art and music event 2

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.


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.

I will never remember

I may never forget the Holocaust but how can I remember it if I wasn’t there?

The survivors can’t remember all alone. Especially as they get older, their numbers are dwindling and, as Melabev put it, a lot of them physiologically literally can’t remember anymore.

melabev on yom hashoah

But truthfully, the Holocaust is full of untold stories of people who died along with every single person who ever knew them. There is no one to remember them individually and so they are only part of our collective remembrance. It is our job to remember them.

holocaust poster

And so we do it. We all join the band of the surrogate memory-bearers so that the survivors can have some peace of mind, knowing that although we don’t understand, we will try and although we can’t remember, we will never forget.

The Middle East and North African refugees

Who do you think of when refugees connected to the Middle Eastern “conflict” are mentioned? The approximately 800,000 Jewish ones from North Africa and the Middle East, of course. Right?

Well, no. The story of the Jews in Arab countries whose lives became increasingly unliveable starting around the founding of the state of Israel in 1948 is little known. So many of them had to flee for their lives. Many were held prisoners, terrible pogroms were acted out against them, until they almost totally cleared out of what became hostile territories for the Jews. Many of whom had lived in those areas for hundreds, maybe thousands of years.

You can read this article by the JTA in order to learn more about the organizations who have taken it upon themselves to document these refugees’ stories.

Col. Richard Kemp on the U.N. Goldstone Report

I admit I was teary-eyed from watching this video. There are two things that are touching about it. First, what a feeling to actually have someone acting outwardly and proactively supportive of Israel. And, I feel so proud to be part of this country, the country that, according to Col. Richard Kemp, made more effort in the Operation Cast Iron in Gaza to protect the civilians of the other side than any other army ever has.

I hope you’ll watch this and pass it on so that maybe it could make a difference. Just in the last few hours it’s gotten thousands of views. Not too shabby.

Triplets for his three lost sons

(The facts in this post are taken from the Arutz 7 article which you can access here.)

You’ve gotta admit it blows your mind, at least a little, this story.

This poor man lost his wife and three of his seven kids when one of our crazy local terrorists came into their house in the Shomron yishuv (settlement) of Itamar and killed them. (Um, just btw, how in the world can a religion think that’s a good thing?)

The people killed in his family that day:

Rachel, his wife, 40

Neriah, 15

Tzvikah, 12

Avishai, 5

How heartbreaking. Since this horrid incident in June 2002, Boaz Shabo remarried. His new wife, Hila, and her five children moved in with Boaz and his two unmarried children.

Reminds me of the amazing movie, Yours Mine and Ours (the original, of course).

Anyway, on the second day of Sukkot (so, around a week ago), Hila gave birth to triplets! Two girls and a boy.

We can’t know what a person deserves in this world so I hesitate to say that Boaz deserves this blessing, but it just seems so fitting after he lost three sons that he should have triplets. He said, “Though it’s impossible to forget those who were killed, this is a very joyous occasion for all of us.”

Read the full article on the Arutz 7 website, including the story how, in 2004, he went to visit a man who lost his whole family – his pregnant wife and four children – in a terrorist attack.

Why are Israelis so self-deprecating?

The other day I told an Israeli guy that he didn’t come across as very Israeli. He was so complimented. Especially coming from an expert – you know, a non-Sabra from the dreamy West.

Two days ago another Israeli was saying how Israelis think they’re the worst at everything. The most immoral, rude, dumb. “No, not dumb,” I said. He agreed. Just everything else.

But for the most part, it’s true. When guy number one was happy I didn’t think he was very Israeli, I expressed my concern at his excitement and he calmed me down by pointing out that taking that comment as a compliment was, in itself, very Israeli. Too true!

I know that I am Israeli. How? I question everything about Israel. I look at our beloved country with a critical eye. I “test” Israeli society, culture, morality… I am so Israeli, I ask the most basic questions and I have this guilt about our existence. I’m embarrassed to say this because it’s so messed up, but it’s true. We are so introspective and judgmental of how we do things, and the world is, I guess, even more so, that it’s hard to fight being put down all the time.

