(Originally published in The Times of Israel)
As I was driving my car back from a store in the southern part of Jerusalem on Tuesday, Peter Paul & Mary’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” was blowin’ through the speakers. “How many times must a man look up. . . “ And then, the ominous warning and “Missile, Ashkelon.”
A few observations from social media that fit the moment:
“If only the kids at the music festival would have had any time to say ‘Ceasefire.’”
“In four weeks, Hamas launched more than twice as many missiles into Israel as Germany launched V-2’s into Britain in five months.”
“Assad Kills 500,000 Muslims in Syria. Streets of London: Empty.
230,000 Muslims dead in Yemin. Streets of London: Empty.
24,000 Muslims massacred in Myanmar. Streets of London: Empty.
Israel defends itself against Hamas. Streets of London packed with protestors.”
Not to mention one million Muslim Uyghurs essentially imprisoned by China. Streets of London: Empty
Only when Jews defend themselves do the London streets and the campuses of elite American universities fill with righteous protestors and the UN focuses its fiery and its attention.
The President’s residence is just up the block from our apartment in Jerusalem. I walk by it frequently. I regularly park across the street from it. Whenever I do either, I almost always marvel how close the public can get to it, and how accessible it is.
The one or two guards that stand outside, and the one who walks up and down the street peering into the cars parked nearby, usually look relaxed and sometimes look bored. An American cannot help but make comparisons to the no-go zone that has been built around the White House.
A few days ago I noticed a change: the guard checking cars now appears to be wearing a bullet-proof vest.
Israeli life has changed. Israeli minds have changed. We are living in a reality that is difficult to label. We go about our business—shopping, meeting friends, working, going out for coffee or a meal. But just below the surface, and often protruding through the surface, life has changed.
You turn a corner and there are pictures of a kidnapped toddler and a grandma on a bus bench. Walk up the street and an empty baby stroller sits, symbolizing the kidnapped babies, nobody concerned that it might be taken.
Vigils here. Vigils there. Memorial ceremonies tonight. Can’t make that one? No problem; there are two or three around town tomorrow night.
The changes, the life lived only by a traumatized people, hit you in the face, and in the gut. As described by Shira Pasternak Be’eri, life here now is different, surreal, tense. It is tainted, overwhelmed with worry and tragedy.