Editor’s Introduction: Adina Horwich is a former Canadian (from Montreal) who’s been living in Israel for over 46 years. When the most recent war started Adina began writing about her own experiences during the war. She will be continuing to provide updates now that the war is over – and as Israelis benefit from having their country open up as Covid restrictions have been removed.
By ADINA HORWICH
Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021
Another day of free entertainment for the Israeli public, thanks to its numerous wannabe leaders.
Sometimes, when I browse the Netflix account that someone is kindly allowed me to join, I struggle to find anything worthwhile watching. Oh yes, there are some great series, but a lot of the fare is, as I’m sure you’ll agree, rubbish. Today’s programming however, is spectacular. Who could have predicted that a new president would be sworn in, at the same time that another attempt to form a government is in the works, with just hours to go till deadline’s up. This time with a script and cast the best Hollywood producers couldn’t have put together in their wildest dreams. Characters in starring roles too incredible to be for real. I can go to the movies next week. This is so much fun.
My political leanings remain the steadfast for all these years. Never been tempted to consider anything else. And let me tell you, most of us here are similarly consistent. It is either one or the other and ne’er the twain shall meet. We are pretty much evenly split. The little parties tip the scales and in their wake leave us with unimaginable coalition combinations. More power to them, or maybe it is just all about power, period. We might get somewhere if we ever narrow our voting options down to two, maximum, three parties. There really isn’t much ‘grey’ area, a substantial centrist faction. It’s best not to bring up politics, even in the best of families, not when one or another member holds diametrically opposed views. If we must, the best, only way, to manage is through a little playful humour and then to change the subject post-haste.
This arena is so riddled with land mines, best not to wander into it without protective gear. A million and one issues on the table with as many viewpoints. It’s mission impossible to get a consensus on much of anything. The whole system is hopelessly outdated, yet it can take another 50 years to affect any change. Our population is so diverse, no wonder it’s hard to carve out any one identity. Within the Jewish majority there are yet dozens of interest groups, splinter groups, based on religious observance or lack thereof, on ethnic background, which really means either Sefardic or Ashkenazi and then some- a host of social issues. The two presidential candidates are themselves from totally different backgrounds, and equally worthy representatives in their own right.
I’m not sure how much the general public really cares. We don’t get to have a say. The decision is to be made by the 120 members of Knesset. The session begins and the Speaker of the House explains the rules of what they need to do. One by one, in alphabetical order, 120 MKs approach the magnificent 6 foot high, solid wood (looks like mahogany) ballot box, to cast their vote. Reporters are having a field day, pressing the voters to divulge any hint of a clue. All fall back on “Both of the fine candidates are worthy, it’s a secret ballot”. Yitzchak ‘Bujie’ Herzog certainly seems to be in the lead with an impressive record and well rounded experience.He’s been preparing for this all his life. Miriam Peretz is undeniably a special and phenomenally inspiring woman, whose own story of unspeakable loss, leaves one in awe. I think she’s out of her league, though. It’s almost too obvious that she’s running against a candidate who’s destined to take the cake. She should continue with the fine work she’s been doing reaching so many of us.
Someone leaks a photo from the ‘secret’ ballot box of the two piles of votes… At ten minutes to one, results are announced.
And the winner is: surprise, surprise. Yitzchak Herzog. The joke is that at least this election is one that’s been decided.
Good luck. It’s only one in the afternoon. We’ve still got the rest of the day to see how things pan out. For now, I’m off to my job babysitting Israel’s next generation. Come to think of it, my 8 year old grandson, sharp as a tack and fluent in English, would be a fine choice, say in about 50 years time. Time will tell.
I’ll book a front row seat in the great gallery on High to ensure the best view. Heaven only knows how Israel will look like by then.
A visit to my daughter, son in law and grandson in the north.
Take a bus to the state-of-the-art Yitzchak Navon train station, opened not all that long ago, conveniently located opposite the Jerusalem Central Bus station. My one way ticket costs NIS 26.50, about CDN $10. A bargain at half the price, literally. (Seniors even younger ones like myself, travel half price).
