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Nancy Cahners
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My day of disruption

If I had heard such loud voices in the US, I would have taken cover and expected to hear gunshots. Not so in Israel.
Illustrative: A man takes a rest as he travels from the north of Israel to Tel Aviv on February 10. 2007. (Hilla Gutrayman /Flash90)
Illustrative: A man takes a rest as he travels from the north of Israel to Tel Aviv on February 10. 2007. (Hilla Gutrayman /Flash90)

On our most recent Day of Disruption I got on the train at the Hahagana Station on my way to Herzliya.  Nothing disrupted my catching the train or finding a seat. It was business as usual.

At the HaShalom Station, a man boarded wearing a goofy blue hat and carrying a snare drum.  He beat out a little rat-tat-tat as he sat down.  The drumming is a hallmark of the demonstrations, so I assumed there had been a demonstration nearby.

Another passenger, an older man with a black baseball cap and a booming voice shouted to the drummer to be quiet and stay quiet.

Then two more men boarded the train wearing T-shirts with protest slogans, and the older guy started yelling at them too. At first, the T-shirt duo seemed amused, but gradually, as Mr. Baseball Hat kept talking, they got annoyed.  Then a woman’s voice joined the fray, and things really heated up.  It was the kind of shouting match that used to frighten me when I first came to Israel.

If I had heard such loud voices in the US, I would have taken cover and expected to hear gunshots. Not so in Israel.

The T-shirts assured the older guy that they would be getting off soon, so he wouldn’t have to endure their presence much longer.  When they got off (probably for another demonstration) Baseball Hat shouted, “100 years of Bibi! 100 years of Bibi!”

I returned to my Duolingo Hebrew drill on my phone.

When it was my stop, I disembarked, and this is what I saw: The guy with the drum and the guy in the black hat sitting together, chatting softly, looking like buddies.

This is the kind of thing that happens around here.  Passion. Loud voices. And then enough of a reconciliation so the parties can co-exist, maybe even with friendliness.

Here’s another thing that happened:  I was checking out at a local supermarket. The lady at the register was wearing a Muslim headscarf.

Now, if you read the newspapers, you could think that this woman might be dangerous to me.  You would be mightily wrong.

Instead, she asked me if I had joined the supermarket club. I said no and so began a long –really long – discussion about why I should join because of all the discounts I would receive. On and on. She wouldn’t let me leave without signing up and taking advantage of the reduced prices.

Okay, maybe she gets some benefit from getting me to join up. But so what. We were engaged in good old, mutually beneficial commerce. Just two women moving through their day.

And that’s what it’s like to live here.  Strong opinions, forcefully expressed, and the stakes really high. At the same time, people figure out how to take care of the business of every day, side by side. It’s hard to explain; you’ve got to be here to understand. Days of Disruption don’t totally disrupt.  Shouting matches don’t end in bloodshed.  Ancient grudges don’t contaminate every interaction. Bad outcomes may loom, but they’re not here yet.

And for me, each of these small episodes gives me a little spurt of hope.

About the Author
Nancy Cahners was the Design Director of MIT Technology Review, until one day, the entire staff was fired. Poof! Gone. After a stint at Harvard Divinity School and Medical School, she became a Healthcare Chaplain and Medical Ethicist. Her work has appeared in the Boston Globe, The Jewish Advocate and has been broadcast on NPR’s Morning Stories and Morning Edition and TLV1’s WhyWhyWhy. She lives in Neve Tzedek where she takes the same Ulpan course over and over again, and steals posters. She also helps her daughter’s family keep up with their laundry.