Each night when my husband returns home from work, he and I sit down to recap our days. Then, I launch into the juicy stuff. I share all of the random and unsolicited parenting advice that was thrown at me as I walked with my kids. “You really should let the kids stay up later. Israeli kids do not go to bed early like Americans.” I describe the way the florist came and dumped 6 oversized pots of flowers into the hairdresser’s shop because his own shop was too small to hold them. “You need something nice in here anyway,” the florist mumbled as he plunked down more pots despite the hairdresser’s protests. We share more ‘only in Israel’ stories and we laugh. “This would NEVER happen anywhere else.”
But tonight it hit me. My day-to-day life resembles a day on Sesame Street. (To make this comparison work, you have to overlook the terror attacks. I have not watched Sesame Street in many years, but I am nearly certain that there have been no stabbings or car rammings on Sesame Street.)
Do you remember how Big Bird used to walk over to Mr. Hooper’s Store and he would pass Maria outside her fix-it shop trying to repair a broken toaster oven? Big Bird would stop to chat and stay there for the whole episode. Or the way that Oscar accosted everyone who walked past his can? Or how Gordon and Susan would sit on the stoop of 123 Sesame Street and greet all who walked, rolled, or bounced past them? Poor Telly monster would stand in the middle of the street worrying about everything until someone walked by and soothed him. Gordon, Susan, Luis, Maria, David, Linda, Mr. Hooper, and all of the adults in the neighborhood–human and Muppets–were always around to offer advice, love, protection, and support.
Well, that is how it feels around here — but with the added elements of Jewish guilt and Israeli warmth. Today I left my house to take my dog for a walk. As I was in the elevator, I ran into a neighbor. He asked about how my kids were doing in school. Are they happy? Do they know it is better here than in the U.S.? Yes, I answered. Though they would be happier without the excitement of terrorism. “Eh, nowhere is safe. Raising kids here is the best. At least here we know we have terrorists.”
Next stop: the park. On our way, we passed the foreman of the construction site next to our building. “Hello! No kids with you? Late day at school today?” It is nice to know that he recognizes us, even if it was only 10:30 in the morning and all kids are in school at that hour. It’s one more set of eyes to make sure we are safe as we walk around town.
Next, I bought groceries from one of the two mini-markets on the corner. As I was walking past the other with bags in my hands, Itzik (owner of “Itzik’s Minimarket”) said, “Hi motek. Ma Nishma. What? You didn’t buy from me today?”
We then walked past the pet store. “Hi Parker. Come, have a treat.” (Here, the clerk greets my dog. Not me.) “Now, tell your mommy to buy you some food. I see she has not been here lately.” This last comment was muttered in a tone not unlike the tone my grandmother used to use when it had been six days since my last visit. “You’re so busy I know, but would it kill you to come more?” she would say.
As we walked past the small toy/school supply shop, Michah the owner looked up, waved and returned to his heated political discussion with the woman buying the newspaper.
At the end of our loop, we passed the studio where my kids have art class. The art teacher saw me and and invited me in. No class was in session, so she took the opportunity to show off my kids’ work. We chatted for 15 minutes, much like Big Bird and Maria always do.
Every outing in my neighborhood — no matter how brief — yields some sort of personal interaction. Whether I run into a good friend, a familiar face, or meet someone new, no moment is ever dull. I never feel alone.
The other day’s attack in our town shook us all to the core, again. As before, we all cried for the victims. Applauded the heros. We feel the frustration and anger. When will this end? How will it end? Until it does, we must be on high alert at all times. We must look out for others. That is life here in Israel.
In October, for a couple of days after the attacks the town felt quiet. Everyone stunned. Scared. On edge. Our bubble had popped. Yet everyone seemed to be returning to normal life — how it was before. I wanted to shout “HEY EVERYONE, how can you just sit and get your nails done? How can you walk your dog and joke with the mailman? There was an attack here today!” I remember wanting to be more Israeli. I wanted to carry on like they do. To show terrorism it won’t squash us. We are stronger than that.
This time, when the alerts came that it was safe to leave our homes, I did. I felt safe to resume my life. To smile, laugh, joke with everyone around me — without the doom and gloom hanging over me for days. Because that is what we Israelis do.
And just like everyone always feels on Sesame Street, I could not wait to go out to see all the people in my neighborhood.