Sunday, August 3, 2014

August 2-3

Saturday/Sunday (Weekend edition)

Tel Aviv

Days 17 and 18 of the war

One of the rewards of Shabbat dinner is the attendance of young adults, the kids of my husband’s childhood friends and my daughter’s Garin sisters in arms. It’s Israel; families stay together on weekends, even after each has a driver’s license.  As a frequent visitor and now a mom of two soldiers in wartime, I feel embraced by the new generation. The girls in particular call to check up, bake a cake (chocolate, my ultimate comfort) and share sophisticated world views that I could not have formed at their age. In truth, I cannot keep up with them and it occurs to me that maybe banners thanking soldiers are right, and I have to cede. Maybe I do stand on their shoulders. Maybe it is already their time.

Hanging out with young adults means going to bed late, so I was completely jarred by Hamas’s siren at
6am on Saturday morning. Iron Dome… I know. But we still got up. I got to sleep at 2am. So 6am was only four hours later. Really Hamas? The early siren in my ear put me in a dark mood for a while, as I contemplated men (surely not women!) who would give the order to shoot a rocket at Tel Aviv. Rather barbaric, to borrow White House spokesman Josh Earnest’s phrase to describe Hamas when they were at that point violating a ceasefire by sending a suicide bomber through a tunnel to blow up and take IDF soldiers with him; 64 fallen. How can leaders encourage humans to die for a cause, while they hide? The family of the soldier the violators grabbed last heard of young Hadar being dragged into a tunnel, though he like another two did not survive this attack. How will they ever step into a tunnel now, without a pang? How will I? It propels me back to when three-year-old Eric, now in battle gear, disliked driving through long, dark tunnels in Switzerland where we lived. We counted the seconds out loud with him until he saw the light at the end. This innocent memory takes on a sinister hue. I need to be pulled back from the brink.

By humor:

By family: Alone I am a pillar, with Sara I am a column, and with Jacques I form a wall, which Eric defends. Jacques is too reserved to blog, though he has a deep reserve of wisdom; he just hasn’t committed to the pour. Instead, in the background he feeds me news and shares two articles by Americans who write from this ‘space’ and time, and make me feel less isolated and less bizarre. Judith Levy (no relation to Jacques), a New York mom at home in Israel, writes from an anguished heart that the world sees Israel as the bad guy. Michael Oren, American-born Israeli historian, author, and former Israeli Ambassador to the United States, writes from a sturdy head that helps us look forward. From each I gained strength.

Judith Levy lamented in “A View From Here” (Israel) 2 days ago, in a way that makes me feel I am looking in a more polished mirror, except I look older, based on the age of her kids. Every example this other Ms. Levy offers up of people hating on Israel “(Mark Ruffalo, Mia Farrow, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Elvis Costello, Roger Waters, Jon Stewart, Rihanna, Whoopi Goldberg, Ryan Gosling, Eddie Vedder, John Cusack, the list goes on)” is sadly true, but I am as I said the older Ms. Levy, and I know loud stage whispers of opposition always slip out of mouths of uninformed actors in times of war. Remember Hanoi Jane (Fonda)? She repented.  As someone more enlightened lifted Penelope off her Cross (fittingly, Cruz in Spanish). And I hope Ms. Levy caught the delectable diatribe of Jon Voigt who took on the whole list of his silly peers, another share from Jacques, and I thank them both:

This time around I suggest that positive outside voices, ie third parties not Jewish or Muslim, are actually louder than ever, though hardly forceful enough, as you still have to strain to catch them. Perhaps not because they are fewer in number – who knows? – but only because they are the more normal, better adapted to society, more enlightened, and less prone to rant. They have, as we say, a life, a meaningful, balanced life. As do, in general, people in Israel. My strongest encouragement for optimism comes from inside this small, cutting edge country, which becomes more attractive and livable every year. The re-born Jewish homeland has lengthening modern roots and deepening modern culture. The British talked of building in Uganda, but our ties are here. This is Judaism’s past, and its present.  Israel is successful, and astonishingly so. Michael Oren yesterday published “In Defense of Zionism.” Jews need and have someplace to come to, and many come just because they want to be here.  Here, in particular.

There are hundreds of kids like mine who willingly come before, during or after college in America, Canada, Europe or elsewhere to serve, in spite of ever-potential danger. The soldiers right now are caught a war, and we expect they can make Israel safe again so citizens here can stop listening after every loud motor, every sharp pitch, to make sure it isn’t a bomb siren. Soon Israelis will let go of this mild form of shell shock, and get on their lives. But not yet. Yesterday a man in southern Israel was badly hurt when he couldn’t get to a safe room quickly. Shrapnel head to toe. The country remains patiently resolute, and deeply saddened by the loss of life. Netanyahu has the population’s support, and in turn asks for that of every civilized population in the world on television, in Hebrew and in English, while gently suggesting that as Israel goes today, so do they all tomorrow. Islamic terrorism is more anti-West than anti-Semite.

In our way we all defend, by serving, talking, reading, donating, and patronizing businesses that are enduring a long war. We wandered outside for long hours on Shabbat, and many families were out with us. We had a hard time parking. It was heartening. I will never complain about parking again. (Just remind me.) The beach was teeming.  Matkot not rocketot. The port boardwalk boomed with sounds of children, as mothers have 3 kids on average. A brand new baby was being soothed by her young mother and for a moment all was right in the world.

Toddlers played in a sprinkler system right worthy of Epcot Center. Bigger kids zoomed along and we had to sidestep every stripe of scooter, with every kind of driver. Some may be destined to fly planes in the Israeli Air Force, but they will be taught to use big weapons to shed the least blood, ours and theirs.  Warn before a bomb. Aim.  Then leave so you can announce, as today, two tunnel-rid Gazan towns are clear to reinhabit, the only danger now being the booby-traps inside some homes, gifts of Hamas.

On the way home, we strolled past the hall overlooking the beach where Sara attended a Garin sister’s younger brother’s bar mitzvah. If all goes according to Hoyle, in five years that boy will be a soldier, because an army stage of life is surely in store for his generation again. Even though he knows it is coming, the enormity of it will still hit him abruptly but it will also unite him with his peers, and teach him of Israel’s purpose, of its character, and of its characters. Like his older brother, he may choose to still be in the IDF on the day of his wedding. He might then become a father, a grandfather. Who knows how the Arab neighbors will act toward his kids or grandkids, but if Israel remains the same as now, dayenu.

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