Then four Tel Aviv stations. At the last, the Tel Aviv University stop, I disembark, remain on same platform and within ten minutes board the northbound train. Travelling part of the route parallel to the Mediterranean coast, we are treated to spectacular seaside views. Along the way more stops at Binyamina, Atlit, Haifa and suburbs, Acco and finally, Nahariya. It’s just great.
I usually drive up on Road 6, the also relatively new four or six lane super toll highway, which gets me in no time to Yokneam and through the new tunnel which brings me even faster and further north. Still takes nearly three hours and the gas is three times the price! There’s only one main rest area, so it’s always a tense ride. For some reason, the train doesn’t run on Fridays, which is when I usually go for Shabbat.
So today, a weekday, it’s an opportunity to somewhat relax, debrief, after all the ‘excitement’ of last week. Softly swaying, eyes closed, one could never have guessed what was going on here just days prior.
At last, in Nahariya, I walk over a string/cable bridge which connects me to the Arena shopping mall, and sit outside the entrance to wait a short time for my son in law to pick me up on his way home from work at Acco. I’ll spend two nights at his nearby childhood kibbutz home, where they’re staying in between moves.
It’s a lively, busy corner. Honking horns, people going in and out of the shopping centre. The outdoor escalator is squeaking and creaking to high heaven.
I like it here, different people, different vibe. A sense of hard workers, maybe not as sophisticated as some of the Jerusalemites, this place may not have been their first choice. But a hardy bunch, including many FSU immigrants, who together with native born old timers, are proud of their city. On previous visits I’ve enjoyed the beautiful beach boardwalk with its many ice cream parlors, bars, eateries, amusements for the kids.
Considered a somewhat backwater city, in the heyday it was a favourite seaside resort for older European immigrants, especially the Yekkes from Germany and Austria. It’s once again gaining popularity, blooming and booming with spanking new twenty odd storey high rises, towering over the still standing original shikunim
– Soviet style, concrete, matchbox apartment blocks, the colour of cardboard, built on stilts. Some have pockmarked reminders on their exteriors, of Katyusha rockets fired over the years, from Lebanon. Some residents are lifers in them, so it seems.
I know a Jerusalem family who bought a second home here, where they vacation every weekend. Another family from Scandinavia bought here too.
Would be fun to split my time between here and Jerusalem, though soon enough this daughter, son in law and baby I’ve come to visit will be moving on to a community near Carmiel. Yet another gem I hope to get better acquainted with. Six months ago, I did a reconnaissance tour, stumbling on the Quarry Park. I thought I’d travelled somewhere out of the country! I wandered through hills and dales, sprawling lawns dotted with sculptures produced by local artists.
Pastoral, relaxing visit is over. It’s been great to hang out together to just enjoy the company and beautiful scenery.
Back on Nahariya’s main drag, Haga’aton Street, and it is hopping mid-morning. Drivers slow down to let pedestrians cross the street, not in as much of a rush as in the big cities. Small businesses, shopkeepers, seem to be doing a brisk business even with the mall on the next corner. Everyone is cheerful. I don’t sense snobbiness, just good-hearted friendly faces. The woman at the wicket who sells me my return ticket is very pleasant and wished me a good day. The young, good looking attendant who directs passengers to the platforms is equally polite. Manners are still a big part of the way I conduct myself. Sorely missed in favour of brash, abrasive sassiness, otherwise know as chutzpah, they do appear on the horizon from time to time. The station’s restrooms are almost spotless! What more can I ask for!
In more good news, the movie theatres reopened today, Thursday, May 27th, and as of June 1st we won’t be required to wear masks inside public areas or on public transportation. Not that everybody does so anyway. Masks are often ‘worn’, more like barely dangle, below a chin or ‘really’ efficiently, from one’s elbow, as if that’s going to provide any protection. Shabbat Shalom
Day 12 Friday, May 21st, 2021
My sleep was disturbed last night, for the first time, by what sounded like gunfire, but was probably fireworks, set off by ‘celebrants’ of the ceasefire they consider a victory. I didn’t get up to look.
