of this conflict, and have witnessed violence. It frightens me how deeply people can hate, and I cannot help but wonder– hasn’t humanity learned it’s lessons yet? We are all the same. You are my brother, you are my sister. We must learn to love and accept one another. All of us. For the differences that we see, and the separation that we have created is an illusion. Let all of humanity learn to see beyond these differences, and unite towards a peaceful future.