What it’s really like in Jerusalem these days

With the precarious and terrorizing situation in Jerusalem currently what it is, if you aren’t here, you can’t really know what it’s like. And so, while sitting on my balcony at 2AM, listening to the stillness of a seemingly peaceful city, with sporadic sounds of people still out having fun, I’m going to tell you what it’s like in Jerusalem these days from the perspective of one Jerusalemite – yours truly.

Too much news

I’m  tapped into the news almost constantly. I look at it before I go to sleep and when I wake up. I try not to but end up doing it anyway. When I forget about it for a while, I feel a mix of relief and panic, happy for the break but wondering what might have happened since the last time I checked.

Listening for sirens

I am tuned into the sound of sirens. I can tell the difference between a regular emergency and a terrorist attack. I’ve heard the response of emergency vehicles to at least one attack. The cacaphony of sirens is unmistakable and it’s very traumatizing sitting in your house imagining what is going on right then, really very close by.

How safe I feel

How vulnerable or safe I feel fluctuates on a regular basis. Every time I am indoors, it is nerve wracking going out again. And the more I am aware of the news, the more I fear for my own safety.

Still safer than Canada?

Tonight I walked through the park to an event. Yes, tonight I walked through a park by myself. I wondered if it was a bad idea but found a couple of girls sitting eating sushi by the playground (when they turned around to make sure I wasn’t a terrorist, I told them not to worry, I don’t have a knife – we all laughed), others were exercising and still others were sitting quietly on the grass with their arms around each other. I thought, even at the best of times in Toronto I’d never walk through a park by myself at night.

Giving moral support to each other

Many people are creating initiatives to give moral support to each other. One day a family walked around the Mamilla Mall giving out notes with a candy attached. The other day a few women stood in the German Colony and handed out flowers and cookies to put a smile on people’s faces:

Women hand out flowers and cookies to cheer people up (photo by Marian Morgan)
Women hand out flowers and cookies to cheer people up (photo by Marian Morgan)

And tonight I went to an amazing music and art event created especially to give people strength:

art and music event
Art and music event at the Open Studio

Appreciating each other that much more

I keep thinking how lucky I am to be with my family and my friends. I keep thinking, “Thank you. Thank you.” And I wonder superstitiously if the more I say thank you, the more we’re protected.

Facebook for laughs and cries

My Facebook newsfeed is to a large extent about the situation and it has me infuriated one moment and laughing out loud the next.

Still alive and well

A colleague created a Facebook event in order to encourage people to post photos of themselves out, continuing on with their lives. The hashtag: #enjoyjerusalem in English and “now in Jerusalem” in Hebrew (#עכשיובירושלים). People were doing it and it was heartwarming and fun. Until the two terrible attacks in Jerusalem the following day when the businesses emptied out and people felt the need to stay home.

Empty restaurants

Seeing empty restaurants, cafes and bars open, all the tables out and welcoming, with almost no one, or literally no one, sitting in them, is absolutely heartbreaking. Jerusalem’s businesses are hit repeatedly over the years by the security situation here and it’s hard to imagine how they get through it.

empty streets
Hillel Street, a central street in downtown Jerusalem, empty on Tuesday night

Supporting businesses

A friend decided to organize a trip to the Mahane Yehuda outdoor market for drinks in order to support the businesses there. Afterwards he estimated that we spent around 800 NIS that night which was probably a large percentage of the transactions made in the normally bustling shuk bars.

empty shuk
Tahrir, normally hopping Middle Eastern style bar in the Mahane Yehuda Shuk sits empty besides for us.

A sad day in the city

The only reason I could get myself to go to the shuk that night was because I was already out. That day I’d already heard the sirens of the attack in Armon Hanatziv, I’d stood at a bus stop with other people, wishing we weren’t such a good target, traveled on the bus looking carefully around at the other passengers who were looking carefully at me, walked through a quiet downtown Jerusalem and spent the afternoon in Tmol Shilshom, a Jerusalem restaurant, where barely anyone showed up besides a handful of European tourists who, I figured, don’t have to worry about being targeted because they don’t look Jewish. I then walked around town, taking pictures of the empty restaurants and then walked to the shuk. I know that if I’d just been at home, I’d have been too afraid to venture out in the dark of the night.

