Big plastic hammers

Sometimes our world feels (and is) so scary - so full of threat and it seems like there is so little regard for the value of human life.  It makes me want to stay at home with all of the lights off and the doors locked and never come out again.  I know I sound incredibly naive but, honestly, what has to happen to someone for them to want to end other peoples lives?  I mean, I really cannot wrap my brain around it.

I've been thinking all morning about the period of time when I lived in Israel in 1994.  It was a very insecure time (when isn't it?) and there were many attacks and suicide bombings.  I have several very distinct memories of complete chaos surrounding the insecurity of the situation.  I remember being on a bus to Eilat that had to turn around while I was on my way down there because of a suicide bombing near Be'er Sheva.  I remember the other students I was studying with who stopped taking buses altogether and relying solely on taxis.  I remember a  tragic double bombing at Beit Lid that killed a young medic soldier who had lived on my kibbutz - he was really popular and fun and such a good person.  The people who knew him then still mourn him today.  He was my age at the time and so full of promise.  I can remember coming back to the United States and people wondering what the hell I had been doing in Israel - a place that was constantly threatened by bombs and suicide attacks.

That year on Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day), I traveled to Jerusalem by bus from Haifa with my Arab Druze friend, Ramez, to visit our friend Saul and join in on the wild celebrations in the streets of downtown.  There had been many bombings in the weeks leading up to the celebration and Hamas had promised a "blood bath" in the streets of Jerusalem - exactly where we were heading.  Ramez assured me that we'd be safe - that there would be so much security and that we would quickly forget to be scared.  In fact, he was right, and the scariest part was the bus ride - I felt paranoid the entire time that there might be a suicide bomber on the bus with us.  At one point, the bus broke down and we were all moved onto another bus.  My heart was pounding out of my chest.  I felt totally out of control and helpless.  I remember thinking that if I died, it would be ok - because I'd be dead.  End of story.  I was more scared of losing limbs or my face or the person sitting next to me.  I remember feeling so angry that we had to live like that - always scared that someone nearby would explode themselves so that they could kill me.

Obviously, we were fine.  It was an awesome celebration.  Everyone out in the streets, dancing, singing, throwing confetti, spraying silly string and for some reason the thing I enjoyed most was running around and bonking people on the head with a big plastic noise making hammer.  I bonked old people, religious people, children, soldiers.  It actually helped me work out some of my fear and anger.

At the same time that I was living there, I was hearing scary stories of random acts of violence happening here.  I was actually scared of returning back to LA because of the gang violence, car jackings, armed muggings, rapes and murders.  At least in Israel, I felt safe to run by myself at night through a park.  I felt safe leaving a bar and walking home.  I even felt safe hitchhiking (perhaps I shouldn't have - but I did).  You hardly ever heard of non-"political" violence happening over there in those days.

Today it is obvious that our security situation has become a lot more like theirs and their society has begun to more closely mirror ours.  I don't know which country I feel more sorry for...and, the truth is that neither place has probably ever been as safe as we thought it was....perhaps no place is.  All of the places that I once thought of as safe have become totally unsafe - recently a villa in Costa Rica near our house was robbed by armed intruders in the night, children are gunned down and murdered their school in Newtown, CT, two bombs exploded in Boston during the marathon yesterday; and of course, my beautiful nine and half month old baby dies at daycare....not by violence but still dead.  Honestly, is no place safe?  And, now that my baby is gone, I am not even sure what the point is in trying to keep the ones I love safe....or if there is a point in loving other people so deeply. It feels like there are all kinds of threats coming from everywhere and there is nowhere to escape to. I want to put Mo in a bubble and never let him out but I can't.  This is the world we live in and I brought him into it knowing that the worst can happen to anyone, anywhere, and any time....and that it actually does happen....not just on tv either.

Lots of people asked me about Beth yesterday, because they know she has been running marathons these last few years.  She was not in Boston yesterday, thank god.  One of MY people is safe and accounted for....while so many other people's people are not.  It's hard to feel total relief when I know how many other people are suffering.  People have lost limbs and two people lost their lives, one of them a child.  It makes me so angry - so sick - so confused.  Why does life have to be THIS hard?

I guess this is just another one of my rambles.  Not sure where it is going entirely but I woke up today and realized that it is Yom Ha'atzmaut - the 65th anniversary of Israel's independence.  It's a day that is celebrated in a place where insecurity is felt all of the time and where people gather knowing that the gathering itself and the cause of their celebration is what makes them a target.  And yet, today people will travel from all over Israel to celebrate in the streets of Jerusalem and bonk each other on the head with big plastic hammers.  Bonking each other despite the fact that they are risking their lives to bonk.  So, it makes me wonder what will become of our celebrations here in the US - because Patriot Day is a celebratory day in Boston...a day that was targeted (I assume) for that very specific reason.  Will we continue to gather and celebrate knowing that the act of our gathering puts us at risk?  I would be surprised if we stopped.  It just isn't in human nature to stop celebrating life.  We couldn't stop for long even if we wanted.  I think that the celebration, for some of us, is what helps us get through.  If there was no celebrating, there would really be no point in my estimation.

In the year after Maxie died, I assumed I would never smile again, never laugh again, never dance again, never ever celebrate again...but I have.  And every time I do any of those things, it honestly feels like I am putting my whole heart at risk again - especially when I do any of those things with Mo.  Perhaps it would be easier to hold him at a distance and just wait out this life - keeping us all safe from potential heartbreak while living a heartbreaking life.  It just isn't possible.  I am keenly aware of the risk but I choose to live the Jerusalem celebrators.  If this is what life is....what choice do we have?  It is complete scary and unsafe - so we might as well just enjoy what we can, if we can.

Still, I think that I know how I could work out a little of this fear, anger, and anxiety.  I think I figured out a way to express myself without actually hurting anyone physically or verbally.  What I'd REALLY LIKE TO DO is - I'd like to gather a room full of "choice" people and spend an afternoon bonking them on the head with a BIG PLASTIC HAMMER!!!!!!

1 comment

Taryn said...

Such a timely post at sich a sad time that has so many of us wondering what the world is coming to.

I know, probably to a lesser extent, that feeling of defiant fear...the feeling that you have to dive into life even though the world around you can become terrifying very quickly. I lived in Israel (Jerusalem mainly) for a while back in '98. Things had simmered down a bit from the time you were referencing in this post, but there was still a tension in the air--a nearly palpable tension of people straddling the line between living a vibrant life while simultaneously living with the dangerous realities of each day. I think it's so interesting that you have made this connection between life in Israel then and how life has become here now. You hit the nail on the head (with a plastic hammer, of course), this feeling that I have now most days, is very much like I experienced living in Israel 15 years ago. One lesson that I learned during my time Israel, is that as scary or heartbreaking as it may be, life will go forward. I only have control over how I will receive each moment. It's both a tortuous and hopeful realization at once.