I took the day off ulpan today to get some Real Life Grownup Work done–I had to write an abstract for being on a panel at an academic conference in December, and had high hopes for doing some other stuff, too. My other project involved paying rent, which one does here by depositing money into one’s landlady’s account directly at the bank–a whole ordeal that eventually brought me to Kikar Tzion (Zion Square) in the city center just to make it happen.
Since I was around here I decided to do my work at Timol Shilshom, a fantastic cafe/bookstore nearby. Abstract: done; other work: no. However, they did, to my surprise and delight, have a copy of Without a Net, the Michelle Tea/Seal Press anthology on working-class women that I had meant to get before leaving the US. So that was good.
After leaving the cafe I wandered into this clothing store nearby that has a lot of cute, trendy Israeli fashion. I was just browsing, taking in color and pattern, when somebody turned up the radio–there was an announcement of a piguah, a bombing. He was speaking quickly and I didn’t catch everything, so I turned to the woman working in the store, and asked what I had missed. She said there had been a bombing in Bethlehem. [LATER IN THE DAY EDIT: turns out, at least insofar as I know, the only piguah was in Beer Sheva, not Bethlehem. Though she did say Bethlehem–her bad.] “What did they say about people being hit? Did they say how many?” I asked. She shrugged. “I wasn’t really listening,” she said. Everybody else was still browsing and chatting. I had lost my taste for casual consumerism, though, and feeling sad and sick I wandered out of the store.
I don’t know what the look on my face was, but it was sad enough to prompt a security guard to ask me if I was OK. Yeah, I’m OK, I said. What could I say? Oh, there’s violence here and people are hurting and I don’t know how to feel except sick and sad and frightened and sad? None of this is news to him, and how people live here and not go crazy is by blocking it out. They say you have to. I’m not sure I want to. I probably will anyway.
So I just went online (I’m sitting in Kikar Zion now, there’s free wireless here) to see if there was anything posted yet, and there isn’t–but it turns out that two buses exploded in Beer Sheva yesterday, [Later in the day edit: oh, today’s Tuesday, not Wednesday]. 15 dead and at least 72 wounded just from that. Baruch dayan ha-emet.
As I was sitting here, someone I know came by and said hi. I told her about the bombing in Bethlehem. “Was it in a Jewish area?” she asked. I didn’t ask her, but I do want to know why that matters. It matters tremendously and also it doesn’t. Maybe that’s part of the point of events like the Sulha–I have a friend in Bethlehem now; it’s all the harder for the people who are not Jewish to be nameless, faceless “them”s. “Shtachim”–that area.
Yes, of course I care about The Jewish People. I’m dedicating my life to them. But suffering and pain–especially this kind, this hard, this scary, this big–is suffering and pain no matter whose arm was blown off and whose life was lost. When it’s “us”–Jews, and Israel, and my own life and country at risk, it’s a different kind of threatening and scary. But scary is always just scary. At core, I just hate this.
Just as I was told they’d be, people are going about their business and living their lives. This is, they say, just what happens around here.