Remember that movie, While You Were Sleeping? That’s kind of how things have been at From Leslie’s Laptop. Not that anyone was in a coma or that all sorts of romantic comedy high jinks were going on.
But I’ve taken the summer to regroup and rest up before the Jewish programmatic year begins. I’ve also been preoccupied with happy things, like family weddings, and difficult things, like friends and family dealing with illness. Yes, I was engaged by the tent protests in Israel, and of course I felt as if my own backyard was being attacked as rockets fell on our Israeli home towns of Kibbutz Erez and Ofakim. Then, just as I was about to pull it together to comment on the events in Israel, Hurricane Irene came to town and life became a search for electricity, freezer space, and D batteries.
The personal support I’ve had while tending to other people and the kindness of neighbors during and after the hurricane reminded me of what things were like here after 9/11. When someone asks, “How are you doing?” and really means it, you hear the echo of the days after the attacks.
We were very lucky, 10 years ago. We lost no family or friends, but we saw the devastation of those who did. We certainly experienced the fear — that it wasn’t over, that there were more planes coming. We had to explain the attacks to our children, then 12 and 15. I loaded up the house with bottled water, duct tape, canned goods, and anything I could think of that made me feel a little safer. Over time, life has become the new normal. But my perspective on the world certainly changed. I am always a little warier, a little more frightened. That’s why they call it terrorism.
The preparations for the observation of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 have brought back all of the thoughts and emotions; I’m sad, a little edgy, but mostly sad, for all of the families who lost loved ones, for our armed forces and their families who have endured so much and sacrificed so much.
As I write these words and think these thoughts, I am reminded of another feeling from 9/11. The feeling I had that maybe now Americans would understand how Israelis feel, day after day, faced with threats of terrorism. I’m not sure very many people have actually made the connection, but whenever anyone asks me why I’m not afraid to go to Israel, I always tell them that I am probably as safe in Israel as my husband is when he takes the train into New York City every day, if not safer.
And now, the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is here. And soon enough, the question of unilateral Palestinian statehood may be broached at the United Nations. The two may not seem related, but to me, they are. I read a very chilling line in a New York Times article on Sunday (yes, I know, what did I expect, but it is the paper of record.) In an article about U.S. efforts to avoid the U.N. vote, there was this: “The Palestinians have never acceded to a formal recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, in deference at least in part to the Palestinians who live in Israel.”
There are so many things wrong with that sentence that I don’t know where to start, but I’ll start here: I do believe in a two-state solution. A Jewish, democratic, secure Israel and a secure state, hopefully also democratic, for the Palestinians. If there are non-Jews who choose to live in Israel after a Palestinian state is established, choosing a fully democratic country that extends full rights of citizenship to all, then they will be Israelis, not Palestinians. But denying Israel’s existence as “a state for the Jews, to be called Israel,” in the words of David Ben-Gurion, because of Palestinians living in Israel, is a farce. It is simply another way of trying to erase Israel, not to live in co-existence.
If the country where I was born and raised doesn’t feel so safe, and the country of my people is facing hostility around the world, it does seem easier to preoccupy myself with the close-to-home issues of family and friends. I hope I have the strength to do both things. But whether the issues are large or small, what matters most is having people around us who ask, “How are you?” We held each other up 10 years ago, and we will hold each other up over the next few weeks, and hopefully longer.
Wishing all of you the strength to remember and the strength to face the future.