Michal Cotler-Wunsh
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Reach out and touch someone

Israelis may seem nonchalant about rockets, but don't you believe it

Yesterday morning, many of us were once again awakened by a siren. In our personal case, it was a little earlier than previous wake up calls, and actually interrupted my sleep and entered into, or generated, a peculiar dream. It took me a few minutes to ascertain whether it had been a dream or just more reality.

This morning we woke up to quiet that allowed for some long overdue reflection.

We humans are extremely adaptable. It is this adaptability that enables our survival even in the hardest of times. A manifestation of this adaptability in Israel in the last 50 days prompted most Israelis to attempt to create routine and feign ‘business as usual’, possibly the best (or only) response to the terror of Hamas from ordinary citizens.

This adaptability allowed for the absurd reality of highway signs that read “When a siren sounds, please pull off carefully to the side.” Not even if, but when. We are a realistic bunch and it was bound to catch you driving at some point, so we adapted.

This adaptability explains how; with all that is going on, our kids participated in the globally viral “Bucket Challenge”, doing their share in raising awareness and funds for ALS between blaring sirens. One can always make time to partake in important tasks and they feel no different than their peers anywhere in the world. They are, after all, adaptable.

That same adaptability allowed most Israelis to go to work, send their kids to camp, permit them to play outside or go out for ice cream, all in an effort to create a sense of normalcy. The very same adaptability placed school teachers at the front lines, keeping the calm and preparing themselves for providing support not only for the 35 kids that will enter their class on Sept. 1st, but for the their 70 parents as well.

That adaptability will one day, if we get to it, make incredible case study data for Psychology textbooks, providing insights that may become relevant and pertinent to many others around the globe as ISIS expands its size and aspirations.

However, reflecting on the adaptability triggered as a survival mechanism, it occurred to me that it can easily be misunderstood or misconstrued. Following some conversations that took place in my recent time abroad, it became clear that the very instinct, activated to ensure our mental and emotional well-being, may possibly be perceived as an insular response, disconnecting Israelis from the outside world.

As understandable as this is, it could not be further from the truth. Though difficult to convey to anyone who has not experienced the terror of a siren dictating the number of seconds remaining to find cover depending on precise location, there is no indifference here. Even if experienced while on solidarity missions for several days, there is no way to fully and deeply sense that fear when threat is no longer imminent. No less important, even if experienced by some of us randomly and sporadically over the last 50 days, the panic pales in comparison to those living this reality in the last 14 years.

As I reflect on the experience of waking up from a dream to the sounds of sirens, the challenge of comprehending intellectually what one cannot possibly truly understand becomes clearer. Just as clear, however, is the call to action, the ability to make a difference by the simple act of reaching out and showing you care.

Please do not assume that the resiliency that you imagine from afar, that you witnessed on the ground albeit briefly or that you know first-hand, translates into apathy. Do not assume that those that lived the unbearable reality of being barraged by 100 rockets a day for 50 days are insular. Do not assume that the resilient children of the South, born into this reality and now celebrating their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, are immune. Do not assume that they are tough and do not need you. Reach out and touch someone, anyone you ever met that feigned normalcy as a response to the terror of Hamas. Go visit, call, write an email or use social media to reach out and touch someone and show them that they are not alone.

One last thought. The responsibility to reach out and touch someone is all of ours. No matter which category we ourselves fall into, there is most definitely someone who may have seemed indifferent or insular in the last 50 days, 14 years and any timeframe in between. Remember that it is that adaptability that allowed them to feign normalcy for the benefit of all those around them. Remember that it does not make them impenetrable or omnipotent. It is just a basic human trait that ensures our survival. Don’t judge, don’t assume, just reach out and touch someone.

About the Author
The writer is a lawyer, research fellow, and policy and strategy advisor. She served as an MK in Israel’s 23rd Knesset, co-founding the International Bi-Partisan Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism.