Upon my return, only a few nights ago from South Florida, after a three week trip visiting my family for the first time since making aliyah one year ago, I realized I had encountered a few problems.
Problem 1: I returned to a country feeling that I need pepper spray to protect myself.
Problem 2: I returned to a country who’s entire nationwide pepper spray inventory is 100% out of stock.
Problem 3: Now that I had realized the entire country was actually on edge and it wasn’t just my own paranoia, how will I arm myself to feel protected from here on out?
My three younger brothers, still living in The States, who may forget to text back sometimes, are always on top of my Facebook updates and always there for me at times when it really counts, in this case, my complaint for lack of pepper spray–or in their eyes, protection for their sister. And so, my angels ordered and expedited a few canisters overnight. “Overnight” does not simply mean overnight with Israel. I have yet to receive them; hoping on tomorrow but still ever so grateful.
I was fortunate enough to have missed the start of this recent knife-rising, (or stabageddon, as I’ve heard it called), so while my fellow Israelis were “eased” into the violence, I stumbled in 2 weeks into the balagan making me feel that I am trailing slightly behind on this new-temporary way of life on the edge.
I spent the last week of my Florida trip debating and arguing with my family as to whether I would return to Israel on the date of my original flight or purchase a ticket for a later date–let’s say 2 weeks later. After heated discussions of me versus my family and closest friends, my ingenious father gave his declaration:
“What is two more weeks going to change on a two thousand year old problem?”, a powerful proclamation from a father who wanted nothing more than the little girl [he] carried to stay under his roof just a little longer. Oh Tevye.
And so I made my way to Miami International Airport as originally planned and boarded my flight(s) back to Tel Aviv–because, hello, a little terror wasn’t holding me back from returning to artzeinu (our country).
Within a day of my homecoming, I realized I needed to boost my vigilance game because, currently, Israel is simply not the safe walk-down-the-street-jammin’-to-Eyal-Golan-on-my-headphones paradise it used to be, as much as I have seen my fellow citizens try and keep things normal. Coming back to my happy apartment and to my wonderful roommate, who also just returned from a trip to Spain and missed the start of the balagan as well, was an odd experience. Can you imagine, two young women, two young olot hadashot (new immigrants) in their early 20s, discussing their international adventures they had just arrived from and teetering back and forth into new ways to be safe on our common commutes to work, school, and around Tel Aviv?
Example: “Did you enjoy seeing your brothers?”, she asked? “Oh, by the way, my boyfriend told me that we should use our purses as protection, if we were to be attacked by a terrorist”, she continued.
And my response: “Spending time with my brothers was the best! And yeah, that’s a good idea. Why don’t we sign up for self defense classes?” Did you visit Barcelona?”.
What kind of conversation is that? Since when is it okay to live life in fear like this? The last few days have certainly been a learning process. I found myself with anxiety the first time I had to make my way from the relatively calm suburb of Givatayim to the Tel Aviv tayelet (boardwalk), where I work. A nice clean cut through the center of one of the busiest cities in Israel. Heart pounding out of my chest. My cheeks felt hot. Were they turning red? Could people tell I was completely panicking on the inside? Can terrorists smell fear? What are the odds there’s one around me? Too much noise in my head. Look around, Rebecca. Pay attention. Checking over my should every minute or so. “Stay alert,” they said. Pay attention to your surroundings. Strategically pick “safe” seats on the bus. Avoid riding buses if you can. Hands in pockets are suspicious now. Crowds are good. Crowds are bad. But keep going to your local falafel stand and supporting your struggling local businesses (yes, my favorite falafel shop raised their prices two shekels since the start of stabageddon). Go out for a drink with the girls, but don’t look up, don’t look down, walk with a purpose, so many new rules scaring us and spiraling us down into wanting to stay indoors!
But we simply can not stop living the dream; the life we chose here, in our Israel. Tonight, actually, is the erev (eve) of my one year anniversary living in our beloved, and with a full heart, I know this is where I belong. And tomorrow, I WILL go out, and I will celebrate this milestone.
We must keep on keeping on.
We must be aware, not scared.
Vigiliant, not anxious.
We are a little on edge, but nothing we can’t handle.
The ko’ach (strength) of the Jewish people has never failed.
We are stirred, not shaken.
And, by the way, I will absolutely take that vodka martini.