At first glance it looks like an abstract piece of art, a modern monument right in the middle of the busy Ben Gurion Boulevard, next to the juice stand, coffee shops and playgrounds. Upon closer look, you realise it’s a monument of a different kind, a memorial of the people killed and wounded in a suicide attack in 1997.
It just sits there. Like a silent, almost anonymous, reminder of harder times. I don’t think many people pay attention to it – it just is. Nothing odd about it, just another part of the city, like a stone on the sidewalk.
Today a boy, maybe 6 years old, was happily climbing on it – playing and pretending like only kids can. Maybe he was pretending to climb Mount Everest? Or flying a plane?
And then it hit me. This is Israel. Life is celebrated here. We move on. Even a sad monument can become a monument of joy for a small boy.
You get used to it: the memorials all over the city, the stories of what it used to be like before we built the wall: the suicide bombers, the fear of taking the bus or going to a restaurant. You get used to the security checks and metal detectors and the news of terrorist attacks: stabbings and cars running over innocent people waiting for the train. You even get used to the rocket alarms and the sound of missiles being blown up by the Iron Dome.
And there’s nothing strange sitting next to a soldier on the bus, in full uniform and armed with a M16.
We continue to go to work, raise our children, discuss domestic politics over coffee, eating out and going to the beach. We continue to celebrate life.
I made Aliyah in April 2014, and my first summer here was spent running to bomb shelters. The first time the rocket alarm sounded over Tel Aviv (and the first time I heard it for real in my life) I cried. The second and third time I did as well. A few weeks into it, I was sitting in my stairwell (our temporary bomb shelter) with a friend visiting from Sweden, holding him, comforting him and telling him we would be okay. “Listen, that’s the boom from the missile being blown up! It’ll be over soon!” A few days later, I had coffee with a friend on Dizengoff Street when the alarm sounded yet again. Everyone stood up, calmly left their tables and walked to a bomb shelter nearby, listened to the alarm, waited for the booms, and then walked back and continued drinking their coffee. The whole thing was very surreal. I kept thinking how people would have reacted if the same thing had happened in Stockholm. I realised then, that in a few weeks, I had adapted to the life here. I no longer cried, but rather had a feeling of obstinacy: “You will NEVER stop me from living my life!”
Does this mean that the war ended up being a walk in the park? Of course not. It was very stressful, and my heart still skips a beat if I hear anything that sounds remotely like an alarm.
Israelis are a tough bunch, but a warm-hearted bunch that try to live their life every day to the fullest. That’s one of the many reasons why I love living here. Despite all the worries and threats from terrorist neighbors, we live. We celebrate life. We adapt and carry on and never feel sorry for ourselves. We thrive and we blossom against all odds. We even say l’chaim to monuments of death.
This is something our neighbors will never understand. They celebrate death, and think they can scare us into bending to their demands. We never will. I never will. Life and the will to live is so much stronger than any suicide bomber or missile attack. We are staying right here and we aren’t going anywhere. Get used to it.
I love you Israel.