So, I was wrong and can admit it, when last evening I felt skeptical that we’d reach this outcome, this soon, with no real deal in hand. Bargaining chips, negotiations, are after all, factors in how things are done, especially in this neck of the woods. Both sides just appear to have call the whole thing off.
Doesn’t mean people are happy about how it’s ended, or at least is so far, holding up. It may be a flimsy truce at best. For many of us old timers here, it’s another deja vu.
We feel like ‘fri-erim’ (friars). English speakers are familiar with the word, from the adventures of Robin Hood and Friar Tuck. He’s most commonly depicted as a fat, bald and jovial monk with a great love of ale. Here though its connotation could not be more different. In fact, it’s a source of jest and ridicule, maybe akin to ‘greenhorn’. We learn fast not to be a friar! It’s rather unfair to apply the meaning of sucker, yes-man, milquetoast wimp, to the lovable, harmless guy, but we had better not be one, under any circumstances.
Later though I hear PM Netanyahu, Benny Gantz and Aviv Kochavi, the IDF’s chief of Staff summing this 11-day escapade up. Sounds like we did destroy much of the Hamas military infrastructure, both high above ground, toppling huge skyscraping office towers that housed their headquarters, Intelligence installations. Below street level, underground in the ‘metro ‘ as it’s been dubbed, miles of tunnels dug in order to smuggle weapons and arms and used as hiding places or in attempts to infiltrate Israel, are now dysfunctional. That’s the long and the short of it. We do not know what will happen with the two IDF soldiers’ bodies or the fate of mentally challenged Avera Mengistu, who’s being held captive after wandering across the border several years ago.
It’s hardly a peacefully crafted agreement. So much more needs to be included. How many rockets should be tolerated? It’s a given there will be more. The media refers to it in terms of rain. How many constitute a ‘drizzle’, how many ‘intermittent showers’? When they’re fired over this city or that kibbutz, will their inhabitants just have to suck/soak it up?
While a little relief is surely felt by those in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Sderot and surrounding communities, all Israelis share the hope that things will be more than allright for a good while. As far as I know, the violence in Acco, Bat Yam, Lod, Yaffo has been curtailed. Efforts are being made to restore the calm, mutual respect and understanding between residents. Won’t be easy though.
Bit of a ruckus at Temple Mount…
Gilad Erdan spoke beautifully at the UN. Other notable interviews were conducted with eloquent, articulate people like Naftali Bennett and U.S. based Israeli model Noa Tishbi. Exit stage left, sisters Bella and Gigi Hadid and your ilk. Sayonara.
All’s well that ends well. Shabbat Shalom to one and all.
Anxiously anticipating the grocery delivery ordered online, early last Tuesday morning. Due to all the disruptions in services and added panic and stress, the first available time slot was only this coming Sunday.
Day 11 Thursday, May 20th, 2021
Talk and more talk of a ceasefire. My foot, in a pig’s eye and fat chance!! So much for the 6 a.m. deadline. That’s been ‘postponed’ until tomorrow, maybe, that is. Oh, just wondering, at what time by the way? It’s erev Shabbat, you know. Huh!
Polls amongst residents of Ashkelon, Ashdod, Sderot show that the majority want this to go on until it’s really well and truly over. Read into that whatever you wish.
Similar findings are reflected amongst the general Israeli public, who for a change, have just finally begun to realize, once and for all, how it feels to be under siege, how people of the south have been feeling for twenty years.
The media war continues, including postings by all sorts of Hollywood celebs and wannabe ding a lings, expressing their opinions on Instagram, tik tok, FB, ‘influencers’ targeting the impressionable younger set, who apparently know not any better, all against Israel, of course.
Seems to be all the rage, with emphasis on blind, ignorant, unprecedented, unfounded rage.
The Israel Electric Company’s workers’ union has decided not to enter Gaza to repair damaged or fallen electric lines until, unless the bodies of Shaul Oron and Hadar Goldin are returned. They’ve been cruelly withheld by Hamas for going on seven years. Many others join this ultimatum. It’s high time to demand and not give in.
Humanitarian gestures in return for this one minimal of minimal, humanitarian gestures.
