Monday, August 07, 2006

Surreal in IsraelLand

Life gets more and more surreal. I don't even know where to start in describing my day. The bizarreness of it all hit me this afternoon. I decided to go for a swim at around 6pm, and was driving up to the pool. I can't seem to listen to music in the car right now, it has to be the radio, has to be people talking. Of course, what they are generally talking about right now is the war, which is not the cheeriest of subjects. I am trying to cut down on news etc.. because I haven't been sleeping well since we got back last week. Anyway, the discussion on 95.5 FM, Reshet Bet, was actually about Israeli Arabs and how they are treated, following on from something that happened in the Knesset.. from what I could gather, apparently an Arab MK made some anti-Israel comments and people called for him to be removed, something like that. Well, it was a fascinating discussion, but what was totally wierd was that every few minutes the female host of the show would say

"Yes, Jerusalem?"

and a mellifluous male announcer would gravely say

"The warning siren has just sounded in Kiryat Shmona. All residents are advised to go to their shelters and they may come out fifteen minutes after the siren has sounded, unless they are told otherwise,"

and then the discussion started right up again as if nothing had happened.

A few minutes later, she said "Yes, Jerusalem?" and the whole thing happened again, with the male voice saying exactly the same thing, except the place was different. As I was driving, I was hearing, in real time, when sirens were going off in the north. Here I am, safe in my car, driving to my fancy expensive health club for a swim, and they are running into shelters and waiting for the awful thud outside their walls.

I swam, and showered, this sentiment in the back of my mind, and as I walked out of the health club, thinking about how I would turn the radio on when I got back in the car, they were playing loud music by the pool. Not only that, it was "Caribbean Queen" by Billy Ocean, to which a class of middle-aged women was doing water aerobics.
Surreal? I think so.

Sadly, other parts of my day were all too real. My great friend D married G in October, a gorgeous outdoor wedding at a Kibbutz by a river just near Netanya. She is American, a journalist, always active, a great communicator; he Canadian, an architect, softly spoken and with a fondness for whisky. They live in Tel Aviv. I found out yesterday that he had received an emergency call-up to the army on Saturday. I immediately called D, and was amazed to hear that when he made aliyah, this gentle, artistic man had insisted on doing two years' army service instead of the one year he was required to do, and had served in Lebanon (pre-pullout in 2000). He was a combat soldier, and now he was being called up to his combat unit.

"I was sending my husband off to war," said D, wryly. "I thought, what year is this?"

They were in touch yesterday, he was in training somewhere in the country. Then today, he called her and said he was "going North" and he wouldn't be able to be in telephone contact.
That means only one thing. He is going in to Lebanon.

On the phone, from the back of the taxi she was taking back home from an interview, D broke down. She's terrified. And I'm feeling the tears coming as I write this. What hell is it that has broken out here? It happened so suddenly. We'd almost got used to the nightmare of suicide bombers, we felt reassured by guards at every restaurant entrance, offering our bags up freely for examination. But this? What is this? D told me she had spoken to an Israeli friend who had grown up here through the last thirty or so years of Israel's battles.

"She says she has never felt such an existential threat," said D.

I have to end on a more positive note. This evening, spoiled Jerusalemite that I am, I went to my meditation class. An hour and a half of "focus on the breath" and wandering around the garden just paying attention to lifting my foot and putting it back down again, which was heavenly. And I bumped into friends I haven't seen for a long time. They have 6-year-old twins, and I know that for several few years. she, A, had wanted to have another child. And she's pregnant. I got tears in my eyes when she told me. It's been one of those soggy days. B'shaa tova, to all of us.


Vanessa G said...

Hi Tania

I can only guess what life is like for you all, from the comfort of my English study. I hope your posts get read, that's all I can say. You write important things.

In the Sunday papers here, there was an excellent article by a man who edits a Jewish newspaper in the UK. (I think...) It gave a dispassionnate and factual account of the British Jewish response to the current situation. It detailed huge support and an outpouring of emotion for Israel.

But how was it illustrated? With a photo of an injured Lebanese baby.

I wondered who decided on that picture when setting the paper? Who decided to deliberately take away the strength of the words? It was only a small article. It would have done no harm to let it stand alone.... unless of course, as you said to me in the garden of a sleepy Sussex pub... that the press here is biased.

For what it is worth, I want to say this. Don't stop living your normal life. Yes, the juxtaposition must feel surreal, and sometimes I expect 'frivolous' activities will appear a bad thing to be doing.

BUT if you think like that, then the terrorists will have made a small victory. They want life as you know it in Israel to stop.

I was living and working in London in the early '70s, when the IRA were bombing. I was caugh up a few times in scares, on the Underground, in large shops. It was appallingly frightening, and one's first instincts are to run home and hide. To get out. But to do that would have been to let them win a little. So we all carried on using the Underground, shopping in Regent Treet and Oxford Street. Going to restaurants.

In the end, it was almost funny. I for one ended up spendiing far more money in those months than I would have done normally. As a protest!

love and hugs from England


solomonswise said...

So many ways I'd like to respond to what you're writing - I'm moved, saddened, anguished. I'm also so pleased that you're writing in this way - it's a delight to read.

Sending you much love

And prayers for peace


TitaniaWrites said...

Thanks, both of you, for your comments, it means a lot to me that you read my blog. I feel such a compulsion to get all this out and down in words right now. Feel free to pass the URL onto anyone, if you like. I welcome more comments.
Thanks for your support, good to know you're there!