I’m writing this in the parking lot of the supermarket where I do my weekly shopping. My doors and windows are securely locked and I’m shaking so hard, I can’t drive. Food shopping this week has been a terrifying experience.
I’ve been home, sick since all the violence broke out, closely following every news update and facebook post. My children and grandchildren live in the center of the country and we’ve been speaking daily about the challenges they face trying to get on with their lives.
Nevertheless, I wasn’t expecting nor was I prepared for the absolute feeling of panic that overtook me this evening as I entered my regular supermarket in Tiberias to restock my kitchen.
“Where is everyone”, I thought when confronted by the eerie silence and the empty isles in the store. Usually it teemed with all kinds of customers, Jews and Arabs both religious and secular. My stomach flipped over as I realized that the Jews weren’t there because they were afraid of being attacked and the Arabs may have been sealed up in their towns and villages to protect the Jews.
That’s when my heart started racing and my mind launched into hyper-vigilance.
My eyes swept the isles and the space in front of me as I repeatedly swiveled my head to check behind. Every customer or staff member became a knife-wielding enemy bent on spilling my blood on the floor of the supermarket. Until they weren’t.
“That’s a guy with a kippa. Good”, I thought. “But he could be an Arab in disguise. Bad. Oh wait. He’s with a child and a woman and the little boy is wearing tzitzit. Good.”
Ok next. “That guy’s armed. There’s a gun on his belt. Good. I’ll make sure to know where he is in the store in case I, or someone else needs help.”
I didn’t answer my ringing phone. I didn’t want to be distracted. My jaw ached from clenching my teeth.
Then I remembered that I was told the owner of this chain put all the knives that were for sale, behind the counter for added safety. But I didn’t feel safer.
“This is crazy”, I thought. “I can’t shop like this. I want it to be normal.”
So I took a few deep breaths, raised my eyes and looked for someone to help. I picked up a young woman’s foil pans that had fallen on the floor and let someone precede me down the isle. I reached up for the peanut butter on the top shelf for someone else.
Familiar, calming actions. Normally. But tonight’s shopping trip wasn’t normal.
My hands shook as I packed up my groceries and made my way uneasily to my car thinking, “Will someone jump out at me before I reach my car? When I get there should I toss the bags in the front passenger seat and leave the cart? But I never leave the cart. I always take it back. Not this time. My life is more important than returning the cart.”
So here I sit in my locked car waiting to calm down.
There have always been more than 180 million Arabs surrounding Israel who want me dead. A great Rabbi I know once said, “If I didn’t believe The Almighty was protecting the Jewish people here in Israel, I would be the first one out of here.” And that’s how I feel too. I’m not leaving. I’m here because God gave me Israel. He means for me to live my life here.
Don’t misunderstand. I’ve felt fear over the last 30 years during bus bombings and stabbings and the first Gulf war. But it has never before been as all encompassing as it is tonight.
And it’s because we Jews are living together with an Arab generation born into a culture that hates. One that glorifies death as a means to achieving their goals. These young people have only known songs of death and martyrdom. They’re schooled (literally) on how to stab Jews. They run to their deaths as they try to kill us.
So I am very afraid. Now more than ever.
Because now, not only are my enemies prepared to die, they WANT to die.
And I just want to live.