On Israeli tv, a young husband and wife couple, both top reporters, work around the clock, scurrying about, front line location to front line location. I know their much younger cousins and I wonder who’s looking after their infant daughter. I text the cousins to express my concerns.
Vital organs from the Jewish man killed in the Lod lynch, are transplanted to four or five recipients. One is an Arab. An Arab man who came to the rescue of a Jewish one who was being beaten by Arabs, in another city, visits him in the hospital.
A young father miraculously saves his infant son, snatching him from his highchair, running to the shelter during an air raid, narrowly missing debris from his collapsed house.
Families band together to cook up delicious meals. Armed with steaming, overflowing pots, they head out to nearby makeshift bases to feed troops in the south. Singers and entertainers visit people huddled in bomb shelters. Morale is, as in hockey terms, ‘gathering speed’. Things are looking up, even as throughout the day rockets continue to pummel down upon us, Yama vaKedma, Tzafona vaNegba (to the North, South, East and West).
This morning I went to meet my Parashat HaShavua teacher. We’ve been learning online since March 2020. Another participant in the group cancelled last minute, so she invited me to her home, a five-minute drive from here. She spent a number of years in Toronto and now lives on Ambassador Shlomo Argov St. He was our Israeli ambassador, in Britain in 1982. He survived an assassination attempt, though never fully recovered, in early June of that year. Days later, I heard the roar of fighter planes over Jerusalem. Operation Peace for Galilee had begun.
Hear me loudly and clearly: Israel and Judaism are one and the same, indivisible. Our critics take offense when we rebuff their grievances and gripes. They claim they’re not antisemitic just because they criticize our government’s policies. So, what’s this insidious ‘pandemic’ of antisemitic, terrifying incidents in Canadian cities, in every corner of the world? It’s NOT just anti-Israel, ‘freedom of expression’ sentiment. The anti-Semites’ denials fall flat.
At times, even like right now, it feels so much safer here. Keep well. We’ll see about that ceasefire.
Wednesday, 19/5/21 Day 10
Demonstrations in Montreal, the city where I spent my adolescence. Come on! Really?!
Don’t they have enough going on there, with their own unresolved Separatist issues? And I, who these past few months log onto CBC’s Tele/Radio Canada programs, for fun, to hear a little Quebecois French, as in my youth. A language so convoluted and combobulated, few outsiders, non pure laine, (pure wool), thoroughbred Quebecois, can grasp. I did and can still understand it.
A grizzly account of scenes akin to 1930’s Nazi Germany mayhem at the demonstration is forwarded to my phone by a Montreal friend, who like me, came here in the mid 70’s. Yes, antisemitism has always been there, ‘ just part of the culture’. It wasn’t just the Quebecois, though, but plenty rampant within the English ranks. I know so from attending a PSBGM (Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal) high school. My father had his share as a professor at Concordia.
So, what else is new? Let them rant and rave.
Here, more frightening stories of the sorry, unkempt state of many of the bomb shelters. The elderly and physically disabled who can scarcely access these shelters, if they even exist. A young, recent widower, father of three, whose home was destroyed, insists on remaining there, though it is unsafe.
The buck passing between this or that municipal body, government ministry, which has led to this scandalous, dangerous situation, just goes around and around.
Haven’t watched a tv show in two weeks. There’s been no regular programming, nothing but nonstop coverage, commentary, analysis. Just when I don’t think I can absorb any more, some other aspect is discussed and I’m so easily hooked in.
I wake up today, with plans! On my phone I find my son has sent me two snapshots of beloved jacarandas, spied on his way to his landscaping job in Jerusalem’s Old City. I rush to use up some cream and cottage cheese, leftover from Shavuot, and make a marbled cheesecake. It’s loosely based on the Swiss Chocolate Cheese Torte recipe, marked EXCELLENT! on pg. 132 of my tattered, stained, barely decipherable Second Helpings cookbook. It was a staple in every Canadian Jewish home, and one I’ve relied on for 46 years. It’s one of the few possessions I brought over here, so many years ago. As I scrape the last bits of sticky batter from the mixing bowl onto the pan, I think of how resilient and stubborn we people are. A stiff necked one, for better or for worse. Cake’s in the oven by 8:20.
