A very, very mad world

Day 8, Wednesday, November 21, 2012

8:15am: I call 107, the city of Raanana’s free phone line for questions, help, anything the municipality can address. First a woman answers asking what I want. In my basic Hebrew, I tell her I am a Raanana resident and want to know what we can do to help the people in the south. Let me transfer you, she says. The phone rings and a man’s voice on the message machine answers, telling the callers to leave a name and number and that someone will return the call. I leave the information, repeating it again in case he has issues with my accent.

8:45am: I pick up my friend Janine and we drive to the beach in Herzilia to walk. There are so many cars parked that we have difficulty finding a spot and assume the beach will be booming with activity. As we descend the long stairwell, I stop to breathe in the beauty.  Expected highs for today are 75 degrees so we are in t-shirts and sunglasses with sunscreened protected faces. Since the air is still, the sea is wave-less. Much to our surprise, the cafes are void of patrons, and very few people are out. Here and there I spot some daring men and women in the water standing on paddle boards, a random fisherwoman, a couple of sunbathers in bikinis, two policemen on horseback. We walk the length of the beach and back, passing other fast walkers but less than usual.

While we walk, Janine and I discuss what we think of the situation. 

“I’m not the same person I was five years ago when we first moved here,” she says in her Mancunian accent. “If you had asked me then what I think, I would have said give them a chance. Now, I see the Hamas guy carrying a body bag in the street and I think he’s bluffing, for the media, to get attention.”

 

I feel the same way: cynical, jaded, warped. Or is it just mental anguish taking its toll?

“I remember when I first came to Israel in the late 1980s, around the time when Philippe and I met. I worked with an Israeli professor at Haifa University; she was in the psych department, I think, working on Arab-Jewish coexistence. I helped her translate her research into English and observed Arab and Jewish kids at this bicultural center called Bet Hagefen. I did a write-up and we presented our work together at some co-existence conference. I was so into all that common language, let’s-talk-peace stuff.” We’re walking so fast beads of sweat start to gather on my lower back, soaking through my t-shirt. 

“That was until I lived through my first war four months after we got married. Sitting in a sealed room with gas masks, watching CNN live. I haven’t been the same since. But you can’t say it’s all Arabs. It’s Hamas and Jihad, but not the Arab women and children and innocent people.” Janine and I agree with one another that we make that distinction, but that our husbands don’t. For them, they—the Arabs—are all in it together, one in the same.

The harsh conversation against the stunning seashore makes it all surreal.

12:14pm: The familiar Skype box that reads ‘Philippe Lang is online’ pops up on the bottom righthand corner of my computer screen. I am home, showered, dressed and ready to leave for the post office and physical therapy soon. I type quickly to him: cou cou, is everything calm there? He works in south Tel Aviv across the street from the beach, about a half a mile from Jaffa. My screen dings; Philippe Skypes me and I click on the green light to answer.

“Hi, did you hear the news?” I hadn’t. My video camera is on, but his is not. I shake my head from side to side to indicate no. “There was an attack in Tel Aviv, on a bus.”

My stomach sinks. Dread fills up every inch of my body. “What do you mean? A missile?” For some reason, I am not as scared of the missiles, which I have never experienced, as I am of the suicide bombers on buses. Those bring me back to our kids’ baby days, when we would visit Israel in the summer, and I would hold my breath every time we drove alongside a bus in Jerusalem.

“No, a terrorist attack. On a bus, somewhere in the center. That’s all I’ve heard for now.”

I watch my face on the Skype screen. How can I describe it? Ashen, stone faced, shrunken?

“I just checked on ynet and didn’t read anything about it. How can I know more?”

“Timesofisrael.com, I told you that last night. It’s better than ynet in English. More up-to-date.”

Again, I nod my head, up and down this time, acknowledging that he had indeed instructed me to stay abreast of the news with that site. We are out of words, each of us in our own world, his at work in the hotbed of the country, and me at home, safe but shaken.

As soon as we end the call, I search for some version of the truth online, starting first with the most critical bus bombing report. From there, I click on http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-summarily-executes-six-more-israeli-collaborators/ and am so disgusted that I actually recommend it on Facebook, something I have never done before. I comment that these people—Hamas—clearly do not value any human life—not even their own brothers—just like the Nazis. How can we let them get away with it?

Then I click on a stunning profile of a blond woman with heavily made up eyes, silky smooth skin and bushy lips. Named Ceylan Özbudak, she is a Turkish peace activist whose words give me much needed hope. It is good to know we are not alone, that other Muslim Arabs believe that Hamas is wrong.  My favorite few lines of hers are: “The idea that any war would ever inflict equal casualties on both sides is also not realistic. This would be state terrorism. So once again we come down to the need for a peaceful solution. An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.”

I stop reading and text Benjamin: You OK? At the base? He answers within seconds. Yes, he’s fine, at the base, wherever that is. I just want my soldier son to stay safe.

