Last week Y., one of our daughters close friends, came back from her year of working and traveling in North and South America, between army and university. It was, of course a wonderful, exciting, broadening, challenging experience (this year is de rigeur for middle class kids, whether they spend it trekking the Himalayas or packing salmon in Alaska). Y. is a product of the socialist zionist youth movements at their best, a thoughtful idealist committed to old-fashioned utopian Zionism. America is for her a great place to visit, but no place to live. Yet she commented how well she now understands the attractions of America for Israelis: here, every simple task and transaction, a molehill in the United States, becomes a mountain. Renting a student apartment here requires guarantees and cosigners and advance payments more rigorous than would be needed to buy a million dollar house on credit in the US. Here, there are no cheap used cars; here, people drop everything to listen to the news every hour, lest they miss the latest disaster; here, the customer is usually wrong; here, the norm is 40 kids in a class; here, the stores, banks, and post offices close for the afternoon on different days - and occasionally change the day; here they change the dates of beginning and ending daylight savings every year. In short, everyday life is just more stressful here, and often it seems for no good reason. So it is easy to see the attraction of the land of how may I help you and have a good one.
Yesterday I finished a meeting at Kibbutz Lochamei Hagetaot, south of Nahariya, and began to drive south toward Shorashim at 11:30 am. Immediately, a dozen police cars passed me going north towards Nahariya, sirens blaring; at the next intersection the police were in the process of blocking all northbound lanes, causing huge jams in that direction. My car doesnt have a working radio. By the time I got to the office, twenty minutes later, Tami had already called from Nahariya hospital, where she works, to tell me to call our relatives in the US to assure them that we were all safe; only then did I learn that there had been a suicide bombing at Nahariya train station. Meanwhile, D., our marketing director, related that three teachers from his community in the Jordan Valley had been hurt in an ambush shooting on their way to work a few hours earlier; and while we were discussing this, the radio broadcast news of another bomb, at the Bet Lid junction; our youngest son is stationed at the base there, and had returned there by train in the morning. Triple whammy.
Then, on the way to the bank in Karmiel, on two separate occasions I was passed in a no-passing zone on a blind curve. And I felt a bit of road rage, and found myself wishing something bad would happen to those drivers. And I wondered who makes me angrier: the religious fanatic who, in misguided idealism, destroys himself and some innocent bystanders - or the careless, thoughtless, selfish idiot who plays this curious combination of Russian roulette and chicken on the highway, putting innocent lives, including my familys, at risk for no purpose.
Still, the bombings have a depressive effect that no road-kill statistics do. They engender a feeling of helplessness, of vulnerability, of the breakdown of expectations; you find yourself guiltily wondering if you should take the bus, if you should be suspicious of that Arab, if you should let your kids go to the mall. You find that hi, how are you? often draws a sort of awkward shrug, as if it is somehow inappropriate to say fine. You know that the government policy, whatever it is, is having no positive effect - but you havent got a convincing alternative to suggest. And you find that even this feeling of pessimism and helplessness makes you feel guilty, as if it were a form of surrender, of allowing the terrorists to succeed.
Time to turn over the compost heap and plant some vegetable seeds in time for the first rain.