On tv, a young couple from Sderot is interviewed. They postponed their wedding for over a year and hope to celebrate it this evening, rockets be damned. A few hours later, another couple has had to postpone, again. I long to urge them and all the others who’ve gone this route due to Covid 19, now to this business, to just go ahead with the ceremony, have a small gathering with 20-30 people. Forget the hall, the DJ, lavish, gluttonous meals. Save thousands of shekels on an event that really isn’t the main one. You’ll have big celebrations in due course. Start building your lives and homes together, already!
At 10 a.m. I have my weekly Memoir writing class, at 3 p.m. Yiddish group, both still via Zoom. It’s really convenient, given all that’s happening. Nobody really feels like travelling right now. At 4 p.m. I ‘m scheduled for my weekly grandchildren babysitting gig. They live in a community about 20 minutes southeast of Jerusalem. The road at the best of times is treacherous, windy, two lane traffic all the way. Not the best but I hold my own, even in the dark, on long unlit, stretches.
I skip a walk, have just enough time to shower, tidy up. I’ve spread my memoir papers, albeit in organized piles, all over, trying to make some order.
Daughter calls. No need for me to come today. Her Beit Shemesh workplace is allowing employees to work from home. Hers is under construction, an added second floor, near completion. The privately hired labourers didn’t show up yesterday, as the whole Arab sector was on strike.
A 16-year-old Sderot boy has been raising money to provide food for the soldiers who are protecting his city. He’s been receiving psychological support ever since he was a small child.
My daughter who lives in Yaffo, finally returned to her apartment last evening (Tuesday), hoping to resume her studies.
Just now there are reports of trouble in the North, near Haifa. Her older sister lives with her husband and 6-month-old, between Nahariya and Acco. I hope they won’t need to dodge more shelling.
The length of Israel, from Metulla to Eilat can roughly be compared to the distance between Montreal and Toronto. I made the trip back and forth down Trans-Canada highway 401, countless times. As a kid, we travelled from Halifax to visit family in Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg, every summer. How enormous Canada is I know. Picture if you can, that everything that’s been going on here is happening within this stretch of little more than 400 miles. We’re all within range of fire, even those of us who blessedly have been able to go about our daily routines peacefully. Keep us in mind, in your prayers and hearts.
Day 9 Tuesday, 18/5/21 mid afternoon
So, Shavuot came and went, at least in Israel. As I write, people in North America are waking up to a second day of Yomtov (yontiff). It will be a long one ahead, especially for anyone observant who refrains from using electronics till nightfall. I wonder if they’re wondering, how things are unfolding here. I’m encouraged to know that many are indeed concerned and supportive.
Last evening, Monday night, following a pleasantly spent holiday with my youngest daughter, we switched on the news. There had been yet more action in the south resulting in two fatalities and extensive damage. Incredibly, another avoidable disaster, leaving two dead, in a Jerusalem suburb, (Givat Ze’ev) synagogue. A service was held in an unfinished building. Permits had been denied due to it being under construction and unfit. Again, revelers jump up and down on flimsy bleachers, collapse, cascade like dominoes on top of one another. What in the name of Heaven? Why do worshippers continue to attend these mass, unauthorized events, disregarding a warning sign prominently displayed at the entrance. There’s only so much negligence one can blame on the authorities, the architects, contractors and the police. I fail to see the appeal of these ‘happenings’ and even more so, why people knowingly shirk common sense and personal responsibility.
