Home December 2015 Under Seige

Under Seige

1215simantovBy now it is no secret that Israel is under siege. The attacks are taking place in our streets, schools, supermarkets and on public transportation. Aircrafts that hover above Jerusalem’s skies are used for surveillance only; bombs cannot be dropped on those who are killing us because, in fact, they live among us.

My home is in Armon HaNatziv. Now famous, only a few months ago we were a fairly anonymous, lower-class neighborhood nestled between two simmering-but-contained Arab villages. With only one local shopping center, post office, promenade and bus line, Arabs and Jews uneasily shop and exercise alongside one another and even live in the same apartment buildings. Are we a prime example of coexistence? Not really.

If the neighborhood was ugly before, it is a real eye-sore today. Where once the streets teemed with youngsters on bikes and young mommies and old Russians ambled in the afternoons, concrete barricades have been hastily erected to inhibit neighborhood access for knife-wielding youths from Jabel Makabar and Tsur Bahar. Only ‘inhibit’ because they know the side paths better than we do.

In mid-October, my neighbor, Richard Lankin, was shot and stabbed on the #78 bus, just outside of my kitchen window. Brave motorists blocked the street while armed citizens stormed the still-careening bus. Almost simultaneously, border police descended upon the scene.

Terribly uncomfortable with what we’re suffering, friends have offered anemically, “Wow, you are lucky you weren’t in the supermarket/bank/bus depot/au courant site of the most recent attack.” My tad-snippy answer is always the same. “I wasn’t there because I wasn’t there.”

Trying to apply reason to a situation that is void of logic frequently results in well-wishers blaming the victims. “If those people {which people?} didn’t live in Hebron, the Arabs wouldn’t slaughter them. If they didn’t meet friends for coffee on a warm autumn evening, they wouldn’t get stabbed. If you bought a car you wouldn’t be bombed on the Begin Highway.”

And in the end, Richard Lankin died after lingering on life support for almost two weeks. He had a lot to live for; I know because I went to the funeral and heard the eulogies. No, I didn’t know him, but it didn’t matter. He was “us.”

Neither I nor my neighbors are living here due to happenstance. Without a shred of uncertainty, I believe that it is critical to live a life that matters, a deliberate life and—if given an opportunity—leave a moral legacy for children and grandchildren. I will never advise someone to keep away from Israel until “…things get safer” or  say “Protect your child while I send mine out to man the borders,” because I would not be speaking from the heart.

It is painful to those of us who have chosen the Zionist path to know that we are paying a heavy price to keep Israel viable. Sometimes dying in the process so that the children of the Diaspora—who remain Jewish—will have a place to go when unfolding history extracts nearly-unfathomable decisions.

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 andreasimantov@gmail.com.


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