“There was another terror attack in central Tel Aviv,” my mom said on Wednesday. She called at the end of my shift at the bookstore where I work. It was late in the evening on June 8th. One of my coworkers logged online to read out the details while we were tidying up the store before we could lock the doors and call it a night. We all listened, taking in the number of casualties and wounded, waiting patiently to hear that the attackers were apprehended and thinking about new routes we would have to take in order to get home.
My friends and I already have a routine whenever there’s a nearby terror attack. The first person to hear more details sends a message to check if everyone’s alright. Each of us respond with a link to a song.
As I left the bookstore, my phone was loaded with happy-go-lucky songs and their musical message that we were all safe. We were on our ways back to our own living rooms and our own TV sets to catch the news live. It’s a certain brand of coping mechanism, you see. Living in Israel has its downfalls. Growing up here you are exposed to so many tragedies that at some point it becomes mundane.
When I was just eight years old there was a terror attack right next to where we lived. A bombing. Up until that moment terror never felt like a real threat, the attacks were usually so far away from my family and I that they didn’t feel relevant. Suddenly I was forced to feel the full gravity of the situation. My situation. Our reality. I remember the shock I was in. I remember feeling like the room ran out of oxygen to breath. All of a sudden the blunt understanding that wherever you turn there may be an object, a knife, a car, a bomb, imbued with hate and ready to wreak violence or death hit me. From that point forward, my eyes were opened. I started hearing about more attacks. They often happened closer to me than I originally imagined. I started fearing day-to-day habits, like taking the bus to school.
I grew up and experienced loss. I’ve met sadness and tragedy. But I’ve also known that certain safety that comes with national solidarity. I’ve grown accustomed to humor as a form of social pain relief. I’ve gathered strength from the people around me, from the hope we all have that one day Israeli children will not be afraid to take to play outside or take the bus.
But two weeks ago I couldn’t find that feeling of solidarity. I read comments and posts dedicated solely to gloating about the attack in “the center of the Israeli left” (to quote the more moderate people). I woke up the morning after and was exposed to even more hate. The language was more venomous than the night before. Posts like: “I really hope the casualties are left winged”, or “What a pleasure it was in Tel-Aviv”.
I felt vulnerable the following morning even though no weapons were raised against me. For the first time in a long while, I felt like that scared little kid again. No one deserves this intimacy with death. No one deserve to experience nights like this. Especially not alone. We are all in the same boat. We need to get that idea through our thick Israeli skulls and act like we are in this together.
Until then, I’ll continue going through life with the same routine. The next time there’s an attack you can trust that I’ll send my friends a link to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”