During the chag, my daughter and I read The Book of Ruth, with its message of tending to, caring for, duty, loyalty and devotion to family, acceptance and lovingkindness towards their fellows, while ensuring the continuity of a nation. The Torah portion read for Shavuot, from the prophecies of Ezekiel, Chapter 1 verse 4, cites: “And I looked out and behold a stormy wind came out of the north, a great cloud, with a fire flashing up, so that a brightness was round about it; and out of the midst thereof as the colour of electrum, out of the midst of the fire.” It goes on to describe the four living creatures that formed the cherubs, celestial beings, bearers of the throne of glory. I was fixated on the description and couldn’t help noting and being struck by the images emanating from the Heavens. Like those we’ve seen in our skies this past week and a half. Is this a Divine sign? After over a year combatting the Corona virus, which decimated over 6,000 lives in Israel, together with thousands upon thousands the world over, all the pain and suffering of after effects the pandemic has left us with, (not officially been declared over), just when we were beginning to come up for a breath of air, resume a semblance of normalcy, then the tragic Meron disaster which claimed 45 lives, leaving in its rubble as many bereaved, extended families. The current crisis ignited as swiftly as a lit match dropped in a parched forest.
I spend the day uploading handwritten essays of decades of memories and glance every hour or so at the tv. Not an hour’s gone by without incident. At once I hear the heartwarming item that several European nations fly the Israeli flag in their capitals. In the same broadcast, a huge rally is taking place at the Damascus Gate and at Sheik Jarrah, with hordes of participants waving Palestinian flags. Many hold Israeli citizenship, work, study, receive high quality health care, voting rights and more. Staff at hospitals are trying to put up a brave face, hold it together and get on with their jobs, but it’s very tense. Public service ads of Arab and Jewish workers join in their wish and hope to continue to work side by side. There are calls to boycott Israel’s entry in the Eurovision song contest, which anyway has caved for year into being dragged into a circus of politics, instead of the celebration of international music it’s meant to be. A packing plant warehouse has been hit directly. Its casualties: two foreign workers from Thailand. It’s after 5 p.m. There’s no respite.
Sunday, 16/6/21 2 p.m. Jerusalem time
Another week, another day has dawned. A peaceful, relaxing Shabbat spent with family in a community 25 minutes outside Jerusalem, provided a welcome respite from everything going on around us. You’d never know the struggle continued all throughout Shabbat, elsewhere. What a relief to shut off all devices, just breathe, spend quality family time together.
In five hours we’ll begin the Shavuot holiday. It commemorates the momentous, awe and reverence filled, giving of the Torah, our Book of Life, to the Jewish people at the foot of Mount Sinai. In Israel, as abroad, many will stay up throughout the night, gathering to hear talks given in homes or synagogues. It is also an agricultural festival marking the reaping of the sheaves, the harvesting of the first fruits. In kibbutzim, it’s a tradition to hold a parade for parents to proudly hold aloft their new fruits: babies born in the past year.
My dairy menu, traditionally eaten to honour the land of milk and honey, consists of cheesecake and blintzes, prepared last week. I’ve pulled them out of the freezer. Advance plans for a long weekend to join my daughter housesitting at a lovely home in a desirable Tel Aviv location, were scrapped last Thursday. This daughter is scrounging around for a night or two’s lodging, making the rounds between family and friends, as she can’t go back to the Jaffa apartment she moved into, just six weeks ago, just yet. I popped out to the local supermarket, in my car, now stripped bare of the Israeli flags that have adorned it since Holocaust Memorial Day. I keep them flapping for a throughout the spring holiday season. But driving home last night I was advised to take them off, which I did so, reluctantly.
Needed to pick up a few items to see me and another daughter through the holiday. On the car radio I hear how the residents of Ashkelon send their praise, cheer on, boost morale, salute the IDF, Israeli Defense Forces and whoever else in the city is doing their utmost to protect them.
Back home on the tv, a reporter visits the maternity ward at Ashkelon’s Barzilai hospital, already overfilled, interviews a woman awaiting the birth of her baby. There are only five secure areas in which patients can hide. Will the lady give birth amidst rocket fire, air raid warning sirens? How?? The normally high level of anxiety at such a time, absolutely ‘skyrockets’.
Mass demonstrations against Israel across the globe, are gathering speed, especially across the U.S. and in London. Who on earth are these people? What do they know about any of this? Have they any intelligent, informed opinion about this crisis? Are they being paid to turn out in rabid, uncontrollable droves? Do they attend every and any other kind of demonstration? At the drop of a hat, millions can be counted on to participate in these malicious anti- Israel acts. For shame! As kids we’d shout the ditty: ‘Sticks and stones may break our bones, but names will never hurt us’. This has never rung truer, than now. Chag Sameach
(Posted May 14 )Here I am in my humble apartment at the end of the line, in Jerusalem’s East Talpiot (Armon Hanatziv) neighbourhood.
