Jerusalem (Reposting here this note I sent out on FB on Sat. night 11/16/12)
What to do when a siren blares and you’re not sure if it’s what you think it is, and the sky is pink and gorgeous, and the glass of wine is in your hand, and yo
u are on the balcony, and the sabbath table is all set, and the soup is ready, and you got 10 minutes to relax before heading out to prayers, because unlike the warning to the people of the South not to pray together unless the synagogues have bomb shelters and not to congregate at all if they can help it, Jerusalem is supposed to be out of range, and yes, we’re worried but feel safe – but now?? what was THAT? what do I do?? we don’t even have a shelter.
So first I rush to turn on my cellphone and the radio and grasp at voice that have fresh news, and scan the streets below for any sign of life – they’re empty, and I barely register the gun shots from across the valley in the Arab villages when it’s probably just a wedding they are celebrating, and then the sirens of the ambulances and the police, and the phone’s not working, and the panic rises. Are we now under attack? Just two minutes ago, with wine in hand i was thinking of how surreal it its that here we are and all that’s going on in Gaza, god knows, and so many people that I know in shelters down South, and others called up to the army, and I’m not because too old already- and now this –
I rush to the car, even though it’s already Sabbath, and grab my phone, and drive quickly to my parents, only 10 min. away and on the way call my sister who is further South to make sure she is ok and ask her what she knows about what’s happening here – she’s online all the time now – but still knows nothing, and I try to stay calm but my voice is shaking and I almost hit another car and I dial my mother who picks up although she just lit up the candles and I say I’m on my way and she says o thank god and we both cry and i drive faster.
The radio confirms a rocket fell outside Jerusalem but gives not more details and by the time I reach my parents street its dark outside and my father is already in the synagogues and outside my mother and his caretaker and a few other worried women huddle. Rumors fly. Faces serious and pale. We decide not to tell my father who is in a wheel chair and has been through too many wars already and doesn’t need this and decide that if another rocket happens since they don’t have a shelter they’ll go to the corridor tonight, away from windows, and tomorrow we’ll decide. One old woman stands there hand in the air and says – my home is my shelter and He will take care of me, as she kissed her hand and nods to the sky.
I have guests for dinner – will they still come? So I make sure my parents are home, and quiet, and as safe as can be and drive off to the prayer circle where they are many other friends are gathered, singing, and we pray and sing and be and I cry and we hold hands and I am grateful for this circle at this time of worries and fear and war and all this death and doubt.
Later at my home we sit for dinner, one of us lights the sabbath candles, way late and instead of the prayer just says, in Hebrew: Let there be light. And then – as if on cue, fire works are popping up across the valley – still this wedding? even tonight? and an hour later, suddenly a blast erupts right outside the window we all jump and hit the floor – only to giggle a minute later and realise it was a fire cracker or some fire works – way too close to the house, perhaps on purpose? what were these kids thinking – but no more than that.. and the fear, we all agree, is real and awful and our nerves are shot. All of us have phones on, and we know that some of us may be called up at any minute.
And now that sabbath’s out, today was quiet, and there have been no more rockets on Jerusalem but one more stopped over Tel Aviv just now, and many all day long on the South, several soldiers injured, several serious hits, and continued bombing in Gaza, at least 13 killed there, says the BBC including a pregnant woman and a child and who knows how many more will die tonight and in the next few days and the reserves are called up but I’m too old and this means that there may be ground combat and who knows why this started and enough with the blame game and all the plans are up in the air because who knows what will be tonight, tomorrow. I saw my cousin at my parents home today, he’s a leader of the Settlers movement, high ranking officer, always with a gun on his shoulder, also today, over his white shirt. “I’m happy this is happening” he says – “people will wake up to who we are dealing with – doubts will dissipate, the truth comes out.” And what about the deaths? I ask him, and he shrugs – it needs to happen. They asked for it.
Here we are again, the war that keeps on going, the blaming, the sides. I am sick of the FB status updates that choose sides with no compassion for the victims and gloat at the loss of lives. If I learned anything in life its the ability to try – to try – to hold it all with equal measure – far beyond the us and them are people who are cowering now and way way worse and this cycle is so old and vicious, but so is the potential love of other humans just because we are, and if prayers have a role if only to console and give one hope then this is what I grab on to when the siren is sounded. Let there be light.
Amichai Lau-Lavie is the Founder and Executive Director of Storahtelling, Inc. creating sustainable solutions for life-long Jewish Learning since 1999. storahtelling.org