Once upon a time, several weeks ago, I started a Facebook thread in a group I belong to. It’s mostly moms, all very smart, thoughtful people. Most of them live in the United States, though there are a sprinkling of us from Elsewhere, or expats, or temporarily assigned abroad.
I mentioned that AM, who is now 9 — “almost 10,” he says, as one does who is nearing one’s half-birthday — has started riding his bike one kilometer to his twice-weekly tennis lessons, thereby allowing me to take Miss M across town for a class that begins at the same time.
It was meant as an “it gets better” post, to give hope to the people who feel as if they are drowning in the never-ending demands of their tiny despots and the society that expects us to chauffeur them everywhere, while holding down a job and keeping a spotless house. On Sundays, when both my kids have these simultaneous after-school activities, I actually have an nearly an hour TO MYSELF. In the middle of the afternoon! It’s a whole new chapter, let me tell you. (I don’t spend it cleaning. What am I, crazy?)
People mentioned that Israel, in their minds, was an unsafe place, but are wise enough to know that they are under the influence of the photographs and descriptions that make the international media. Suicide bombings, war operations, major riots, be they Palestinian or ultra-Orthodox, make it through, of course (and well as LOOK AT ALL THAT TECH IN TEL AVIV AND ALSO BEACHES WITH HOTTIES), but not wildflowers and cool graffiti.
I described my boring giant suburb, where there are dozens of parks, and horrible traffic during school dropoff and pickup hours, and they roll up the sidewalks at 9:30 at night, but obviously it’s a different experience from an American suburb with the same vibe. So I volunteered to take pictures.
And I did. But then I got busy with holidays and the kids were underfoot for two weeks, and I was trying to work, and the general mess of life took over before I got a chance to post the pictures.
And then Israelis started being attacked. It started with a shocking murder of parents in front of their children, and then within days the entire country was on alert. There have been stabbings, Molotov cocktails, and giant rocks being thrown at cars and busses. The flash point is allegedly the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the location of the Al-Aqsa mosque and under control of the Waqf, and the fear that Jews will be allowed to visit in larger numbers and pray there (they currently cannot, under threat of arrest), although the Netanyahu government has repeatedly stated that there is no intention of a change to this policy. Regardless, this is being used as justification to rally the hatred of many people, some of whom have literally taken to the streets with knives and rocks and intent to kill.
(NB: It is pretty difficult to obtain a gun here, hence the weapons of choice.)
It is too much to go into the entire history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict here. Let’s just say that it goes back much further than the Gaza withdrawal, the Sinai withdrawal, the wars of 1973, 1967, 1956, or 1948, or the Balfour declaration. People of different religions and different (though similar) ethnic backgrounds sharing this space goes back for many generations. Jews have been in the historical record here for more than 3,000 years, so I don’t really like it when we are told to go back to where we came from. (Also note that if you’re talking recently, the Israelis who have come from Arab lands have nowhere to go back to – they are unwelcome in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, north Africa and elsewhere.)
Please note: I am fully aware that many people who live in the Palestinian Authority have difficulties, be they economic or otherwise. Some of these are brought on by their horrifically corrupt governments (Hamas and Fatah), that glorify violence and give payouts to families of terrorists and take away their international aid in order to build more terrorist infrastructure or build luxury palaces in Ramallah or Qatar. Some are brought on by the Boycott, Sanction, & Divestment movement, which alleges to want to help them but instead takes away their jobs. They feel trapped. This is understandable. But it’s not about “settlers,” because we are all settlers to the Palestinian Authority government.
As I pointed out on Facebook, ridding Israel of its Jews would not, I’m guessing, bring a utopian peace to the land, because all those Arab countries that are now empty of their centuries worth of Jewish communities – Aleppo, Damascus, Sanaa, Baghdad, Cairo, and others – are experiencing civil and religious unrest even now, decades later. Imagine that!
Ok, back to right now. Things are very tense. Even in my boring, “undisputed” (although Arab governments like Iran and the Palestinian Authority, would gladly have it, and me, gone) city there are now checkpoints and beefed up police presence, because we are at no less risk than Tel Aviv, Afula, Kiryat Gat, Petach Tikva, and all the other previously quiet places that have suffered from vicious attacks lately. (I know, I know, you’re thinking: Where on earth is Afula? It’s a little industrial, mixed Arab-Jewish city in the north of Israel, home to an amazing cafe that we try to stop at every time we take a trip even vaguely in that direction.) And now there are revenge attacks in Jerusalem, Dimona, on the roads. It’s horrible.
So I have been putting of my show of normalcy. (Although, to tell the truth, what is mostly making the news is only when the terrorists are taken down, now with extra slant!) But if this is an intifada, when is the right time to explain to people that I am ok? That we are taking safer roads to Jerusalem, but I still worry about my kids’ teachers, who live beyond the so-called green line? That the idea of pulling up stakes now and deserting the country that would have me under ANY circumstances is just not going to happen?
How about right now? Yes. Right now. Here is a slice of my neighborhood. (And, full disclosure, the next one over.)
The city I live in is in a landing path for Tel Aviv”s Ben Gurion airport. Which is actually in the city of Lod, but Tel Aviv is way more sexy. Sometimes the planes fly very low, and the 747s sound like they are going to land in my backyard.
This large apartment complex might be an architectural eyesore masquerading as a nod to the Romans (it’s an aquaduct! it’s a plane! it’s terrible!), but it’s a great landmark when giving directions.
This is a fantastic park. Americans might see it as a lawsuit waiting to happen, I don’t know.
This is a complex of kindergartens for age 5. They feed into the elementary school next door, where my kids attend.
An elementary school with different types of residential buildings rising on the hill beyond. The sign is warning you to go slow because there is a school.
A cute park for smaller kids, in the shadow of three high-rise apartment buildings.
My city’s branch of Yad Sarah, a wonderful organization that loans medical equipment to anyone who needs it, including breastpumps, crutches, wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, and about a million other things. It has a big volunteer base and services people all over the country.
A synagogue that prays in style of Jews that came from north Africa, mixed with Israeli customs.
A meditative spot that is a memorial for fallen soldiers and residents killed in terror attacks. It is carefully tended and has signs up forbidding dogs and ball playing.
I joke that these are the native birds of Modiin. (Cranes, get it?) The city is still under construction and allegedly will keep going until it’s home to 250,000 people. This is shocking to me, because we’re only at 90,000 and it’s already impossible to find a parking place at the mall on Friday morning.
Dinner rush at the city’s best falafel place. That’s Miss M in the middle of the scrum.
Did someone order a ham with his falafel? Nope. Just pickles and hummus and fries.