I stop as soon as the siren sounds. It reverberates across mountains, louder and louder with each echo. I close my eyes and feel the hot sun sear my face. The siren never ends. This moment never ends.
When I open my eyes I see the barbed wire fence right there, shutting me in, shutting the world out. In one tiny moment I gain an understanding: jealousy. Nobody would ever say it, but the world is jealous. If only it were another nation, another religion. Not that one, again, not the one always persecuted and always complaining and leading the world in music, art, science, literature, technology. In fact, in their hearts, they wish it had been them. Their people. Their families, their heritage.
How tragically exciting, to have lost someone in Twin Towers! How tragically alluring to have been at Hillsborough, and escape, or to know someone who didn’t? Or the Titanic, to have that connection, to know someone who now lies at the bottom of the ocean, silent and preserved in salt water?
Remember the death of Princess Di, how a nation mourned as though she was their wife, their mother, their daughter.
But the most talked of horror of all human existence? To be able to say: I lost my family there. I am a victim of this horror? How fascinating. How seductive.
And yet, they say, it’s that pathetic small percentage of people who call themselves a race even though they are not. Who think they are so self-important they should have their own country, at the expense of the other people who were already there. Not those people, again, who control the media and the banks and the whole damn world, even though they were nearly annihilated.
They get all the glory of this tragedy?
I stand for my two minutes by the barbed wire and I can feel the history of my people flowing through me, the electricity of the fence, the electricity of the camps where so many took their own lives. I can think into myself, into my family; I can remember what I never experienced; I can imagine what I never knew. I can think to myself: if only. I can know there would be many more of us, of me, of my children, of my siblings, if we hadn’t been herded into sites without flowers where the birds didn’t sing and only death was awake.
Two minutes is a very short and a very long time to remember a whole genocide.
I am on my own. I have been caught by surprise, the time creeping up on me like death’s shadow, catching me in the middle of my life, in the middle of my strength, when I was admiring the beauty around me and my own steady, fierce breaths.
All these thoughts go through my mind as a whole country mourns and remembers. Although a part of the country does not. I see the Israeli drivers pull over on the roads to give all their attention to rewinding, travelling back into history. But I watch some Arab drivers driving their cars straight ahead, faces grim, this day they are trying to ignore, washing grime over them. They live in and love this country, energised by their neighbours. We are so similar in our cultures, our outlook, our languages, our values. Yet some hate this day because it reminds them of the persecution of their neighbours; why this country was given to their neighbours; why it was taken away, they believe, from them. But others bring hope. When the leader of the Islamic movement in Israel, MP Mansour Abbas, speaks so movingly and poignantly about the Shoah from the plenum of the Knesset, then I know there is hope.
I am running on this soil. I have been able to call it mine for two months now. I am here because of people like my great uncle who escaped from the tragedy others endured and who created a beautiful place to live out of swamps.
But just because I live here does not mean I will ever exclude others from doing so. Just because my family have endured the tragedy, never will I feel superior to others for this being a part of my history. I was born like this. You were born like that. It is all chance.
This is my country. But it can be yours too. This is my world, as it is yours too. Perhaps it is only the war of the virus which reminds us of this.
The virus has not yet succeeded in imparting its message: the world is beautiful, but it will never truly be ours.