Friday, January 09, 2009

Security Update

The biggest problem I personally have right now is a broken tooth. That's right: it didn't crack, it didn't chip, the damn thing broke. What does this tell you? This tells you that I'm safe. This tells you that I'm being cautious, read: paying close attention to the news, absorbing any information about the situation that classmates are relaying, and heeding the security updates provided via SMS on our pelephones. For example:

27 December 2008: Due to the current security situation please exercise caution and avoid East Jerusalem/Old City.

1 January 2009: Tension will be heightened on midday Friday at the Old City. Please avoid its vicinity.

2 January 2009: Though there have been some demonstrations in Arab sections of the city including Isawiya, the HU [Hebrew University] security department reports that there is no threat or danger.

8 January 2009: Students are advised not to travel to the northern parts of Israel until further notice.

For a little clarification, Isawiya is about half a kilometre away from where I live. It was strange on the Saturday after the ceasefire ended to hear (for the first time) gunfire, and loud explosion-type noises, and helicopters overhead and it wasn't the neighbour's TV turned up loudly. This was real life; this was a reaction to the end of the ceasefire between Gaza and Israel. For the past six months, we, as temporary citizens, have been enjoying a peaceful environment and this whole idea of living in a war-torn country seemed surreal, not real, not the reality of our experience. And here we are, back to the regularly scheduled war. Having said that, I am not in any immediate danger. And this adds to the surreal quality of all this for me, who grew up without any experience of war: I know that Gaza is sending rockets into Israel. I know that Israel is bombing Gaza. I know that this is happening about a two- to three-hour car ride away; I know that if I had really wanted to see the protests in Isawiya up-close, I could have walked down the road. And I am obviously affected by it - how can I not be? - because of my proximity to it, but I am outside it. The violence in not directly in front of me.

So, I know this is happening and this is what I do: I go to class. I do my research. I go out for coffee and dinner with friends. I write. I decide every morning to conquer my fear of the gym. And, there's an immediacy to my decisions now. There's this non-existential awareness of my mortality, even though I am not in the middle of the violence, per se. I pay greater attention than I did before to what's going on, and recognize that I don't 'get it' - I realize that my head is in the clouds over the literary landscape shading the Ancient Near East of the 3rd and 2nd millenia BCE. But here, today, there are so many voices, so many perspectives and so many opinions: I don't understand it all so I listen.


Adrienne said...

Hi there- what a moving and humble account of your experience in J'salem. I felt the same way. It was so strange to just go to classes and to obsess over paper deadlines, when I knew that my fellow students from Isawiya and other villages, had other worries. Did you notice a heightened use of those black and white Palestinian scarves at Rothberg? And I knew that Gaza was just a couple hour's drive away, a fateful trip that separated me and my liberal luxury from their hell.

I've read some interesting comments on the english version of al jazeera. One of them made an impression on me and presented a persepctive that we do not often hear. A man from the west bank said he supports the Gazans not because they are Hamas but because they are fellow Palestinians; what happens to them, happens to me.

When 9/11 happened, I lived in Austria. I am not a big nationalist, but I felt compelled to hang up an American flag on our balcony. It did not make me a bigger Bush supporter (it would have been hard to be less supportive of Bush), but it was a way to show my solidarity with my people. Zeo.

Be well- I'll go to my own blog now - I feel a piece coming on...

Anonymous said...

Hi Tanya

A very insightful blog. I cannot begin to imagine what it is like for you to be so close to the fighting - the violence - the tension. Will look forward to our next Skype conversation about your thoughts & experiences and life at university & Israel. Stay safe my darling daughter and we'll talk soon. Take care, Love always, Mom