Terrorism isn’t normal and it shouldn’t be considered normal, anywhere in the world. But although in Israel no one here is shocked by Palestinian terror attacks, (horrified and sickened — never shocked) I found it extremely disturbing and surreal to see the Palestinians’ favoured ramming-and-stabbing tactic make an appearance in London.
London was my adopted home for 26 years, is home to millions of people, including my family and friends, and it is their right, like everyone else’s, to live safely in their own homes without fear of terrorism. And it isn’t fair, and I wish it wasn’t the case, but London- you may have to get used to it anyway. Yes, like in Israel.
Three attacks in the past three months in England have killed 34 people; five terror plots were foiled by British security in that time; armed police are patrolling the streets; and now, like at bus and tram stops in Israel, bollards and security barriers are being installed on London’s bridges to prevent more ramming attacks.
I remember when they installed the metal posts at the bus stop near my home in Jerusalem, during the terror wave, and when I saw signs promoting pepper spray, I sent photos to my family back in London. What a crazy country I’m living in. But I was glad at least they didn’t need to worry about those things in London.
Having lived in Israel for three and a half years, I don’t have the same experiences as most native Israelis, but I have been here during frightening times, during a war and rockets, during the “knife intifada” with its stabbings, shootings and rammings, and when a bomber exploded a bus down the street from me.
And I learnt here that it’s possible to live a normal life despite all of that.
To be more aware and vigilant sometimes, but zoned out and oblivious at others. To be scared, and to be fearless. To feel weak from fear until you realize you’re being paranoid about nothing. To prepare to hurl yourself at suspect being chased in your direction, only for security to thankfully get there first, because you didn’t really think it through all the way (it was only a stolen phone in the end anyway.) To understand that there’s no such thing as safe really, anywhere, and so you just have to accept that whatever’s meant to happen will happen. To play out scenarios in your mind and think how you can protect yourself, how you might fight, or where you might run.
To see nature and beauty all around and to wonder how there can be such evil in this world at the same time.
To be self-involved and preoccupied with your own problems, then to forget all about them, they don’t matter – and worry about the state of the world and everyone in it instead. To sometimes not care or think about anything at all, only to be in the present, because it might be a cliché but it’s a really good one. To find the good and the humour in bad situations, not just as a coping mechanism, but because what other way is there to live really?
London, I am proud. Proud of the people who fought the terrorists, who threw chairs and crates and bottles to try to stop them. Proud of those who stayed to help. And those who didn’t, those who ran away – that’s more than fine too. Your families and friends need you home safe. Of the police who, with, let’s be honest, not much experience, shot those terrorists within 8 minutes of the attack and made sure they were properly “neutralised” and couldn’t hurt anyone else. And proud of the guy escaping from the attack, still carrying his pint of beer.
I’m also worried. London’s political correctness, tolerance and diversity won’t stop terrorism – we need more intolerance, of extremism, hatred, excuses, justifications and apologies.
But I realize that although Israel has been my home now for three and a half years, I still can’t shake off some of my London-ness, however much I try to be more Israeli: that understated, passive-aggressive, self-deprecating, tea-drinking, no-fuss, resoluteness.
And that’s also how I know: London, you’ll be fine.