1:20pm: I take my number at the post office and sit down with my phone in one hand and my Nook in the other. There are 12 people ahead of me. I call Philippe. “Daniella called to ask where you were, if you were OK. Please, whatever you do, do not go to the shuk. I don’t want to live like this.” Asking Philippe not to go to the shuk is like telling a kid not to go into a candy store. In a husbandly, loving way, he complies, without hesitation, with nothing other than a simple yes.

I email two American yoga teacher friends in Tel Aviv: “I am thinking of you… if you want to come and stay for a couple of days or until “this” passes you are more than welcome. We have a guestroom. My in laws here Fri and Sat night but before and after it’s all yours… just holler.”

They both answer within minutes. Thank you for the amazing offer, they write, but no thanks. They want to be home, and, oddly, they are calm and don’t feel unsafe. I hate double negatives; does that mean they feel safe?

2pm: I head to my physical therapy appointment. Every time I go to PT, Naama asks me what new functions I have reclaimed, when I see the surgeon, how I’m feeling. Then we kibbitz mostly about the mundane–the weather, work, movies. Today is different. Knowing she is cooped up inside the Maccabi insurance building all day, I ask if she heard about the bus attack in Tel Aviv. One of her previous patient’s told her and showed her the two-page newspaper article. We talk about the south, what those poor people are going through, how unreal it is for us that our lives in Raanana are the same. We don’t hear or feel or see any signs of war. Guilt takes on a new meaning.

2:45pm: “At patucha?” I ask the checkout clerk at Mega if she’s open. The sign on the conveyor belt says “sagur” or closed. She nods her head yes.

I have an usual amount of groceries, buying for our family as well as for soldiers in the south. Everyday emails land in my inbox from friends, my networking group, the girls’ school, asking us to send food—snacks, sweets, anything edible but closed. Apparently, they are ill-prepared on the food front. In the morning, I sent Simone off with a big box of Elite chocolate and a note she wrote but made a mental note to buy more. Aside from mozzarella balls and grated parmesan, fruits and vegetables, I loaded up my cart with things that I don’t usually buy like sesame pretzels, chocolate and vanilla wafer cookies and Pringles. This time Daniella will write the note. Some time on Thursday, a convoy of brave souls will transport the food down to wherever the soldiers are based.

I stand across from the checkout clerk, a young Arab woman in the typical head covering. I can see her full face and dark brown eyes but not a single strand of hair.

“Is your family OK?” I want to ask. She is busy joking with another Arab employee in Arabic while scanning my items. “Are your friends OK?” I don’t dare utter the words lest she think me ignorant. Unlike the Palestinians who live in Gaza, she is an Arab Israeli, a citizen of the same country as me. She probably lives a few kilometers east of us in one of the neighboring Arab villages. Coming and going to work for her is not a problem; there are no barriers or checkpoints. Shopping at the Raananim mall or going bowling is open to her.

When she and the other man stop talking, I contemplate asking what she thinks of the situation. And then, I decide, some things are better left unsaid.

When I finish stuffing my grocery bags into the tiny trunk of our rented Dahatsu Sirion, I plunk myself down in the drivers’ seat. Going to the market in Israel is hard work. As soon as I start the engine, the song on the radio fills the empty space:

I find it kind of sad

The dreams in which I’m dying

Are the best I’ve ever had

I find it hard to tell you

‘Cos I find it hard to take

When people run in circles

It’s a very, very

Mad World

I think to myself that the DJ on 99FM has chosen well. Tears for Fears captures my sentiments exactly, about the market, the day, the mood of the country.

5:25pm: No phone messages. No one returns my call from the City of Raanana. Customer service in Israel is not a given.

6:35pm: While cooking dinner downstairs, I hear loud, urgent planes overhead. They vroom by faster than usual. I recall hearing them last night too when we were going to bed and asking Philippe what he thought. Were they army planes? Heading south to Gaza or flying back north? He poo-pooed me, saying they were just planes. I think he was wrong.

7:55pm: Philippe is downstairs in the kitchen and yells up, asking what the Pringles are for. “The soldiers,” I scream. “I’m bringing them over to the Secora’s tonight for them to take tomorrow.”

“It’s over. Didn’t you hear?” he screams. “Look online. It’s over. For now.”