Looking Jewish

I think about how looking Jewish is a liability right now and it’s so hard to see Jews, yet again, being targeted especially if they look Jewish, aka, ultra Orthodox. I jokingly write on Facebook that I want to walk around with a Canadian flag draped around my shoulders, the way I saw a tourist doing with a British flag, and a Facebook friend points out the irony and tragedy that I’m even toying with the idea of hiding my Jewish identity in the Jewish state.

Shabbat conversations about self defense

Friday night, after dinner at my friends’ home, they demonstrate stabbing each other with a fake plastic knife in a myriad of different ways and show me self defense moves for each scenario. We talk about whether or not we’d have the presence of mind to actually do something productive in such a terrifying situation and my friend, an aikido expert, explains that fear is our worst enemy because it doesn’t let us do what we’re capable of doing. He says that running away is dangerous for you because the terrorist could just run after you and stab you some more and it’s dangerous for those around you because he’s still not neutralized. He says that the last thing the terrorist expects is for you to make a move and so it’ll catch him by surprise and if you’re already stabbed, that’s also OK because a person doesn’t feel pain right away after being injured.

And for the millionth time I remember what a Holocaust survivor once said to me – that every Jew should learn krav maga – an Israeli-developed self defense system.

New walking style

Whenever out I use the new Israeli walking style implemented by many of us here – walk, look behind, no earphones, listening around us, look behind again and keep on walking.

Trying to keep track

I try to keep up with who’s been injured and killed even though it’s really hard both technically and emotionally. I look at pictures of the people who have been in the attacks, read what they have to say and hope for their full recovery.

Israeli humor

Just like during the Gulf War (which happened our first year in Israel), terrible situations bring out some serious humor among Israelis. And many of us revel in it for comic relief. For example, people are laughing about all the random items being used to fight off the terrorists – like umbrellas, selfie sticks and even nunchucks. Someone also wrote a parody song about one of the female terrorists: “She only wants to stab.” Humor maybe only Israelis can appreciate.

Pride and frustration

I fluctuate between great pride for not “being like them” and great frustration for not being stronger.

The park

It’s 2AM and I’m sitting on my balcony. Over the last hour I’ve heard teenagers hanging out in the park and now a group of bikers (seriously) chilling. There was also a biker who rode by a few minutes ago. You almost wouldn’t know that anything is wrong.

So hard to concentrate

I know I have two meetings and lots of work to do tomorrow but in general it’s so hard to concentrate while we all wait with bated breath, hoping there are no more attacks and wondering what’s going to be.

Tomorrow

Now I’m going to go to sleep and then wake up, check my phone, nervously leave for work, pray nothing happens to any of us, knowing full well we just don’t know what’s going to be. I’ll go to my meetings, talk about the situation with people, check the news and try to concentrate on my business.

And meanwhile I’ll keep saying, “Thank you. Thank you.” And I’ll keep laughing and crying and feeling infuriated and hopeful and I’ll keep holding my breath that little bit I keep holding it, hoping we’ll all be OK.

Shavua tov.

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3 thoughts on “What it’s really like in Jerusalem these days

Add yours

  1. Thanks for sending me your latest post, Deena. What a great personal assessment of the stressful situation you are all living in. We are all thinking of you and praying for real peace.
    Sending Deena and Yoelly home tomorrow . Miss you! Love

  2. Deena, I am reminded of my first time in Israel, December 2001…I was taking off from New York when news of the Ben Yehuda bombing reached us. I took off. Throughout the Second Intifada I moved throughout Israel, often just ahead or just behind a pigua. I was in and out of homes and hospitals, interacting with families who had been personally devastated by terrorism…and climbing back out of the pit. And so we will continue forward through these days as well…step by step, alert and praying. Be well.

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