You didn’t know me then, but back in 2000 I was freshman at UC Berkeley when things got batshit crazy in Israel.
The will never forget the first time it hit me hard — I had just finished taking an anthro 1 quiz. I was drinking a green tea boba tea. And I was reading CNN online when I saw the story about the lynch in Ramallah.
Two soldiers had made a very wrong turn, and would never turn back. They were swallowed by a lynch mob whole, who beat them, stabbed them, gouged their eyes out, and disemboweled them as they lay on the floor of the Ramallah police station.
And when his phone rang and rang and rang – his wife, worried that she hadn’t heard from him – his killer picked up the phone and said “your husband is dead.”
The words were enough to make sick – just as I’m sure they’re making you sick, too.
But it was the photograph that ran alongside the text that left me screaming, screaming, screaming out of my mind, a keening wail from across ten time-zones, as I stared at the picture of one of the men who did this to them, who squeezed their lives from their bodies with such brutal inhumanity, and who then stood by the open window and waved to the cheering crowd below.
His hands, like two bloody flags waving from the window, his hands like something from the darkest recesses of the mind that drags us to that place where humanity shambles off to die. His hands, those two hands with five fingers each, just like mine, just like yours.
I took it personally.
And in the days and weeks and months that followed, when buses and restaurants and clubs and cafeterias and PASSOVER SEDERS were blown up, I took it personally.
After each attack, I would sit in my room and listen to Meir Banai or Mozart’s Requiem and just cry and cry and cry.
I still take it personally.
I KNOW these places.
I’ve RIDDEN these buses.
I’ve crossed these gates and walked down these streets and across that very spot now soaked with blood and brains.
I KNOW that spot in Jaffa — I was just there last week, and I’ll be there again the next.
Every stabbing, every shooting, every car ramming… I feel it — as does every single Israeli I know.
The faces of the dead could be my friends or cousins… or my lover… or my children.
And every time there IS an attack, we all pick up our phones and call the people we love the most.
“Did you hear?”
“Where are you?”
“Are you safe?”
And if the phone goes to voice mail, we call again and again and again… terrified that someone will pick up like the killer in Ramallah did on that terrible day in 2000 and say “Your lover is dead.”
So yes, I take it personally – which is why I rail against our leaders when I feel they are wrong. And why I mourn here in the middle of this crowded street when we are hurting.
So please — see us: We are a country in So. Much. Pain. Show us you understand. Tell us that you realize we have reasons to be afraid. And then help us do brave things so we can find a way out of this whole and together.