We sure have had our share of troubles, some stabbings and terror attacks in recent years, which resulted in a number of fatalities. Surrounding us are three, not exactly friendly Arab villages: Jabel el Mukaber, Tzur Baher and Um Lussun. My place is a mere 5 minutes’ walk from these bordering villages. We mildly interact with their residents who frequent our little strip mall, the bank, which was turned into a wholesale fruit and vegetable store, the post office and the health clinic. We sit side by side on a bench waiting at the bus stop. The Arabs can board the Egged buses and also have another line for themselves. There are no fences, nothing between us, nothing preventing anyone’s mobility. We Jewish Jerusalemites cannot venture across the street into the Arab villages. It’s not done, there is real danger. A few Arab families have moved onto my street. There’s an Arab woman living in the apartment below mine.
On Monday afternoon I heard a siren wailing. As that’s a regular occurrence around here, I didn’t pay it any mind. Police frequently need to patrol the area and the station is strategically located at the edge of the street where Jabel el Mukaber and Armon HaNatziv dovetail.
So I wasn’t alarmed, but after it persisted in piercing the silence of the late afternoon, decided I’d sneak a quick peek at the tv. On the upper right hand corner of the screen I saw the Home Front Command’s flashing list of cities, warning residents that they were at that very moment being fired upon. Jerusalem appeared.
My building, built in the 70’s in the post 1967 Six Day War housing boom, has no proper communal bomb shelter, certainly no secure rooms in our individual apartments. From my experiences in 2014 with Tzuk Eitan (Operation Protective Edge) while my son was doing reserve duty in Gaza, I knew to calmly open my door and join other neighbours who’d congregated in the stairwell.
It was however, a one-off event.
I spent the rest of the evening glued to the news of how much of the rest of Israel was being relentlessly bombarded including in Jaffa, where my daughter resides.
My last thoughts that night were wondering how this is happening in Jerusalem on its special holiday, celebrating the marvelous reunification of the city 54 years ago. Hours beforehand I’d gone to visit Ammunition Hill where some of the ’67 battle for Jerusalem had taken place. I rode the light rail train, even passing the Damascus Gate station, where nothing seemed at all amiss. Later wandered leisurely downtown. It was a lively scene, full of people shopping, eating, enjoying the lovely weather. Yes, true just a few kilometres away the Temple Mount was experiencing chaos and unrest, for a change. That too is a constant. But for a short time, people elsewhere were going about their business, unperturbed.
Before retiring for the night, I left a housecoat and slippers next to my front door in case I’d need to make a run for it in the wee hours. Next morning (Tuesday) I woke to more bad news of overnight shooting and firing of hundreds of rockets inflicting great panic, shock, fear, injuries, extensive emotional and material damage on hundreds of innocent civilians, old and young, Arabs and Jews alike.
All the while this whole week I sit comfortably, in surreal, fantasyland silence, but for the chirping of birds, the sound of a gentle breeze, a whiz of a delivery truck or a whirr of a motorcycle, a far off barking dog, yet less than two hours away, my fellow Israelis are running in and out of bomb shelters, their homes and all their possessions are being destroyed one after another. The tv flashes, blares their eyewitness accounts, some with bloodied bodies, of sleepless nights, scenes of ambulances delivering and unloading the injured, hospital staff describing the nature and seriousness of the victims’ conditions.
Updates and several death notices.
I rarely turn the tv on during the day, at most hear one or two radio newscasts daily. These last few days I have kept it on low volume as I want to hear and see everything, including the endless analysis offered by a slew of reporters and commentators, who themselves are in the line of fire, and haven’t eaten or slept in their own beds for days. In between I do mute it altogether and take breaks. The minute-by-minute dramatic reports, progressively worse and horrific by the hour and day, are too much to process. Graphic images of the riots and vandalism that erupted in the so-called mixed cities, pogrom scenes of burned shuls, of the unravelling of the hard-won good working relations, some even social, woven between the Arab and Jewish sectors are devastating. Invasive footage of shattered and scarred dwellings, peoples’ bedrooms, clothes closets in disarray with their owners milling about lost and disoriented. The entire country is out of control. So many voices shouting, nobody on the same page, no sense of taking charge or any attempt to calm matters to manageable.
