I grew up in Tel Aviv, and I think I had a good childhood. It's the only reality that I know and back then it seemed good. But when I look back today, things look slightly different. I grew up in a world where I was used to seeing soldiers with weapons and to buses exploding in the 1990s. And what happened last summer was slightly normal for me too.
This realization of my normal not being everyone else’s normal has been especially influenced by what my French partner has pointed out about this situation.
I don't recall my parents being very political, although they were leaning more towards the left. However, the way in which I became interested in this country's politics was because I was never able to understand how neither side of the conflict could compromise in order to make peace. It genuinely made no sense to me.
So politics made its way into my life very easily and from a young age. I was a youth activist within Meretz [political party], and I was almost always interested in the situation here. However, I only really became involved with this field professionally when I began working for the NGO, Geneva Initiative, a joint Palestinian-Israeli organization, whose goal is to get the two sides sign a peace agreement that has already been prepared by the organization itself, and covers approximately 400 pages regarding every single detail that needs to be addressed. I actually read every page, and it does in fact cover everything, for example, what to do with Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees, the economy, etc. It's amazing, but it just needs to be signed!
The Conflict on a Daily BasisSince I began working for the Geneva Initiative I have felt that I have a purpose when going to work. Although, on the other hand, it also feels like a failure every day, since no peace agreement has been signed to this date. The results of the last elections also create challenges for the work that I do.
Prior to Rabin's murder, it wasn't that bad to be left-wing; it was actually quite okay. I was also living in Tel Aviv at the time, as I am now, so there were many people like me. But today things have changed. Even those who consider themselves to be left-wing sometimes make remarks to me about my "radical" views.
I have never felt threatened here because of my views in particular. However, recently when I did a search of my name on Google, I saw that some people with right-wing opinions were writing negative comments about me. One person even said that he would look for me and try to harm me in some way. This scared me a bit, but nonetheless, I am still more scared of the next war than of these comments.
Last Summer's War
Before I had a daughter, I was quite laid-back and not fearful at all about what happens here. I would always think, "What is the chance that something will happen to me? Nothing will happen." Perhaps you could say that I was a little young and naïve.
But last summer, my daughter was one year and a half, and I was terrified of the possibility of anything happening to her. It was really a fear that I have never experienced before. I recall one day in particular, her first day of kindergarten. I really feared it. My partner was on his way to take her to school, when suddenly there was another siren. I panicked and called him instantly from work and felt reassured that he had made a U-turn and they were heading back home. When I think of it now, there are actually much better shelters in the kindergarten, and at home we have none, only the stairwells, so in that sense it wasn't such a wise decision.
Anyhow, it really scared me, and I am already terrified of the next war.
The conflict here influences everything: high prices for products and a bad economy. My partner and I have therefore frequently talked about moving. We began contemplating this even more since last summer's war.
The situation here is so distressing that sometimes I avoid the news. For example, when we visit friends and family, I refrain from watching the news. Prior to getting the job at Geneva Initiative I actually had these periods where I abstained from watching and reading the news. I just didn't want to know it constantly.
We just had Yom HaZikaron [Memorial Day] a couple of weeks ago leading up to Yom HaAtzma'ut [Independence Day]. Yom HaZikaron makes me feel alienated.
When I was younger I felt more nationalistic, perhaps because of the atmosphere in the country on this day. But today it's much more difficult for me to be nationalistic. I feel such a big gap between myself and what happens here on this day.
Everyone talks about the feeling of unity. But there are no real talks about how we should try to prevent future wars in order to prevent the deaths. We just accept everything here, as if it is normal instead of trying to stop it. It's hypocritical.
The ritual or ceremony of death, which is seen on that day, is so immense in Israeli society, it amazes me. We have to make it so big here in order to justify the deaths, and the lives, of our friends, neighbors, and family members to ourselves.
The voice saying "let's think about how to stop this" is not loud enough. I understand the tradition of taking a day and dedicating it to the losses, but we need to do our best to prevent this more as well. Naftali Bennett once said that the Palestinians are a "shrapnel in the butt," which was basically said to insinuate that Israelis can live with the status quo. I'm not willing to accept that. I still think that things can change; otherwise, I wouldn't continue working in my field.