Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Dear friends

False Bananas often focuses on the semantic meaning and etymology of words. In light of this summer's events, this entry explores the conceptual and experiential meaning of a little word with a lot of clout — war.

Dear friends,

Just wanted to let you all know we're fine, Jerusalem is still untouched (physically), and so far Benny hasn't been called up. Yohana and Tzahi, Benny's sister and her husband, are hosting Tzahi's family (who live in Kiryat Shmona), so their house is a bit full, but nobody's staying with us — yet. Maybe we'll get to host a family for Shabbat next week.

Everyone up north is in bomb shelters and reinforced rooms, as far south as Haifa, Tiberias, Acre. Tel Aviv is under warning but it's hard to tell if people are taking it seriously since there hasn't been a rocket attack there. And in Jerusalem, everyone is depressed but so far safe. Mostly we're just wondering if tomorrow there is going to be a huge war, or if the whole situation is going to fizzle in a few days. Nobody really knows what to expect, and though life does go on as usual in this city at least, with work and TV and everything else, we go to sleep each night wondering what news we'll wake up to.

The battle with Hizbullah here and in Lebanon is strange, stressful, ongoing — it doesn't seem to let up. Very different from suicide bombings, when at least you weren't expecting it and waiting for it to happen, and then when it did, it hit hard, then passed (if you were lucky not to know any of the victims). Or maybe I've "learned" suicide bombings. They had a pattern, devastating but familiar. The potential for pain and fear was delineated by the nature of those attacks: the repercussions could only go so far.

I feel vulnerable for the first time, though the rockets are falling miles and miles away, even after 6 years of terrorism here in my city, neighborhood, bus stop. It's a scary feeling. This new war game is endless and unpredictable, in location and scope. A wrong move by Israel, Syria, Hizbullah could draw us into another full-fledged, multination war like the others in Israel's history. Those wars made heroes. They are black and white on pages of history books and newspapers. Romantic and poetic on movie screens. Educational. Historical. But not real. Not for me.

Who will get called up to the army, and when? And will they come home? Conjuring images of past Israeli wars and their 5-digit casualty lists is awful. If we think and talk about it today, over lunch, will that make it easier to deal with if it actually happens tomorrow? Will we look back, thinking, "So that's what it was not to know war"? Will it all be over tomorrow and will I feel foolish for imagining I could imagine war?

I don't want to send a man to war.

Each morning when I get up and before I leave for work I want to wake Benny and say something... in case he gets called up to the border while I'm away at work. And then I get over it and just take a good look at his peacefully sleeping face and go to work.

I don't want to send a man to war. I don't want a hero in a box.

I hope we're laughing this off next week in nervous, giddy relief.