The air is different here in Israel, it’s a bit heavier than usual. The feeling of uneasiness surrounds us but the relief of being home still runs through me. Things are difficult now – they are different.
Everyone has a strong opinion about the situation, which is the nature of this country. Some of my friends who never worry about anything told me that I shouldn’t walk down the boulevard alone. Others urged me to walk alone, but not through the market, or the mall, or the bus stations…
I dig deep down and ask myself, what is my opinion about the way I should act in this new wave of terror? If I’m a part of this world, I must have my own beliefs – and so I walk and I sit in cafes alone as I write and sip on tea and eat muesli. I write as couples kiss on benches and people around me argue about the prime minister and politics and war. I watch the city breathe and move and I am grateful to be a part of it.
As the days pass, I convince myself that things are better, that we are all safer and calmer. I lock myself into a Tel Aviv bubble, and walk everywhere, soaking up the life I’ve always known here; The life where I walk alone at 2 am to buy water and yogurt, and feel completely safe. And then I hear of a firebomb in the West Bank, and stabbings in Ra’anana in broad daylight, and a shooting in Be’er Sheva. There is no bubble. I tell myself this wave of terror will subside – Jaffa will be packed again, things will be normal. Maybe we won’t live in complete peace, but we won’t carry pepper spray with us in colorful cases, and they won’t…I don’t know. It shouldn’t even be “we” or “they.”
I’m suddenly seeing sides of myself that I’m not proud of, but also not ashamed of. I’ve learned how fear can make me cross a street while locking eyes with him and knowing that he understands exactly why I crossed. My heart breaks, when I realize that he’s probably been seeing people do exactly what I’ve just done, throughout the entire day, and yet I cross anyway.
Fear is real and you get to decide what you do with it. You get to decide what you are comfortable with and what you can’t handle. Fear and hatred are not the same thing, I tell myself this over and over again. I say it each time I take a taxi instead of a bus. I say it when I am sitting at a bar and an ambulance rushes by as all of our eyes follow the ambulance and our fingers rush to our phones to check for an alert, even though the alert isn’t there.
And just as I’m about to go to bed, I watch my new favorite reality tv show that features children around Israel who audition for a music school. I watch in awe as a young Arab Israeli girl sings a song in Hebrew and another in Arabic before she begins to cry. She says that the lyrics are hard for her to sing, because she just wants to be a girl, not a girl living in a world with wars. I cry with her and I remember that things must change.
It hurts to see people and a place I am in love with move with a sense of insecurity – but through the hurt and the pain, somehow things will change – and if they never do, at least I know that the country will continue to breathe and move, as will I with it.