one of the questions I am regularly asked – before and after I went to Israel and even when I was there – is “… but aren’t you afraid?”. Sometimes I indeed feel that within people’s minds Israel is nothing but dangerous. Yet in reality of course it is way more then just a place of danger. It’s a place of breathtaking beauty, a place of strong feelings and intense living. And a place of controversies living next to each other – going from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem always feels like changing worlds whereas it in fact is hardly more then a three quarters of an hour drive if traffic allows it.
But that’s not the answer, is it? It’s not the Hollywood-style confession you are all waiting for eagerly. The truth is that overall I wasn’t afraid. I think am more so now that I am “safe” but so many friends are back in Israel. In the end I knew where I was going to and I knew that it wouldn’t be Middle Europe. I thought that I would feel fear anyhow but most of the time I didn’t. Even after reading the newspapers. Living was just so much more important then worrying about death. Yet I felt that if the godess of death had sent her raven after me – the envoy that carries the death’s souls – it’d find me anyway. No matter whether I was in Israel or in Europe. Perhaps you indeed need to have faith of one kind or another to live in Israel.
However there were those moments. Passing by that bomb shelter door every morning and every evening was one of those moments. It was a constant reminder. As was that key for it I was carrying. I was terribly afraid of that bomb shelter. As a 2nd generation post-war European I had never seen one before and at first wouldn’t even know how to call it in German, my mother-tongue. In fact I just recently found out. Yet I had those great friends. Friends who didn’t only help me to make sense of Israel and Israelis but who also helped to make sense of my fear and that spooky steel door. Friends who’d force me into, show me around. Friends who’d indirectly introduce me to different survival strategies: Denial, above all. Going on with your life instead of focusing on things you can’t change anyway. And how to know one’s enemy.
I am not very good with the first one – as might have already crossed your mind when reading my blog – so I went for the second one. Before I moved to Israel I hardly knew there was a difference between a rocket and a missile. Afterwards I could name the usual suspects among them and give ranges, payload (especially whether they can be loaded with aerosol or worse) and tell you how hard or easy they are to be obtained. Which still is how I deal with new threats. New names. For European standards I have become an expert. It doesn’t always help, though. There are days when the only thing that is left is still running for denial.
The other thing I did dealing with the constant threat was trying to keep myself informed. I had that read through the newspapers every day – we got the English issues at work anyway – and most of the time skimmed both Haaretz and Jerusalem Post. Plus I got used to always keeping a copy of my most important files on a USB-stick with me in case my notebook would get destroyed. Yet those are things you don’t realise you are doing anymore after a month or two. It becomes the most natural thing in the world, just like the guy in front of the mall checking your bag on entry.
Israelis however often where puzzled with me coming to Israel for no obvious reason. A lot of them wondered whether I was brave or mad and most came to the conclusion that I was a little bit of both which might be quite close to reality.
But what changes everything is thinking about family. As in considering going back, settling down and having a family of my own. Children. I could go back to Israel, alright, but bearing children into that world? Risking that they’d grow up running to bomb shelters at night and later on become soldiers that might have to see a real war. Not only maneuvers as our troops. Children that might have to experience early on how their friends get hurt or killed – physically or mentally – in that war that isn’t their’s in the end but that of a hand full of governmental-elite idiots. I am not quite sure if I could do that to them. I admire people like Lila or Schmetterlingsfrau who left their safe European life behind, went to Israel where they were happy and bore their children into the world they believed them to be most happy in without going mad about security and what might be one day.
Yet for the time being I think it’s better to spend my energy hoping instead of being frightened and therefor the answer has to be: “No, I am not.”