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Stockpiling Normal

Lessons Learned While Under Siege

I received a notice from the accountant early this morning that caused some head-scratching and initial confusion. He informed me that I’m past-due in reporting my last year’s earnings with the Department of Labor and I’d better hurry and ensure that I retain my Small Business Owner status with the accompanying tax exemptions.
    After marking the aforementioned email with a hot-pink star, I raced out of the house to purchase a sterling-silver kiddush cup for my grandson’s upcoming Bar Mitzvah. Despite the 97° temperature in Jerusalem, my 2005 Hyundai Getz chugged its way to the ultra-orthodox section of town where I haggled over cost and fretted over whether or not the English language inscription that I’d painstakingly crafted would be legible upon completion. I then zipped over to a shoe-repair kiosk where I tossed the proprietor an expensive leather belt I’d acquired for my husband in the Tambo Airport in Johannesburg that was fraying at the buckle.
    It was now after one o’clock and I needed to pick up some lettuce, milk and dish soap. The suitcases from my most recent jaunt to South Africa hadn’t yet been fully unpacked before we had to take off for the holiday of Shavuot with family members. Eyeing the pesky luggage, I sat at the computer with a tuna sandwich and sugarless iced-tea and proceeded to arrange seriously overdue appointments for a mammogram, bone scan and eye exam while ordering refills of prescriptions.
    At 3:15, I lassoed the dog and dragged her to an emergency visit to the vet. For weeks she’d been itching uncontrollably and the monthly flea medicine did nothing. Without going into the hideous details, at the time of this writing, she is sporting several awkwardly shaved areas, wears the “cone of shame” and is taking antibiotics and steroids for a shocking case of Flea Allergy Dermatitis. Today’s visit cost 520 nis but since I had to cancel her regular visit to the Doggy Spa until she heals, the financial damage softened. In the month ahead, the schedule indicates two weddings, a surprise 70th birthday party and a Golden Wedding celebration. Happy life events that, were we not in the middle of a war for our existence, could easily be taken for granted.
    Shopping lists, medical maintenance, utility bills and other day-to-day tasks are so easy to overlook while your neighbor is sitting shiva for her son, killed in Gaza. Last month, the Bible matriculation exam was unceremoniously halted in the Golan Heights and Safed when students, pens in hand, raced into shelters, courtesy of Hezbollah. Another date will be set. When our days no longer can be scheduled or predictable, when the citizenry is so on edge that the best laid plans can evaporate before the ink dries, who can envision getting their teeth cleaned? Certainly, not me.
    There is something so humbling about recognizing the blessing of ‘normal.’ For many Israelies, fighting the malaise that accompanies daily reports of attacks, warnings, soldier injuries and worse, has become a full-time job. I have friends that have, respectively, enjoyed a long weekend in Cyprus, hopped over to Australia for a week of backpacking, took the grandchildren to Disney in Orlando. I so get it. The pressure of living in a war-ravaged bubble where escaping from relentless sadness and uncertainty is nearly impossible, can drive many of us to the edge of near-madness. A little outside oxygen can, for some, be the ticket to sanity.
    But in the end, we return home to Israel; physically, emotionally, spiritually. We will fight this war and we will win this war. The question hovers, however, as to what we will look like when we re-enter our border-community homes and children return to familiar classrooms. The answer depends on how we perceive “normal” on the day after. Because while so much has been wrested from our collective sense of infallibility and safety, that which remains will determine the rest of the story.

New York native Andrea Simantov has lived in Jerusalem since 1995. She writes for several publications, appears regularly on Israel National Radio and owns an image consulting firm for women.

 

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