 

Lyrics to “Mad World” by Tears for Fears

All around me are familiar faces

Worn out places, worn out faces

Bright and early for their daily races

Going nowhere, going nowhere

And their tears are filling up their glasses

No expression, no expression

Hide my head I want to drown my sorrow

No tomorrow, no tomorrow

And I find it kind of funny

I find it kind of sad

The dreams in which I’m dying

Are the best I’ve ever had

I find it hard to tell you

‘Cos I find it hard to take

When people run in circles

It’s a very, very

Mad World

Children waiting for the day they feel good

Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday

Made to feel the way that every child should

Sit and listen, sit and listen

Went to school and I was very nervous

No one knew me, no one knew me

Hello teacher tell me what’s my lesson

Look right through me, look right through me

Leave a Comment

22 Responses to “A very, very mad world”

  1. sheila nadel November 21, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    Hi Jennifer,
    always enjoy reading your articles, especially with what’s been going on and hearing your pojnt of view. Let’s hope it will stay quiet. my best to the family and always, stay safe.
    Sheila

    • Jennifer Lang November 22, 2012 at 10:45 am #

      Thanks, Sheila. It is amazing to know who all is out there, reading, following, responding. Toda and love to you too.

  2. Sheila Black November 22, 2012 at 4:29 am #

    I loved this writing. I love hearing what it feels like over there, it’s fascinating. Thanks for the view.
    I pray for your peace of mind and may only commercial jet liners
    fly overhead on the way to America.

    • Jennifer Lang November 22, 2012 at 10:44 am #

      Amen!!!!! xo

  3. Mom/Grandma Marianne November 22, 2012 at 6:37 am #

    Your best writing yet. The fact that we left “just in time” as everyone here says but we left all of our family there leaves me feeling even worse than I might have. You express your feelings so beautifully. Toda raba and love…

    • Jennifer Lang November 22, 2012 at 10:44 am #

      Thanks… some stories are easier to share than others. Go figure!

  4. Liba November 22, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    Hi Jennifer,

    As hard as this last blog of yours was to read, I loved reading it. Thank you for sharing all the little details — I think it makes those of us who love Israel so much and feel so heartbroken and far away feel a bit closer. Praying that this cease fire continues!!!

    Liba

    • Jennifer Lang November 22, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

      You are so welcome. I spent many hours writing and re-writing yesterday, and the cathartic aspect of the process, in addition to the craft, really came through…Be well. Feel good. Enjoy and stay warm.

  5. Laura Rotter November 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

    Jennifer,

    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences……almost makes me feel as though I’m there. So grateful to you and your writing on his day of Thanksgiving.

    Laura

    • Jennifer Lang November 22, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

      Are you coming anytime soon? No kids here this year, right? I am sending lots of love through these keys…

  6. Zondra Barricks November 22, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    The prayers and singing were particularly intense last Shabbos at the Shul we’ve been attending in Manhattan. After the prayer for Israel I looked around and many of us had tears streaming down our faces. Tears, fears but also strength, determination and love. Thinking of you and all of our friends and family in Israel every day. XOXO Z

    • Jennifer Lang November 22, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

      I am sure it was very moving indeed. What shul? Thank you for the note. ANd love!

  7. Benjie November 22, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    Your words bring tears to me. You make the hours of Wednesday real and terribly poignant. We are with you, sweating on the beach, waiting by the phone, listening for the planes flying ahead. Thank you for inviting us in the incredible way you do. Love ~ Benjie

    • Jennifer Lang November 22, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

      Toda and love and hugs and kisses to all of you on this day of appreciation… xo

  8. Nancy klehr November 22, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

    Hi Jennifer,
    So grateful it is over. Thanks so much for sharing how you live through this. It is a real eye opener for me to read the day to day of it all, and really hear your voice come through.
    It’s thanksgiving here and I’m sure Jews here will be thinking of the Situation and feel grateful that it is over, and hope for continued stability and calm.
    Sending love and peace for you and your family
    Nancy

    • Jennifer Lang November 22, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

      I don’t think anything is over really… they just put a bandaid on a seriously big boo boo. Till next time is how everyone feels and sees it here. But the people I spoke with, Daniella and her classmates included, all think Israel should not have accepted a cease fire. That they should have moved forward, finally. To send occasional deadly rockets into Israel is just not acceptable. No country should have to live like that and has a right to defend itself. Anyhow… much, much love and happy turkey today

  9. Lisa November 23, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    Thanks for the wonderful description of what this past week was like. I was thinking about you and praying that the situation would end quickly. Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Jennifer Lang November 25, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

      Thanks, Lise. I think we are all feeling the stress slide down and off our shoulders, but it’s just a matter of time before it erupts again. Happy Thanksgiving. Where were you?

  10. auntie mona November 23, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

    A day in the life of…………….

    Thank you for capturing to the hour, the minute, one of your days during this recent seige…….
    xoxo
    auntie em

    • Jennifer Lang November 25, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

      You are so welcome. It felt urgent, like it had to be written. xo

  11. Cathleen B November 26, 2012 at 1:23 am #

    You’ve beautifully captured a reality that most of us Americans simply cannot imagine. Thanks for writing.

    • Jennifer Lang December 2, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

      Thanks, Cath. It feels so long ago already. It was pressing and urgent and dire and now in the background of our daily lives. xo

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