When we moved to Israel two months ago, I established a nightly routine. I would walk around town at 10 pm—when my husband was home from work and the kids kids were in bed. I could finally take time for myself. Decompress after a day of shuttling kids, fielding meltdowns, and supporting everyone else. It was my ‘me time’.
I would walk, call my friends in Boston on my cheap Israeli phone plan. “It’s free to call you!” I would boast. “And what’s more, it is TOTALLY safe for me to walk around alone at 10 pm. All. By. Myself.” You see, in most places in the U.S., a woman would not walk around in the dark, at 10pm on dimly lit streets. Even in the safest of suburbs, it just isn’t done. We are trained that after dark, we don’t go anywhere alone. Not a parking lot. Not a residential street. Never on public transportation.
In Israel, the only difference between day and night is that one is light and one is dark.
But that was Before.
Now, in After, I think twice. I have not taken a night walk in over a week. In fact, I have not even taken a day walk alone since last week. Not since the two stabbings here in Ra’anana.
I remember talking to a friend the night before the stabbings as I walked to the bookstore a mile away. It was pitch dark. She asked me “Should you be walking all alone talking to me with all that is happening there?” “It’s different here in our town. It’s just not like Jerusalem.”
That was Before.
Now, in After, I make sure I walk in busy areas—but not too busy. Busy enough that if something happens, someone is around to help. But not so busy that someone would want to attempt an attack. It doesn’t sound rational when I write it or say it out loud, but in my mind it is the only way to stay safe.
When we moved here, my kids were so excited. They would have independence unlike anything they had ever known. They could walk to dance class without an adult. They could walk to the playground across the street while I stayed behind in our apartment. Back in the U.S., there were attempted kidnappings in our bucolic suburban neighborhood; they could not even play outside on the street without an adult standing guard.
Here in Israel, no one wants your kids. As the shopkeeper down the street joked with me, “Israelis would rather give you one of theirs than take yours.”
That was Before.
Now, in After, we take turns escorting our kids all around town, to dance class a block away, and even to the tiny park across the street. The play structures in the city park have guards during peak hours. Police cars patrol the streets. The freedom that was so enticing when we moved here is now a thing of the past. The kids have accepted it without a fight.
When we moved to Israel my kids equated guns with sheer evil. They knew of school shootings and also the danger guns posed when they were in homes and not locked up.
That was Before.
Now, in After, they see guards without guns and they ask, “Why doesn’t that guard have a gun? How will he help if we need him?”
My 9 year old asks me, “Mommy, when it is safe again, will you let me walk alone with my friend to dance class?”My 6 year old chimes in, “When will it be safe again?” I am at a loss for words. I cannot answer and am silent.
As always when this happens, my ever-ready-to-step-in-as-mother-figure 10 year old answers for me: “Soon. See these soldiers and all the police cars on the streets? They keep us safe. Soon all the people who want to hurt us will go away. When they do, we can go to the park again. Without Mommy. No offense, Mommy.”
When will After be over? More than anything, we all just want to Before.