Rina Ne'eman
Translator. Traveler. Challah baker. Salad maker.

The Death of Arrogance

It is hard to believe that it has been an entire week since the whole world turned upside down and inside out for all of us in New York and New Jersey. Yet, it is hard to believe that it is just a week that has passed, because it seems as if everything has changed. Even for us, the Fortunate Ones, this storm was a game changer, leaving behind a painfully raw and enormously enhanced sense of vulnerability. I pray that it can be harnessed for positive change, and that we won’t all just slide back into the tyranny of our nonchalance, harried schedules and regular routines.

My first two pieces in the Times of Israel were about Hurricane Sandy. In an odd way, Sandy caused me to find my voice. As a lover of words, I’ve always been strangely reticent about writing. Perhaps that is what makes me an excellent translator – I get to play with words and phrases, to turn them around and around and explore their nuances, without being responsible for conceptualizing the actual content. I am hopeful that my newly-found courage will spill over onto other topics, but for now, I have more to say about Sandy. Sorry folks, but I’m just not done, yet.

With my power, telephones and Internet newly restored, and many of my friends and colleagues, much like the proverbial Jewish mother, still sitting alone in the dark, I am just starting to wrap my mind around the notion of the inconceivable becoming the new benchmark, the New Reality. And in the process of doing so, my mind cannot help but wander to Israel, and how this catastrophe would have unfolded at home.

I say the inconceivable, because I don’t believe that anyone (well, outside of the movie industry) could have foreseen a scenario in which all of the power and communications infrastructure of the New York/New Jersey area would be summarily wiped out, with but tiny pockets of light. A situation in which multiple towns in the almighty New York metropolitan area were reduced to rubble like a deck of cards, and sizeable sections of New York City languished underwater. It is astounding how complete and all-encompassing our vulnerability was, and how instantly we were exposed and rendered helpless, in our nakedness. For New Yorkers, you know, are invincible, even after 9-11. Sound familiar? Just like Israelis.

The ubiquitous Israeli attitude of “li zeh lo yikreh” (it won’t happen to me). The arrogance and certitude of the “yihyeh beseder” (everything will be okay) mindset. All of that is gone for me, forever.

Now, I am thinking about disaster preparation. About having a plan. About devoting far more money and resources than I want to or than I think that I can comfortably budget for this, for my small company, for my home and for my family. About making the slim odds of catastrophe a priority. Disaster is no longer the provenance of doomsday survivalists. Individuals everywhere must be thinking about and allocating resources for this. But is the Israeli government?

Those who feel assured that all is well in this regard should consider the parallels of the Carmel fire, and how woefully unprepared Israel found itself. Essentially, what has changed since then? And how would a mass disaster of Sandy’s proportions and its enormous blow to power and communications have played out in our tiny country? We know that a massive earthquake is overdue for Israel; seismologists are in agreement. And experts concur that Sandy-like storms will become more and more frequent, worldwide.

I know one thing, for sure. If I were a terrorist, I would no longer be looking at attacks on individuals, or even groups of people. I would be searching for weak points in infrastructure – a crucial and crippling vulnerability that has been revealed this past week for all of the world to see. Sandy has exposed us in an unprecedented and shocking way. It is up to each and every one of us – and our local and national governments – to make preparations for every kind of disaster a priority.

After such a grueling week, it feels good to be getting back to routine. But Sandy has offered us lessons that we all must examine with the utmost gravity. For make no mistake. What happened this week in New York can (and undoubtedly will) happen in Israel, as well.

About the Author
Translator. Traveler. Challah baker. Salad maker. Enamored savta. Proud Israeli. Family, food, fashion and photography. Tel Aviv is my happy place.