In the middle of a terror-wave. The day was pretty tame, until nightfall. Then all hell broke loose in the Beer Sheva bus station, where a Bedouin from the nearby village of Hura managed, all too easily, to get past the security check and go on a shooting rampage killing one, wounding numerous. This was the first time a Bedouin was involved. We thought they were out of this equation. We were wrong.
And so the circle of fear and suspicion among residents of this country, takes one step out, making it even wider.
In addition to the one person killed by the attacker, there was another innocent victim — a victim of mistaken identity. Haptum Zarhum, an Eritrean worker from a farm near where I live, who had gone into Beer Sheva to renew his worker’s visa, and on his way home, got caught in the crossfire. Horrifyingly, when people saw him, they thought he was another terrorist and savagely beat him even after he had been shot and lay bleeding on the ground*.
And again, the circle of fear and suspicion among residents of this country takes yet another step out, making it wider still. Paranoia gets a capital “p”.
A few hours before this nightmare came to pass, I had had a minor mishap with my car, serious enough for me to have to take my car into the garage. My garage is in Beer Sheva, and there was no avoiding it. I couldn’t drive around without a rear window, and the nearest glass repair shop was a short walk from where the terror attack had taken place the previous night.
I patched up the gaping hole in the rear of my car with plastic and tape, and drove the 50 kms into the Capital of the Negev. As I was waiting in line for the secretary and the paperwork, I found myself standing behind two Bedouin men. (And there it was: the suspicion trying to break through the crack — but I just pushed it back with some self-talk that I wondered how many others were indulging in: “…..they look like respectable people….. stop being so Paranoid”, berating myself.)
I was told it would take at least 2 ½ hours for the work itself, which would start only after their lunch break. I was cordially invited to wait in the office, but politely refused as I walked through the wisps of smoke curling up from the receptionist’s cigarette. I’d take my chances on the outside.
The time passed, but not without a few more instances of being paranoid of those around – and those not around. Suspicion is a seed, and although I am not very good at propagating in my garden, once the seed of suspicion is planted in one’s mind and heart, it finds fertile ground, and grows as quickly as dandelions in a green lawn, taking root before you even notice.
I saw a shortcut to the mall where I was supposed to meet my friend… but I avoided taking it because it went through a large barren lot (“No one around in sight to come to my aid if someone jumps me there,” whispered Paranoia). So I walked along the road – cars zooming along to my left; a wall to my right. (Had a driver wanted to ram me, he could have done so before I had time to realize what had hit me and my Paranoia.) I was cursing myself for lugging my laptop in the desert heat, hallucinating (before I left home) that I would actually sit down and work in a cafe while the car was being seen to. But then I was grateful, because I realized that it could actually be a barrier if anyone tried to knife me from behind (stupid Paranoia – go away).
The voice stepped out for lunch with in the company of a friend, but returned later on, as I sat alone on a bench in the virtually empty mall, waiting for the call to come pick up my car, with my back exposed to anyone passing behind.
This is what it has come to. Stranger eyeing stranger. People apprehensive of leaving home unless necessary. The call to citizens to carry their firearms. Applications for licences to carry firearms has rocketed and pepper-spray flies off the shelves. The young Jewish couple from kibbutz postpone their planned trip to the Ministry of the Interior to change their status to “married”, until times became quieter. The Bedouin teacher drops out of her MA studies before she even has a chance to begin, fearing the necessary commute by train to Tel Aviv in her jilbab and hijab. The grandmother walks her grandchild home from kindergarten, ready to protect him with her body. The frenzied mob in the central bus station in Beer Sheva pummel an innocent man in their fear and Paranoia of the color of his skin.
And the circle of fear takes another step out, engulfing us all, each afraid from their own perspective. Making the circle SO humongous that its circumference encompasses most of those who live in this little land.
And THAT is the whole point of terrorism. Fear wins.
*Note: Four days after the terror attack in the Beer Sheva us station, it was announced that autopsy results show that they poor man had already died from the bullets. But the angry mob didn’t know that. They believed they were beating the daylights out of a still-live “terrorist” just because of his appearance.