There is something to be said about living in a country that is always a hair’s-breadth away from war. Not that hugging a husband who packs a pistol isn’t occasionally awkward, or having my purse searched before buying milk doesn’t get tedious after a while. But between the spikes in tension and fear, lie moments of unbridled mirth. Sometimes you just have to laugh. Dishes break, the dog poops on the Persian carpet, the car won’t start; I still choose laughter over disappointment because I live in Israel where chuckling is a rarity on most days.
Until I moved here, the word “war” evoked images and feelings that are so very different from the technicolor reality. War was far away and bore foreign faces; war was villages without running water and poorly thatched huts with dirt floors. Soldiers were large, generic and laden with khaki rucksacks, helmets, muddy boots and heavy weaponry. The other opinions I held about the military were so uninformed, I’m too ashamed to share.
Israel is under siege. Under siege by virtue of media lies, overt and orchestrated anti-semitism and really bad people with bombs, firearms, runaway tractors and knives. The Middle East’s only democracy experiences war unlike my childhood imagination. War is in our parking lots and hospital cafeterias. Our soldiers are the once-baby boys and girls who watched Barney and that we rocked to sleep with lips pressed to fevered brows. Our homes are not huts; we have marble floors and indoor plumbing.
Still, it seems that every day there is a blood-bath somewhere in our land and, despite the hair-trigger vigilance of our security forces, wily murderers frequently elude the defensive measures. They’re usually shot dead, resulting in a feeble Facebook round-of-applause, but take it from someone sitting in the front row of the conflict: Dodging inner-city guerrilla attacks takes a toll on one’s emotional well-being. It affects marriages, parenting and workplace productivity.
Which brings me back to that laughter thing: One day I couldn’t reach my husband and knowing he’d been working in dangerous territory, I got a little crazed. When he finally called, it took some time to regain my balance. Eventually calm, I was chopping vegetables for soup when I heard what seemed to be a huge explosion coming from the bathroom. It was merely the dryer falling off it’s perch from atop the washing machine. Unfortunately, the door was closed and it became jammed. Water was seeping from under the door and the dryer-drum continued it’s loud cycle, stuffed with damp laundry. Waiting for the handyman husband to return home, I tried in vain to pry the door open when I lost traction and fell. One foot rammed the wall and I broke a toe.
Wet, injured, and concerned about the cost of the still unknown damages, I was still sitting on the sopping floor when my husband came home. He took one look at me, the mess, and together we exhibited the most Israeli of responses.
New York-born Andrea Simantov is a mother of six who moved to Jerusalem in 1995. She frequently lectures on the complexity and magic of life in Jerusalem and can be contacted at email@example.com.