Wednesday, December 19, 2018

“I’ve been meaning to discuss this with you,” began my husband as he turned from Route 60 onto el-Amal St. We often turn off here to avoid the Gush Etzion-Jerusalem highway, which is invariably congested. It wasn’t built to handle the number of people who call Gush Etzion their home. El-Amal St. leads one to the intersection of what we locals call “Derech Wallajah” since the road passes the al-Wallajah village (though we never actually see the village). “Not that I want to speak of these things, but if something happens, what would you do?”
I feinted as if to scoot down into the well at the front of my seat, the front passenger seat, then looked to him for approval. “That’s good,” he said, “But now move to your left as you get down.”
I did it. “That’s right,” he said, explaining that this way was a better angle, a longer angle, that would help me fold my body into the tiny area.
In general, we feel safe on this road. The area is populated in the main by Christian Arabs. They are not out for our throats, though possibly for our business. Most of the small businesses, and several dentists letter their signs in Hebrew, too. Why not? Our shekels are just as good as anyone else’s.
But there have been so many attacks of late, ever since the UN declined to pass a resolution designating Hamas a terror organization. And even before that, an Israeli man was stabbed at the little mom and pop store called Ricardo, that lies just past the junction. We pass that store all the time, and wondered what would happen if we went in there.
Probably nothing. A friend often stops there for the 3 NIS cokes. For some reason, products available in Arab shops are dirt cheap. And anyway, we don’t believe it was a local, Christian Arab who stabbed the Jewish man, though who knows?
This isn’t the first time my husband has given me a mini-course on what to do in the event of a terror attack. Look, we’ve been in Gush Etzion since before the first Intifada. They called us “electioneers,” since settling us there was a bid to get Yitzchak Shamir elected. (P.S. It worked.)
We lived with our very large family in a flimsy little “caravan” on a windy hilltop. But my husband had to go overseas to visit his family back in Chicago. He worried about leaving us. So he practiced with me what to do should a terrorist infiltrate our home. Dov had me flip up the mattress against the wall, and mock shoot around the corners of doorways with my Uzi, until he was satisfied I knew my stuff.
The idea of practicing for terror attacks must be very disconcerting to people who don’t live where we live. And they might wonder that we chose to raise our children in such a place. Maybe they think we are crazy. Or that we are thrill seekers.

Others hate and revile us, because they think we have no right to live in our indigenous territory. These people have turned the word “settler” into a pejorative (though I have always seen it as the most honorable designation possible).

But the truth is, we live in a state of protective denial. We live here because we believe that the more people who live here, the safer it is for all of us. For us it can’t only be lip service or part time. We have to be here, feel compelled to secure the land for our people. It’s a mitzvah called Kibush Haaretz.
I’m too old for thrill-seeking and my sanity is in check. Most of the time, I’m just fine. I don’t think about the danger. But sometimes it gets to me. After all, I tell people, I’m a writer. My imagination gets carried away.
So sometimes I’m in bed on a Friday night, resting after a hard day of cooking while the men are in shul, and my mind starts to wander. I imagine a knock at the door, and when I answer, an Arab sprays my face with bullets. I picture myself crumpling to the ground. My husband coming home to see me in a pool of blood.
Or sometimes I’ll be washing dishes at the kitchen sink, and I’ll imagine an Arab construction worker coming up to the window, smashing it in with a brick, climbing in and grabbing me by the neck, then stabbing me multiple times until I am dead. My children coming home from school and finding me like that.
It’s just my imagination running wild. But it echoes so many scenarios that have actually happened in our part of the world. There was an attack in Kiryat Arba in 2003, that happened just like that knock on the door on a Sabbath eve scenario. Which is why it haunts me.

But most of the time, I don’t think about any of this. Because you really can’t live like that, breathing danger. It’s no way to live. You use the Stanislavsky method and act as if everything is okay, and you (and your family) are safe. It’s a kind of protective shield, this active denial and I welcome it (and dread those moments when my imagination runs away with itself).
When people ask me if I’m not frightened to live where I do, I ask them if Squirrel Hill, where I grew up around the corner from Tree of Life Synagogue, is safe. What is safe, where is safe, when one is Jewish?
Is it better to live in Squirrel Hill believing you are safe, or is it better to live in Gush Etzion, as prepared as anyone can be for the worst, and hanging tough? What is the point of dying as a Jew in someone else’s country?
I always think that if I die in a terror attack in Gush Etzion, God forbid, at least I will have lived a life worth living. If it has to happen, and I hope it won’t—I know I have a lot of living left to do—at least I will have done my part for my people, strengthening our inheritance, the land.
Here I will make a confession: not all of my children share my deepest religious convictions. But all 12 of them share a deep and abiding affection for the land. So maybe I didn’t get all of it right, but I think I got some of it right—the part that has to do with love of country.
And if I could do it all over again, live anywhere else in the world, I know I’d want to be right here in Judea, living in protective denial and hanging tough.
My heart wants nothing more.


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This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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