I’m so conflicted as I write this. I can’t even find a title I like, and that’s usually one of my fortes – it just comes to me in a flash of inspiration.
On one hand, the current reality of my life in Tel Aviv is completely unacceptable. Rockets the size of mini-buses are being fired multiple times a day on dense civilian populations. I don’t feel comfortable taking our five-month-old baby to the pool for fear of a siren going off and not having a protected space nearby in which to take cover. Driving even a few minutes away seems like an unnecessary risk. Every second time I put Gadi down for a nap I end up having to bundle him up and run into the stairwell to take cover during a rocket attack.
And yet. We just went for a walk (on a route with buildings to seek shelter close by) and it’s business as usual. The sun is shining. Families are picnicking on the boulevard. Cafes are full. In a strange, surreal way, the underlying anxiety is actually tolerable – probably even a better standard of living than most people around the world. Sure, there’s an uncomfortable uncertainty – when the rockets will hit, whether Iron Dome will intercept (and let’s face it, one of these days it’s going to miss), if the Neil Young concert next Thursday will be canceled or postponed. I’m not saying it’s not unsettling – but it is livable.
But what about the new mothers just like me in Gaza? All of the normal people in Gaza. As I make my way through this weird-ass week of sirens and bomb shelters, our Gazan counterparts are constantly on my mind. I keep thinking about the mothers who are just trying to protect their own little babies, as the IDF attacks terror targets left, right and center. And to be honest, it makes my considerations seem kind of precious.
I found it hard to sleep the night of the first rockets on Tel Aviv this week – I kept thinking I was hearing air raid sirens and worrying about what angle a rocket would hit if it slammed into our apartment. But there were none, and realistically I would have heard if there was, and eventually I did sleep. Do new mothers in the Gaza Strip have any time to relax between night feeds under these unrelenting attacks, night after night? Are their babies screaming non-stop? Do they have roofs? I can’t stop thinking about it.
I’m so conflicted as I write this. I simultaneously agree and disagree with so many of the arguments I see splattered across my Facebook News Feed. I think the Israeli management of the conflict is stupid – short-sighted and uninspired and aggressive. But yes, we do have the right to defend ourselves, and life for Israelis in the South under rocket fire is intolerable, and what would America do if Mexico…. bla bla. And of course Hamas is no better – the Islamist organization has no regard for human life, poor organization and planning at best and murderous intent at worst. And that’s to say nothing of efforts and failures at fair reporting locally and abroad.
Last time we lived through almost the exact same war – in 2012 – I was running the JPost.com news website. During one rocket attack I was walking home after a long day in the newsroom, blasting music in my headphones, and managed to completely miss a siren. I tweeted about it and received polarized responses – from “take care,” “shalom,” and “stay safe” to “oh poor you, no headphones – think about all the Gazans you’re killing.” Trying to keep an unbiased, journalistic voice, I said little. But you know what – both responses are right. Everyone should be able to walk down the street listening to The Prodigy and not have to worry about their personal safety. All human beings should have that luxury. And yet by the same token, it really was but a small inconvenience to my life – a cute anecdote, if that.
I’m conflicted because I don’t want to be political, and I want this blog to be about mindfulness and parenting and yoga and other such crunchy topics. But this is the reality of our lives at this moment, and I do want to give my internal conflict a voice. I believe that this dichotomy is shared by many, and ends up being the reason that nothing changes. Because for most Israelis (civilians in the South under constant attack notwithstanding) – it’s not bad enough to do anything. And for most Palestinians, it’s too bad to even imagine life any other way.
There has to be a better way. The bottom line is that we – Israelis in Tel Aviv – can deal with life like this. Possibly for a long time. I don’t know how long Gaza can hold out. And I shudder to think of the long term effect on the psyches of the Gazan people – will any of them ever really recover from these bi-yearly military operations? Is there any chance of the babies just like Gadi growing up not hating Israelis? I honestly doubt it.
And it doesn’t matter who’s to blame – this is exactly what we can’t afford to tolerate.
I’m bringing up a lot of questions, wishy-washy statements, emotions – and few answers, I know. Everyone has to take this situation and do with it what feels right for them. But for me – it’s gotta be a catalyst for change. Because if Israel keeps going the way it seems to be going – fast to the Right with no sign of it making anything any better, with regular mini wars with neighboring terrorist groups – then we’re not going to want to raise kids here. And I want to be clear – I wasn’t born into this society; I came here to realize a dream of bringing up children in an Israel of which I could be proud.
I’m not proud right now, and I want to be.
I can’t be responsible for everything, no one can, but I can do my bit to make this society into one that could make peace – when the conditions are ripe. I can speak up against intolerance, against senseless violence and against bolstering an “us and them” mentality which marginalizes the “other” and justifies all manner of unethical behavior. Without pointing fingers, without assigning blame – just calling a spade a spade when I can.
To this end, my husband and I just joined Israel’s left-wing party, Meretz. It’s a small step and you probably won’t see either of us leading the party any time soon, but at least we’ll be putting a little bit of time, money and energy where our proverbial mouths are. Doing something to prime Israel for peace, adding our voices to the whisper that still thinks it’s possible.
But even if every single Israeli followed suit right now, it still wouldn’t be enough – Palestinians are going to need to do the same. In Gaza, in the West Bank, wherever else – please, for your own sake. To those of you looking at your babies and wondering what will be – find some way to do the same. My life is already pretty good. It’s your lives that stand to get so much better if we can somehow find it in our hearts to make peace. Know that there are Israelis who believe in peace. Use the word. Convince your husbands and your fathers and your mothers and your sisters.
For our sons.