There But For The Grace of God/Now What?‎

Last week now seems so far away, but some things fester until they are released, so here ‎goes.‎

This is an essay on the small, almost invisible choices we make every day, some of which ‎change our lives in ways we could not possibly have imagined when making the choice. ‎Almost a week ago today, my husband, my mother-in-law and I went to have a nice ‎afternoon in Nachalat Binyamin, the artists’ shuk (market) in downtown Tel Aviv. For those of ‎you who follow the news (there were times in my life I didn’t- it felt better to stick my ‎head in the sand and wait for the wave to pass, hoping it wouldn’t drown me or my loved ‎ones), you may already know where this is going. ‎

At any rate, when the shuk began closing and we were tired and hungry, we started talking ‎about where to go for dinner. My mother-in-law first mentioned a nice kosher Turkish ‎restaurant which was not so far away from our parking lot; we even debated walking to get ‎there as driving might even take longer in that area. We almost started heading there but ‎got last minute input from a friend of my mother-in-law that there was a great place on the ‎beach we could try, also not far from where we were (although far enough to drive). So we ‎headed slightly north instead of turning left from where we were, eventually finding the ‎place and sitting down to a lovely meal in an empty restaurant—it was early yet for the ‎dinner crowd.

Since it was the night before Rosh Chodesh (the new month), the beach was ‎dark once the sun had set and our view was mostly of the street that runs along the ‎beachfront. We chatted and enjoyed the atmosphere, even ignoring our phones and the ‎sports TV on the wall.

Shortly after our food was served, the real world intruded. At first in ‎pairs, then more at a time, sirens started passing right in front of us. Police cars, ‎ambulances, motorcycles, MADA, and finally Zaka. My first thought was “Now what??” ‎because we are from Gush Etzion, and no fools. We knew that something had happened, ‎and the something wasn’t good. Our sweet waiter, who was from the area, was in and out ‎of the kitchen, so at first he didn’t see the sheer number of emergency vehicles passing ‎the window. When we pointed out the passing ambulance, he naívely said “Maybe it’s a ‎woman going to give birth.”

Halevai–if only.

After a few waves of this, I turned to my trusted ‎source of information, my Muqata app. Sure enough, an ‘incident’ had “occurred” – you ‎know, because it’s not like a murdering terrorist (or his inciting government) was ‎responsible for the attack of innocents, and the murder of a brave US soldier who was ‎here to learn. To my horror, as we were sitting there peripherally involved just by be being ‎in the area, I read (according to the available intelligence at the time) that the terrorist –‎they even thought it was multiple attackers, given how many people he managed to stab ‎in such a short span of time—had escaped, and was at large. This, when we were sitting ‎ducks not 2 kilometers away, made us ask if the waiter could possibly close the wide open ‎front sliding glass doors we were right next to. We had to explain to him what was ‎happening, that it was not some joke, and that it needed to be taken seriously. We ‎Gushniks know that when you are told to get down, when you are told to go inside and ‎lock doors, or when you are told as in the email I received today saying that our children ‎can’t celebrate their holiday with the usual nonsense explosive toys for fear of getting in ‎the way of emergency personnel who may incorrectly respond to any bangs or small ‎explosions—you do what you are told so you can live another day and protect others as ‎well.‎

The vehicles kept passing us in waves, we kept waiting breathlessly for more information ‎while trying to finish our meal (well, we were hungry), and the waiter kept joking about ‎who would protect who—he pointed to the three guys outside and told us not to worry; ‎we told him we were from Gush Etzion and experienced at this and he said he’d run to the ‎back and *I* could protect *him*–ha. ‎

There have been too many times this year that I have felt I was nearly there, at the scene ‎of an attack, and yet I wasn’t. For whatever reasons G-d has, here I am, living and ‎breathing and able to join inspiring Women’s Rosh Chodesh meetings like I did on ‎Wednesday night, just one day after we chose not to eat in Yaffo. Yet I can’t help thinking ‎about the many people who were there or at the scenes of other attacks, whose lives were directly affected or taken away, ‎and also wondering if or when it will be my turn to decide to run at the crazy person with ‎my weapon of choice (new on the list- guitars!) or hide to protect myself and my family.‎

The next day presented more reasons to hold my breath, as on a day when terrorists shot ‎at a bus in Jerusalem, we had to decide if we should let each of our sons take buses to and ‎from Jerusalem. Do you think that is a simple decision? It wasn’t, and I waited for texts ‎saying each was okay. But I let them go, because my husband reasoned “If we don’t, we ‎have stopped living.” And that is what they want, and what we cannot do. The brave ‎women who went to Kiryat Arba again today—I salute you, and would go with you, ‎because as one of you said, “I am going so that you can.” ‎

I don’t blame people who feel they can’t be here right now; I understand. But to those ‎who come, you do not know how much chizuk you give us, and how much you are needed ‎here. Thank you.‎

Next week is Purim (finally! I think my students have been itching for it all Adar Aleph!), ‎and while we may have to follow protocols not to use exploding-sounding toys, we will still ‎celebrate. That we want to celebrate at all is its own victory, and I don’t want to stop that ‎feeling with my worries. We need to remember that all that the Jews in Shushan and the ‎surrounding countries won at first was the chance to fight back, to defend themselves. [Not meant to be just a side note but Kol Hakavod to the amazing man who, the same day as the bus attack, pulled a terrorist’s knife from his own neck and killed his attacker with it.]

We need ‎to remember that even if all you want is to live in peace, sometimes you have to fight for ‎that peace*.‎

May we all have a Purim Sameach, and remember to celebrate life.

‎*[credit Tad Williams]‎

About the Author
Mori Sokal is a TWELVE year veteran of Aliyah, mother of three wonderful children (with her wonderful husband) and is an English teacher in both elementary and high school in the Gush Etzion-Jerusalem area. She has a Masters’ degree in teaching, and has published articles in Building Blocks, the Jewish Press magazine.
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