Of War and Apathy

Europe is at war. Today, people like you and me, people with hopes, tragedies, plans, people who were going to what they thought was a brand new day and a brand new start — died, lost their limbs, became maimed, meaninglessly, randomly, in Brussels. The airport I know all too well. Stabbings, attacks, murders. I still get my alerts from Israel on the phone. But I don’t react anymore. In fact, I don’t do anything.

These are the ones I know of. We know of. How many countless others have lost their lives and hopes and limbs in meaningless wars and acts of terror across the globe? I don’t know. Do the lives of those we know and care about mean more than of those we don’t? I don’t know. For me, they do. My friends matter more than strangers. But what is it that makes us care of some and not the others?

Is it immoral to say that I am tired of feeling? That I am too tired of all the controversy, the problems, the anger, the hate, the obligatory classification and affiliation with “us” versus “them”? That I am tired of pity, anger, horror, disgust – even love? Standing at the gates of the Old City of Jerusalem, looking back at the place where I lived, loved, cried and prayed – was it immoral to say that I have chosen to love from a distance? Is it possible to love and not take sides? Or has my reality somehow become different from the intensity of Israel?

How do we become desensitized to violence, injustice and hatred? When does this moment come, when do we stop feeling? And even if I assume that I have moved on to some higher truth, and try to reconcile the opposites for the sake of a higher perspective, how do I seek justice, how do I defend those who cannot defend themselves? This can not be an apathetic, or a desensitized pursuit. But I am tired.

I was a member of many of pro-Israel advocacy groups, I worked in a non-profit dedicated to disseminating information about Israel, I even volunteered with the Sar El on an army base. Twice. Out of love, the way I understood it. A former pacifist, I went to an army base as a civilian because I believed rolling over and dying is not an option for some nations. I did it because I believed Israel was at the forefront of what Europe was about to face. And I worked for what I believed in.

In this life, we have to choose. In Israel, especially, the choice is forced upon you, whether you want it or not. This is true for all places of conflict. You can only be an observer for that long. Eventually, you have to choose.

But I made my choice. And I stood by it. I stood with you on the stairs, counting the booms as the sirens went off, I was with you on the buses, in the streets, in synagogues and even on army bases. I have, I think, tried to love the way I could.

And as I watch my beloved city today — from a distance on another continent — torn by murder, pain and loss, I feel — is this a heartless thing to say? — I feel nothing. I feel tired.

I don’t know the cause of my apathy. Maybe I have given up on the idea of a resolution. I wonder how many feel the same way in Israel. The perpetual state of being ready for war is desensitizing. The intensity and the pitch and the passion of needing to choose sides give way to wanting to live out the basic humanity. Many came to Israel in those years I have been with it – but many have left, having given up on trying  to fit into the world that was marketed to them as something entirely different.

And as I read the news today, and struggle to find my place in all of this, I want to know — what does it take, to not become desensitized, to not let the apathy become self-annihilation by default? Because apathy in the face of war is a bad ally…

About the Author
Currently pursuing an academic career in the Southern US, Inga lived and studied in Israel while following her lifelong passion for spirituality and discovery.
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