Thursday, July 13, 2006

My Reaction

I normally don't post about world events because I don't have anything particularly useful, intelligent, or original to say about them. The blogsphere contains dozens of people expressing their opinions on crucial world events, and most of them are more informed and articulate than I am. With regards to the recent events in Israel, however, I think I might have something of a unique perspective.

I have the perspective of someone who is (G-d willing) making aliya in a month.

And I have a confession to make, as well. I was scared for the first time yesterday. That is, not just scared for Israel- the impartial fear that any American can and does feel- nor scared for loved ones in danger. I was scared for myself, moving to a country that seems to be on the brink of war.

My relatives have always thought that my family was insane for visiting Israel, much less sending their children to live there. One aunt or great-aunt told my mother that she was a horrible mother for putting us into that kind of danger. I'm used to floating around family gatherings, blithely spouting platitudes about how safe Israel really is (more likely to die in a car accident, etc), about how normal life really was, or, when I was feeling more self-righteous, about how I would be willing to die doing something I really believed in, about how you couldn't let fear stop you from doing what you knew was right.

Which is very easy to say when deep down, where you hide gut feelings, you aren't scared at all, because you know that very few people are killed and, furthermore, know for a fact that it won't be you. won't be. Because it's something that happens to people whom you later hear about in news reports.

And I felt the same way the whole year I spent there. I was aided by the fact that it was a pretty safe year. Terrorist attacks were infrequent and most of our political-thought time was spent on opposing the disengagement or worrying about civil war.

But sitting here now, listening to radio shows and news reports and all the thousands of blogs hashing and rehashing, debating and analyzing, worrying and reassuring, calling to action and critiquing, and going on and on and on...

I wish that I were there. I wish that I were already there, where I could walk outside and see how normal my life was, where I could take buses and watch the people milling about their daily lives. Where my fear would be the fear of every single one of my neighbors, and I could join them in facing it, shrugging it off, and moving on. Where I could bury my face against a building and remember that it was all worth it.

But this... it's like sitting outside an operating room. You don't know what's going on or how things are going, but every few minutes a couple of doctors come out and give hair-raising, conflicting, and vague descriptions of a loved one's surgery. And then twenty or thirty strangers sitting around you begin to analyze what that means and what will happen, and to critique the doctors' techniques, worrying that they might cause further harm. And you sit there, suddenly scared, and want to just push open the doors and come inside and sit beside the operating table, so that you'd be able to watch and be there as it happens. And maybe even help.

When I decided to make aliya, I had a very definite picture of the country I was choosing. And, to be honest, my decision wasn't particularly heroic. I knew what I was getting, and it wasn't a very scary place. But now it is. Not that I think that I am likely to be killed or anything like that, but living in a war zone is a tense, unpleasant sort of experience and it wasn't quite what I had thought I was bargaining for.

But in a way, I'm sort of glad that the fear finally managed to get through. Because it gives me a chance to test all those platitudes that I have so often mouthed. And it turns out that they seem to be true. Because I still can't wait to get there.


Irina Tsukerman said...

Even though I'm not making aliya right now, I can totally see what you mean by your analogy to an operating room. Right now, I have responsibilities tying me down... but, I, too, wish I were there. A significant portion of my family lives in Israel... their POV is that although it's definitely pretty tense right now, there's no reason to panic. I wish you the best of luck in your journey... and I hope, this, too, will come to pass soon.

Ezzie said...

Irina sent me here - beautiful post, sums it up perfectly. When I was in Israel for 2 years, and there was a suicide bombing on average once a day, it barely fazed me; my relatives and friends went on with their lives, though anxiously listening to the news, and that was that. Now that I'm back in the States, it's much more worrisome. B'hatzlacha when you move - we know a few hundred people there if you need anything. :)

shana said...

hey tobie- as someone currently living here i can tell you - its completely surreal- its really weird realizing you are in a country at war especially when "safe" places like zfat and chaifa are being hit. But as you guessed its nice to go outside and see the world is still moving- and yes i feel very safe- maybe its a false sense of safety but it really is there- that is not to say that you dont feel it- you definitely feel a tension in the air here- but it comes along with a deep sense of patriotism, pride, and solidarity. its nice to be in the operating room holding your loved one's hand. so hope to see you joining us here soon!

Miri said...

speaking as one who's making aliyah in less than a week; my mother recently suggested, albeit half-heartedly, that maybe I ought to postpone for a bit. and I objected of course, mostly on grounds of complication. but the real reason I object to the thought is - despite the fact that I know I'm on the outside looking in, and so maybe don't have a valid perspective - but this is exactly the moment I'm moving to Israel for. Because I'm sick of hearing this stuff on the news and worrying anxiously from afar. because this is Israel for real, so I know that I know what I'm getting into. I also can't wait to get there, so that my reality is everyone worrying about the soldiers and praying and organizing things to do to help, and not a news bulletin on the radio.

westbankmama said...

Very nice post - and spot on. You describe the feelings of those in America very well. I sometimes have people e-mail me or comment on my blog in semi-hysteria "how are you? What's happening?" and I always feel uncomfortable when they act as if I am a hero for not feeling scared. You get used to a lot of things living in Israel - and you learn to cope. That's why Israel survives - because we cope. And it really isn't any different than the Jews coping with all of the other terrible things we've faced over the centuries.

Mazel tov on your aliyah!

Halfnutcase said...

good luck, and with anyluck the air in isreal will make you wiser.

i totaly understand your analogy, and i too want to go to isreal although at the moment i can't.


Tobie said...

Irina- I suppose I should be grateful that I'm actually getting the chance to go there- if I had to stay here for much longer, I think it would drive me crazy.
Ezzie- Thanks!
Shana- First of all, I'm assuming you're Krak? There are so many Shana's in my life. But yes, I'm betting that once I'm actually there, it will be a lot better.
Miri- Exactly. This is our moment. This is what aliya is all about.
WestBankMama- Maybe that's what heroism really is- just continually coping.
HNC- Thank you!