I just watched the video below about the Israeli army, the IDF.

I felt guilty the whole time, watching Jews actually be strong and build an army for self-defence. (btw, the music is great in the video until ABBA suddenly enters later in the film.) It’s also a little (a lot) too long – you can just watch a couple of minutes and get the point (well, if there is one… OK, I’m not doing very well at selling this film).

It still makes no sense. Israel is actually probably one of the countries that contributes the most good things to the world. I speak to people all the time who are doing amazing things here to help each other and build a moral, productive, sustainable country.

Our self-deprecation is really messed up and I’m 100% sure there are historical reasons that we have this inferiority complex. What reasons might there be, though?

Some questions we could ask:

  1. Who has the complex? Are there people who don’t? What are the differences between them and those that do?
  2. Is the root of the problem our education system? How and if so, what was the thinking behind the system when it was created?
  3. Why in the world do we feel guilty to exist? Do Americans? Canadians? Anyone else?
  4. And, of course, how can we turn this around?

This last question is vital for our survival. We will be much stronger if we don’t feel the need to question ourselves so incessantly. I think it’s good to be introspective but we are self destructive.

Thinking about Gilad Shalit, the captive Israel soldier

It’s because of topics like this that I feel guilty for not keeping up more on the news. Is it not good, at least once a day, to stop by a news site and check the headline?

I say this because I don’t know exactly how things progressed to get to where they are today in regards to Gilad Shalit’s kidnapping over three years ago. But, I watched the video the terrorists took of him to prove to Israel that he is still alive. I’m sure there are many moral questions around the kidnapping by terrorists. But the most basic one is, in this case, do we exchange terrorists for his release? Israel already released 20 female terrorists just to get this video.

My opinion? You have to think about now. Right now we have a beloved Jew who is in danger. We must get him back. At any price? Maybe not. But considering there are so many terrorists amongst them, and such a large percentage of the “Palestinians” want us driven into the sea anyway, I’m not sure it’ll make the biggest difference to set some more of these haters free.

The fact that it sets a precedent, that is definitely a problem. If only we could act stronger so they knew that, on the one hand we’re willing to do whatever we need to in order to save a life, but on the other hand we won’t be pushed around.

There, I got political on blog midrash. How can I worry about being “too” political when Gilad Shalit has gone through hell for over three years? How selfish would that be?

Netanyahu accentuated that Herzl was traditional

I just read such an interesting, informative, and even touching speech by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu about Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl’s Jewish identity.

It is quite worth while reading the whole speech. He speaks about how there is a widely accepted idea that Herzl, the father of Zionism, was an unaffiliated Jew. Netanyahu brings proof to show that this was not actually the case. Here is a touching quote from his speech:

While in Basel he wrote of the experience of being called to the Torah before the Congress in Basel. I will read to you what he wrote before the meeting of the First Zionist Congress: ‘Out of respect for my religion, on the Sabbath before the Congress I went to synagogue.  The head of the community called me to read from the Torah, and when I went to the podium I was more moved than on any of the days of the Congress.’  He adds, ‘The few words of blessing in Hebrew got caught in my throat from emotion, more than the opening speech and the closing speech or any of the discussions.'”

I must say that I find it quite intriguing and exciting that this is the topic on which Netanyahu chose to focus on Herzl Day this year. He mentions that he recently read an historical book about Herzl and so I’m sure there were plenty of potential topics there for this speech, and yet he felt it most important, for whatever reason, to bring up this topic.

It is true that even if a lie is repeated many many times, it is still a lie. So, I can see how this topic is important just for the fact that, apparently, there is a wide-spread misunderstanding about it. But besides that, why did Netanyahu choose this topic on which to focus?

You can read the speech here. Recommended.