I am a lucky woman for many reasons. One of them is that I can call “home” a number of different cities and places in the world. During the week that just ended, two of these places jumped to the front pages of the world media: the South of Israel and Venice.
Venice is home in the sweetest and most personal way possible: I spent there most of my summers and every Jewish or national holiday since I was born, at my beloved grandparents and with our extended, diverse and entertaining family.
As soon as I got old enough I started taking the vaporetto (passengers boat) from the Lido to spend hours wandering in the stone-paved streets, taking pictures or writing deep and useless thoughts, like every teenager. It was a time, long forgotten now, when Venice was not yet under the continuous and merciless siege by tourists that in most cases only exploit its beauty and don’t contribute much to the city’s economy, but do produce amounts of waste that are beyond any imagination.
Everyone saw last week the saddening and frightening images of the overflown channels, Piazza San Marco vanished under the chilly waters, the sinking gondolas and the clusters of waste drifting on the water. What they didn’t hear is the cold, wailing sound of the siren announcing the tide. One thing might be unclear to the wide public, though: most of this disaster is man made. It is not the act of an angry god, or of an estranged mother nature alone. Measures to weaken the impact of the recurring exceptional tides have been discussed and then partially implemented over the past decades, but as in many human matters, money and ego took over, the leaders didn’t look at the bigger picture, and the disaster eventually happened.
The South of Israel is home to me in the sweetest and most personal way too: I moved here after 10 years in Tel Aviv to join my husband, in the moshav where his family moved in the early ’80s. The greenest Israel imaginable, gentle hills and a breeze coming from the sea sweeping the top of the trees. We are not part of the “Otef ‘Aza,” and yet, any time rockets are launched from Gaza towards Israel, we are still close enough to be part of the emergency. Our cellphones, and sometimes our ears, tell us with precision where sirens are sounding around us, and how many times during each day and night. Schools are closed, the moshav is filled with children playing close to protected areas, in case a siren sounds here too.
The moment a rockets emergency hits a few things happen at once: I put bottles of water in the shelter at home, I switch to “we are ok, don’t worry” mode in all my communication with family and friends abroad, and I start checking the news outside of Israel, mainly in Italy, to see if by any chance we, the Israeli civilians who have absolutely no control on the war fought literally over our heads, appear anywhere. Usually not. Our cities and villages are under constant threat, our fields are being burnt, our lives are in the line of fire, but we simply do not exist in the media, because we dare to die much less than our neighbours in Gaza. And all of this: the missiles and air strikes, the death of civilians on either side of the border and everything in between, is man made too and has a lot to do with ego and long term planning or lack thereof, just like in my other home.
Last week, two of the places I call home came under threat again, sirens breaking the silence of the night, and unless the leaders involved decide to put their ego on the side and start making decisions based on a long term plan, it will not be the last time.