We, our Jewish People, everywhere, whether affiliated, Zionist oriented or not, endure a stubbornly determined enemy. Hamas is not a sovereign nation, nor a nation at all, but a ‘recognized” terror organization that represents nothing and no one, but its own barbaric agenda. Yet it has garnered so much support from ‘civilized’ and ‘enlightened’ countries, that shower Hamas with financial and moral resources. They’ve engaged us in this savage war on a civilian population for years on end. We must literally fight to save our very homes. Nowhere else in the Western world would this ever be remotely tolerated.
A friend who came on aliya just under three years ago, lamented the fact so few of her friends and family back in the old country, had reached out to ask if she was okay. She was so disappointed. I had to break it to her gently, telling her to no longer expect a thing. Israel’s troubles do not necessarily touch people in the way we wish or thought they did. They do not realize or cannot fathom what this feels like, even for those of us who have been blessedly spared harm. We need the phone call, the email, the WhatsApp. We certainly wish Jews in the Diaspora showed us more interest and concern.
I sit here feeling frightfully guilty, fairly useless and left out in a way, though ever grateful to be in that position.
I try to get inside the heads of those this is affecting directly, how horrible it must feel. My own ongoing issues seem small, insignificant, how can they dare be compared at all to this?
The very least I can do is stay tuned and attuned to the plight of the hundreds and thousands around Israel, try to feel their fear, anxiety, pain and anticipate the rehabilitation they’ll need to undergo, the post trauma symptoms that will surely ensue, the stamina and perseverance they’ll need to muster, to brace themselves for chasing the authorities to grant compensation, whether it be to assess their homes or to evaluate their mental or physical state caused by this. It might take years to assess the damages, even have their claims heard, let alone see any money. Where will they live in the meantime, how do they replace their prized possessions, clothing, basic furniture, appliances? How will shopkeepers rebuild their businesses, earn their livings?
They may be too shocked to realize they have a long, arduous mourning process to go through. It’s essential to their health and welfare that they do so, no glossing over, no need to be stoic. I hope they have strong support systems and get all the help they can.
My little corner of quiet seems more luxurious than any fancy vacation spot, compared to what lies ahead for the victims. How can I even help, I have no professional training, I can’t just drive around the towns, and offer any real assistance.
All I have is to offer a huge sense of solidarity. I wish them all a hefty dose of resilience, of faith and confidence that they will overcome this tragedy.
I hope this episode will soon be behind us and that we restore some semblance of normalcy and calm. It’s always volatile here, that’s just our ‘normal’. We live in a constant state of prolonged crisis, if that even makes any sense, but we do it well, even when we’re on the brink of collapse, falling apart. We still stand firm and always know we’ll make it and stand proudly on our feet again.
For now, I’ll try to enjoy what I can. The mauve coloured leaves of the jacaranda trees have blossomed and tower overhead so majestically. I await their appearance in all their glory, annually. They dominate high above all manner of foliage, proudly declaring supremacy and dignity. They’ll only look this way and stay for another two weeks or so, as these South American beauties only grace us with their presence during the month of May. I await their appearance in all their glory, annually. We Israelis, though, will stick around. Our roots are deeply and firmly planted in this land.
From wherever we are, we will always derive our greatest strength from within. We know our nation’s purpose and mission, why and how we have come this far to build this land.
Chazak V’amatz, (Be strong and brave) Am Yisrael!! Keep our spirits and morale up, even in these worst of times. Our fortitude, courage and grace under fire will see us through this to better days.
We will continue to share and contribute what we do best: science, technology, medicine, education, tourism and so much more. May the nations of the world see us for the light and goodwill we graciously extend.
May 13, 2021