Last week I listened to the news and puttered in the kitchen while FD attended the synagogue in the morning. He attends every day. When he came home for breakfast all smiles, I reconsidered telling him. But a couple of minutes later I solemnly reported, "Three boys were killed in a bomb this morning in Iraq."
He groaned. I groaned. We hate hearing about boys killed anywhere.
Then the very next morning he came home from shul and said, "You know those three boys you told me about, the ones killed in Iraq? One of them belonged to our synagogue."
That first degree of separation. The funeral was yesterday, at our shul, but we couldn't go.
I wasn't going to tell you this, but I'm out of the country. I took off for Switzerland on Sunday, left Dov and Cham to watch my fish. There's a lot to say about Switzerland, but it's peaceful and pleasant there, so it can wait.
What I want to tell you about is what it's like living in Israel, now that we have this peace with the Palestinians. For as you may know, we gave up a significant stretch of land for peace relatively recently, a long stretch of beach property, a place called Gaza. Jews left their homes and their synagogues in Gaza and now live in tents because, as you must know, this is a step in the right direction, a step for peace. Yes, read the sarcasm. You don't need an interpreter.
No, this is not a political blog. And I had no intention of posting about my trip while away, certainly no intention to talk Israeli politics with you. I had several drafts in Blogger to pick and choose from that I could have posted instead of this.
I did post one this morning, ironically, about determining when to be passive, when to be assertive, when to be aggressive. And now I see that here in Israel, that is exactly what needs to be determined.
Why not just tell the story? Because I'm in a bad mood, and that's never a good thing. But I want you to think about this passive, assertive, aggressive thing. Assertiveness, speaking just the facts, has always been my default.
We have a son learning in a yeshiva in the south of Israel, not terribly far from Gaza. Gaza, the land the Israeli's gave the Palestinians for their very own last year, is where Hamas takes credit, although sometimes competes with Hezbollah for credit, for shooting rockets into Israel. These rockets, Kassams, are fired every day. Thousands of rockets a year. We don't have this problem in America. If the Canadians shot Kassams at us, or if the Mexicans shot Kassams at us, there would be some explaining to do.
At the very least, some asserting, at worst, some aggressing.
When they take out an Israeli citizen here in Israel, the terrorist organizations cheer. I think of Hamas and Hezbollah as gang-bangers, but instead of using pistols they use rockets.
We picked up our littlest (19) at his school yesterday and shlepped him up to his aunt's apartment in a town north of Tel Aviv, where we'll be staying for a couple of days. We took him out for dinner and caught up, and this morning, after a great pancake breakfast that my sister-in-law had no right to make us, since this is a work day for her, took off in my nephew's Fiat. Little One had to get back to school.
Well, he didn't have to get back, but that's the kind of kid he is. We'll steal him back soon enough for a little more vacation.
Anyway, he's a kid and you have to feed them regularly, so on our way back to his school out in the country, we stopped in one of the coastal cities for a slice of pizza. We carried out the food to eat in the car, a bit in a hurry to get back in time for afternoon prayers. You have no idea what it's like, constantly having to be back for the praying.
No sooner had we turned onto the highway when we realized we were going nowhere. Nowhere. Cars were backed up EVERYWHERE. This didn't feel good, sitting in traffic. And for some reason my nephew does not keep his radio in his car (something tells me he worries it will be stolen). It's a scaled-down five-speed, a stick shift, white, like all the cars in Israel. Did I say stick shift? One day remind me to tell you what I do to clutches. Not pretty.
Anyway, we sat in traffic for about an hour when we finally made it to an intersection and could turn off the main highway. FD gunned the motor to get us anywhere but there. At the next intersection, same thing. Another parking lot of cars, all idling, nowhere to go. He started driving in the only direction that didn't have traffic, towards the coast.
Fine, fine. The coast is safe, but you can't just go ANYWHERE in Israel. Anywhere isn't necessarily safe. He drove south a bit (toward Ashkelon and Gaza) and I nagged him, Let's not end up in Gaza, PLEASE. I can assert with the best of them.
He turned around and headed north towards Tel Aviv, then found a stretch west to my son's school, and then south again, and eventually we dropped him off, safe and sound.
The highway we would have ordinarily taken back to FD's sister's apartment was cut-off to the south at this point, but we were going north. We still had no idea why everything had shut down. With me behind the wheel now, and heading away from whatever was going on, it didn't take long to get back home.
I'm not going out again, I told him. I'm in for the night. FD drove off to see another nephew. He's borrowing my nephew's piano for a gig in Israel. Incredible, that.
My brother-in-law is cooking and I ask for help. He says, Not now, and I'm out of there! The t.v. and the elyptical machine are free! In a better mood already, I flip through channels and find a movie in English with Hebrew subtitles, something about a mule and basketball and Chicago. I'm really pumped. Just as I'm getting into a groove b-i-l steps into the room.
Uh, can I turn on the news? There were 40 rockets landing in Sederot this afternoon. At least one person is dead. That's why you were delayed. All the traffic south, didn't go anywhere. You were right there, you know.
Well, not right there, at all. But the range of these rockets seems to get longer and longer.
I watched the news. If you've never seen footage of a decent explosion, how the walls and ceilings cave in and people bleed and sirens sound and people cry, and if you've never seen missiles take off into the sky in pillars of smoke through the clouds, well, you've missed out, I suppose, assuming you like this sort of thing.
WHY? I ask the chef.
He tells me that the police had stopped a car of terrorists at the border this morning with explosives and killed all of them. The 40 kassam rockets, this mess, these casualties, these deaths, are revenge.
The Israelis have to decide, although it's likely they've already decided, do they reciprocate in kind? The chef turns to me and says, almost tearfully, because here life is so precious, each life:
We give them land and from this land they shoot rockets at our hospitals. We never turn down anyone in a hospital, no Arab, no Jew, no one (the insurance issue isn't like it is in the U.S.) But they shoot missiles at our hospitals. They shouldn't even show this footage (we are looking at the wreckage of a cafeteria outside the hospital at Sederot, the Israeli city nearest to Gaza).
They cheer in the streets, celebrate. They LIKE to see this. They don't care about human life. We treat their wounds. They shoot rockets at us. We should retaliate. We wait like sheep for these attacks. We stop them at our borders with explosives, and kill them before they murder us. Then it is an excuse for them to try to kill us again.
For them, it's a win-win situation. If we don't kill them, they blow us up. If we do kill them, they fire missiles and hope to kill us.
Always a problem. Passive? Assertive? or Aggressive? The Israelis have never gone after Palestinians in the past, knowing they would kill innocent civilians. They won't start now. The kassams are fired from civilian neighborhoods. They don't send missiles into civilian neighborhoods.
What's a country to do?