Bad communication: intifada memories

This piece deals with post, PTSD. Specifically from the Second Intifada. I am trying to laugh at it a bit in order to disarm it. The piece includes graphic details that may bother some readers. Please be advised. And perhaps find comfort or a dark laugh. 

In today’s world of snap-shot soundbites and twitter headlines it’s easy to forget that prior to the era of social media norms, communication wasn’t always, it seemed, about emojis or caps locks or likes. There were plenty of methods of communication prior to the Internet revolution.

Do you know my least favorite form of communication? I remember it clear as day, from twenty years ago. No it’s not email. And it’s not television or radio or protests or actual newspapers. 

No. It was blowing teens up. Welcome to Bad Communication: Intifada Memories.

The Second Intifada was a Terror war waged by Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and other Palestinian actors, mostly throughout Israeli proper civilian areas, from 2000 to 2005, and primarily against civilian targets, especially in Jerusalem.

I was at several attacks, heard at least a dozen and knew many wounded or killed. A true Jerusalemite. I survived.

I was wounded.  My wounds, like many of the others wounded in this land, are unseen.

But back to communication. Again, my least favorite form: Blowing kids up. And why is blowing up kids not my favorite form of communication? To start it does not secure the said goal of the messengers.

One argument, it went back then, was that the act of blowing up people was a form of “resistance” to “occupation.” There were many arguments then. The violence targeting Israelis, it was said, would push the enemy, we Zionists, into submission in order to reach a desired political result. All Palestinian From the River to the Sea hyperbole aside.

If rather than forming a campaign with a petition to submit to an elected leader or the UN or send to the US Congress, one sends, on a random Saturday night, a terrorist or two to wander the streets of Jerusalem as teens party on the streets with the mission of finding a target group of Jewish kids and then walk up to them and blow up, only seconds before a second bomber does the same to another group of Israeli kids – that type of communication simply doesn’t agree with me.

The message is lost in the body parts.

But perhaps it’s the post-bombing carnage that disagrees with me more than the failed messaging in the act of blowing people up.

If you haven’t seen such a terrorist bombing in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv or Netanya or so on I must tell you, it’s really quite the sight. You never forget. I used to think it gave me insights into the evil of terrorism. And it did.

But it also gave me PTSD and a different take on many things about which I learned in my political science studies at Hebrew University.

Perhaps after a bombing, it’s the screams of horror and pain or a kid yelling for his mother, or the smell of burnt flesh and smoke or the ground-beef looking human flesh scattered about and all around on the midrochov known as Ben Yehuda Street  or perhaps it’s the severed limbs with bones sticking out laying on the ground, their owners all in pieces – but I do believe that such undemocratic communication methods are not productive in achieving the goals of the organizers of the event.

Yes, things I’ve seen.

I mean take blowing up a car bomb in the parking lot outside Jerusalem’s Russian Compound police station. You’re standing outside as people merrily drink and all of the sudden – boom! Fire jumps into the sky and pieces of car are flying, on fire, over your head. 

And then dozens of people from adjacent bars who a second earlier were thinking about getting laid are now running down the street hysterically screaming. And people are freaking out that there could be another attack.

Another for which I was present.

Oh, hey – kids in line at a disco. Let’s blow them up. Oh hey – a bunch of buses stop there. Let’s blow that up. Oh hey – that’s a bar near the prime minister’s house. Let’s blow that up. Let’s blow everything up! Yay. 

I am bomber, hear me roar.  Sorry, message lost in the post-bombing bloodbath.

I don’t remember one person around thinking: Hey, someone here has something to say. This is politics by other means. Maybe we should listen. No.

Maybe the day after bombings people were thinking, “This city is a fucking war zone. They’re blowing up pizza places and bars and buses and kids and bars and they’ve been doing it for years! What’s wrong with these people?”

No, they were saying things like, “Let the army do its thing!” or, “Build a wall and keep them from coming here and blowing us up,” or, “I think we should get drunk and screw.”

Because those human smart bombs were guiding themselves to hit kids half the time. And kids are resilient. They see shit and they just keep going like nothing happened.

Many kids don’t get PTSD right away. They cry. They comfort one another. They mourn. They rebound. They drink. They screw. We’re talking teens here, even twenties. People screw in war: to protest the violence of course.

“They blew up a bus today. Let’s go get drunk tonight.”

“They could blow up the bar.”

“And? You gonna hide in your house forever afraid that if you go outside you could come face to face with someone who is carrying something deadly that could kill you?”

“Hide at home because people outside could get close and kill us? We’re Israelis. We don’t fear things like that. We’re going out. It’s only death.”

That – is a good message.

About the Author
Greg Tepper moved to Israel in 1997, served in the IDF, has a BA in Political Science from the Hebrew University and was a TOI reporter. The Second Intifada left him with PTSD which went untreated and he developed schizoaffective disorder.