Like most Israeli parents, I crave normal and though it is hard to believe, for the most part, my life is filled with normal. Like most parents, I worry about my children — their grades, their health, the inability to keep them in shoes that don’t look like I bought them three years ago, even though, honestly, we just went shopping a month ago. I worry when they stay out too late, when they act like teenagers, and then when they don’t.
I work. I cook. I shop. I dream of vacations in far off lands and then when they suddenly become reality and I find I am heading to India in a few weeks, I wonder how the heck that happened and what do I know about traveling to India?
And above all we crave for ourselves, we crave normal even more for our children. Years after the Second Intifada, I still listen for ambulance sirens, still wait to see if it is just one…or two…or three or more.
A few days ago, my just-15 year old daughter and I took the bus home together. From the bus station, we walked and talked and as we approached our house, we heard an ambulance…and then another. We kept walking and talking but the sirens kept blaring far in the distance. As we reached the house, I found myself trying to figure out, as I always do, how many sirens there were.
“I hope it’s not a pigua [terror attack],” my daughter said as we started to climb the stairs.
In the end, we didn’t hear any news of an attack, though there were reports of a bus hit by a firebomb.
But what bothered me, yet again, is the thought that in a normal world, fifteen year old girls don’t hear a siren and think of a terrorist attack. I know, I know, we don’t exactly live in a normal world. Or rather, normal is defined differently here.
Like all teenagers, my daughter will fuss over her hair and what she’ll wear. She’ll borrow clothes and want to come home later than I want her too and she’ll ask about using makeup and would I allow her this time to use mascara for her perfect eyelashes that any woman would mortgage her home to have. She’ll complain about helping with dishes or laundry and spend hours on her phone with her friends and then shock me by cleaning the kitchen when I least expect it….and when she hears a siren, she’ll listen and wonder.
A few weeks ago, a friend of a friend of hers witnessed a terror attack in Jerusalem. She saw a vehicle plow into pedestrians and my daughter cried for her friend, and for the people who were injured.
She’s 15 and yet she’s been caught outside during a missile attack twice in her life. She’s 15 and had two brothers serve in the army. She’s 15 and asked if the soldier that was shot was her oldest brother though he was in the south, and the injured soldier was in the north. She knows her youngest brother, at 19, is in the countdown to the army and still when he comes home from school they’ll bicker about the silliest things.
She’s 15…and Israeli.