One day we were picnicking in the park and the day after, cowering in a bomb shelter. It happened so fast—as does everything in Israel. The sounds of red alerts pierced the summer silence intermittently, and we Jerusalemites suddenly became part of the “am”—the real Israelis from the south and the north and the center who have been dodging Hamas missiles for years. It shames me now to think that I’d felt a sort of exemption, like a member of a higher caste who was protected by virtue of living in the holy city.
None of us were spared from this most recent attempt to impose a final solution upon the Jews of Israel. Naive as we tend to be in this neck of the Middle East, we were completely blindsided by the broad-brush condemnation from every corner of the world as an avowed and ruthless enemy swore aloud to rid us from the land by either “driving [us] to the sea” or (preferred) reducing us to ash. In an all too familiar manner, we painstakingly clamored—and continue to clamor—to defend ourselves with no less fervor than our soldiers in Gaza, peppering the pages of Facebook, Twitter, New York Times and Le Monde, all of which are screaming, “J’accuse!”
Are any of us unaware that Palestinian children died? Do we not see, hear and feel for the children who are placed in the line of fire in order that they be maimed or killed? The clever enemy has studied and come to understand Jewish compassion, subsequently daring us to save ourselves at the expense of public opinion and world condemnation. Still, we shout! We explain! We protest! We plead! Certainly moral men, logical men will come to our aid and tell the aggressor to back off and build their communities with the billions upon billions of dollars that the West pushed on them, count their blessings and join with us in the pursuit of common, life-affirming ends. But few of these aforementioned men exist; instead, we are censured and mocked when uttering a defense-of-our-defense.
There is an irony in that we Israelis know the enemy can see the whites of our eyes. Not so the cousins in Chicago who had notes telling them to return to the ovens placed underneath their windshields. Not so the son in London whose neighbor’s door was plastered with swastikas. Not so my daughter in South Africa who was rhythmically jeered at in her college cafeteria with the phrase, “Baby killer, baby killer!” When I posted on someone’s page that it was hard remaining stoic with a son in the army, I received a note—signed, no less—stating, “I hope your son dies a terrible death.” After the initial gasp, I scratched my head and wondered what I’m missing. I asked myself, “To whom do I wish death? How does it feel to live with such hatred?” I couldn’t imagine the answers. My soldier son doesn’t hate. He feels motivated and dedicated and kindhearted and wants to live in peace. He wants his family to have peace. He loves Israel and wants his children to grow up in a country where swords become plowshares and bomb shelters morph into pottery workshops.
Sometimes it appears as if those who encourage us to deal Hamas an iron-handed blow and show no mercy are dreaming that the battles fought in the sands of Gaza will miraculously resolve the Islamization of Hendon, Paris and Johannesburg. Only God knows the next step and the next playing field(s). What I do know, however, is that after the summer of 2014, there is nothing sweeter than sitting in a city park with an ice-pop or sandwich in hand and, in lieu of blasting rocket fire, listening to the wrens chirping and the drone of pedestrians discussing anything and everything mundane.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.