Two days ago I sent a simple message to Sarah Tuttle-Singer, the Queen of Social Media here at the Times of Israel. I told her that having just returned home from class at IDC I decided to locate my gas mask, open it and actually make sure it was all in order. I said all this in a single sentence, followed quickly by the realization that trying on this black leathery device was “the scariest thing I’ve done lately.”
The truth is it was scary. It was scary opening a cardboard box I received in the mail exactly a year ago, two weeks after I had made Aliyah, because I had been told to order it as soon as possible. I got the box then, opened it briefly to look at its contents, immediately closed it, put it in the back of my closet, and prayed I would never have to open it again.
My prayers only lasted a year.
When I opened that box, tore off the plastic wrapping of the mask, put the pieces in order, and read the instruction manual for the first time, what struck me more than anything else was that I was not alone. Like so many other Israelis, (albeit technically only around 60%…but that’s neither here nor there…) I was preparing myself for the possibility that once again my country would be under fire. I had experienced this fire before, having been here during Operation Pillar of Defense when rockets rained down on Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and the entire south of Israel from Gaza. That was scary too, hearing the air raid sirens for the first time, running for the bomb shelter for the first time, trying to calm my body down for the better part of an hour, for the first time.
And then, when you’ve experienced all of that for the first time, the second time isn’t so scary. It isn’t so scary when you’re near other people, people you know in your heart also once had the same first-time experiences. People who run with you to duck behind bus stops when the sirens wailed, people who may have been here decades before when even bigger, louder, and more scary rockets were falling. People who had to assemble their gas masks and carry them to work or school every day, and sleep with them next to their pillows every night. It isn’t so scary because after the first time it becomes routine, it becomes like clockwork, it becomes natural.
If it’s one thing I’ve definitely learned over the last year living here in Israel its that even something as terrifying as the potential of a chemical weapon attack on this country will not deter any single Israeli from living their normal day-to-day life. It’s this unique quality that, in my opinion, sets this society aside from all others; where the main tool of terrorists, terror itself, is not only nullified by unparalleled fortitude and conviction, but exterminated through laughter and joy of life. The other blog posts on what’s currently going on in this country right now provide myriad opinions, anecdotes and stories about Syria, the potential for an attack, and other musings concerning gas masks. Some are funny, some are more serious.
But the thread that ties each of these pieces, and every piece that will undoubtably follow, including this one, is that Israelis live every day to the fullest not because of our experiences during the scary moments, but in spite of them.