26 July 2008

"For the first time, I really did feel Israeli."

Life is a precarious thing, and not just in Israel. Just down the border in Gaza, six people died recently in a bombing (for once, not blamed on us), five people drowned this weekend off the Israeli coast, a very sweet, good friend of mine in the States died last week and I nearly got hit by a car tonight on my bike, a split-second experience that took my breath away with its proximity to tragedy. (My proximity to tragedy).

I've often wondered what this very thin line is that separates us from death. What is it that keeps my heart pumping blood through my body and my lungs taking in oxygen and my cells working doing whatever it is they do? What keeps me on THIS side - where I'm alive, with friends and family and a stable job and air in my lungs, instead of on THAT side - where I'm six feet under?

What separates me from, say, Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier still sitting somewhere in that shithole called Gaza? Or from Karnit Goldwasser - the wife of Ehud Goldwasser, one of the kidnapped soldiers whose body was just returned two weeks ago to Israel in a black box after being somewhere in Lebanon for two years? Why them and not me?

But it's not so simple. Tonight, I rode my bike down to Dizengoff to return a video to Dizi (a really cool video store slash laundromat slash cafe where you can rent a movie (and a laptop) and order something to eat while you do your laundry). On the way, i passed through Rabin Square, where a rally last week was held for and by Gilad's platoon, which was being discharged, for his release. A graffiti-ed message said,

"We are all in this together."

Which is really what it is after all in this country. Almost two weeks ago I sat, glued to the computer screen, as Ehud's and Eldad's bodies were being returned to Israel (no one knew up to that point whether they were alive or dead). I felt so sad, so heavy and so grieved over the tragedy of it all. That night, a new immigrant I met asked me if I felt Israeli after being here for almost two years. I knew the answer almost without thinking: "You know," I said to her, "this morning, for the first time, I really did feel Israeli."

I told this to an Israeli friend the next evening, and he said, "With what happened, you actually felt what it was like to be an Israeli." And then we went back to our appetizers.

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