For some time now, I’ve been thinking about the right words to capture how I feel about recent attacks on innocent Israeli citizens (scared? angry? anxious? depressed?). I wonder if, in fact, I want to ignore terrorism in this blog space, and instead focus on the mundane – the things that make my life in Israel normal. But the reality is that it’s near impossible to ignore what is happening here. I haven’t really found the words yet, but I do feel the need to express something.
One morning last week, I woke up to news that there was a pigua – an attack (pronounced pee-goo-ah) – on a bus in Tel Aviv. A man had stabbed the bus driver and at least 10 passengers (the numbers kept changing in the news, but it seems there were more than 10), and a police chase was underway. The attacker was caught within the hour, and a Hamas official, just hours after the attack, publicly declared it a “normal response to the crimes of the occupation against our people” and praised this “extraordinary act…of collective resistance.” Pictures of the severely wounded and injured passengers surfaced on Facebook and Twitter, but otherwise, life goes on.
I have a really hard time comprehending how any human being can see this as a “normal response” to anything. Is it also “normal” to plow through a group of people waiting for a train? Or to enter a synagogue during morning prayers with an axe and attack vulnerable men while they take part in the holy act of worship? This recent horrifying act of murder in cold blood in a Jerusalem synagogue did not stir up worldwide “Je sui Juif” bumper stickers, and certainly did not result in a march for Peace in the streets of Jerusalem, but it did cause me to cry myself to sleep the night it happened. I do not mean to compare or belittle the terrorism that struck Paris, because these attacks are one in the same. But what scares me is how little the world reacts when something happens in Israel.
Do people around the world really believe that Israelis, Israeli citizens, Israeli moms and babies, Israeli teenagers and newlyweds, Israeli grandparents and neighbors and grocers and students and teachers – all these people are “occupiers” deserving of random acts of terrorism under the shield of so-called “resistance”? I understand Israel is at fault when it comes to building settlements in lands that, if given up, could be a key to peace in the Middle East (though that is a BIG could) – but does that mean innocent civilians (living mostly, may I add, in totally undisputed territory) must be targeted because they are simply living – or worse, because they are simply Jewish?
Most of Israel, the majority of Israeli citizens (Arabs and Jews alike), just want to go about their days. Most of Israel wants to spend time with their families, earn a living, watch reality TV, etc. And then, every once in a while (sometimes a short while), a Palestinian with a knife or a car or an axe, decides that it is his or her right to take a life. The individual who makes this decision is quickly labeled a Palestinian Terrorist, and he makes me feel less and less secure around the Arab-Israelis I encounter every day. That’s what he does. He makes me feel insecure, he turns me into a racist, he scares the shit out of me, and he pits “my people” against “his people.”
I don’t want to feel this way. I do not think of my living in Israel as an act of defiance or as a means to securing the land as a Jewish State. I am not an “occupier” because I know that exposure to other cultures, traditions, languages, etc is important for everyone. Diversity can only add to one’s richness, and I relish living side by side with people who aren’t like me (especially coming from a city like Chicago), and it is very clear to me that Israel would not be Israel without the hundreds of thousands of Christians, Muslims, Bedouins, Druze, etc. I cannot apologize for what my Jewish predecessors did or didn’t do when they returned to Israel after 2000 years of Exile. Just like there is nothing that can be done to reverse Christopher Columbus’ venture to the Americas. What I can do (as long as I am not fearful of my neighbors), and what I hope all humans in this land will do, is attempt to live in peace, to live in quiet, to let go of our historic hatred and move forward together.