Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sderot is the New Black, Part II

I wanted to spend a bit more time on the whole scene at the restaurant, as the whole episode has really been bothering me.

Just to clarify: my issue is not that Mr. Politician was there. Someone to whom I related this story reacted very negatively to the presence of politicians. But seriously, did he have a choice? The way I see it, Mr. Politician has two choices: to go or not to go. If he does not go, then he is definitely a worthless scumbag. No ifs, ands or buts. If, on the other hand, he does go to Sderot, he still might be a worthless scumbag, and what is more, one who is opportunistically using the situation in Sderot for his own devious political ends. But it could also be (no matter how remote that this chance may be) that Mr. Politician is a genuinely dedicated public servant, who truly cares about the citizens of Sderot, who believes in showing solidarity and who really wants to understand what is going on, in the hope that this will allow him to make better decisions in Knesset and to find a soluti….now stop that! Stop laughing! I mean, just because Mr. Politician is in politics, does it necessarily have to follow that he is an asshole?


Right, so let us move on, shall we?

Anyway, my problem was not Mr. Politician, but rather with the whole circus atmosphere that surrounded him. It was positively surreal. Nearly all of the vital elements for a wild, patriotic celebration were there: the accordion, the bad singing, the jolly hand-clapping, the alcohol, the guy wandering around with an Israeli flag attached to his knapsack, the official t-shirts and the requisite passel of hora-dancing hilltop youth. Really, all that we lacked was free falafel, some jugglers for the kids…and any actual Sderot residents. With the exception of the people working at the restaurant, everyone present was a reporter, a tourist or a politician. The absence of Sderot residents in the Sderot city center was complete to the point of being downright eerie. Most of the stores—stores that would be bustling on a Friday morning in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem—were empty. My guess is that most people keep their excursions to the bare minimum, and prefer instead to stay as much as possible in their homes. Yeah, homes are being bombed too, but I suppose if you are going to be bombed, it is nicer to do so at home than while out browsing cheap sweaters.

My knee-jerk reaction toward the circus was one of contempt: G-d forbid that we do a good deed without fanfare, without making a big deal over what good mitzvah boys and girls we are! G-d forbid that we do a good deed without being paid for it in some way or another. Upon reflection, however, I believe that the answer is more complex. We want to visit Sderot, but we do not want to be in a place where bombs are falling on a daily basis. Perhaps that is the point of the circus: to allow us to anesthetize our senses, to be at once in Sderot and not in Sderot.

But does this not defeat the purpose? How are we, the visitors, the fellow citizens, the "Supporters of Sderot" supposed to get an inkling of what is going on there if we insist on closing our eyes? There is nothing festive or fun about having to duck in and out of makeshift bomb shelters countless times during the course of a day. I was in the city for about three hours; experienced two Code Reds and one big boom. While I would not say that I was afraid, I did find myself intensely aware of just how exposed I was, and remembering that, many times, the missiles fall without warning—death falling out of the sky. Every time Ellie and I were separated, I found myself thinking: "what if a Kasam falls now?" (As though it could not fall when we were together).

To live there…can you imagine?

If you want to help, help. Go there. Spend your money. Bli neder, I plan to go back on Friday. If you want to try to understand the experience of those living there, experience it. Forget the musicians, and the dancing and the sing-a-longs and the t-shirts and the slogans and the celebrations. Instead, be quiet. Be aware. Be afraid. And ask yourself: "what if I lived with this fear all day, every day, for seven years".

No, we cannot imagine. Really, we cannot. But we can at least try.

And as for the booze and entertainment…my vote is to axe the accordion, but to send the booze to the actual residents of Sderot. Lord knows they could probably use a stiff drink or two by now.


Jack said...

I can't imagine living with that every day.

Nicole said...

You may want to check - I can't find the info now, but I got an email that a lot of Sderot businesses are coming to Tel Aviv this weekend - to the TA port I think - to sell stuff. So you can support them but locally if you want.

Baila said...

When I was there a few weeks ago, there was a fair-like atmosphere, what with an estimated 10,000 people from all over the country driving down. But the residents seemed to be out and about (I spoke to several) and the kumsitz in the cafe seemed spontaneous and heartfelt (but I certainly don't recognize all the politicians in this country yet). I thought it was great day of Jews helping other Jews.

That being said, I did have a vague sense of guilt that I was leaving there to my thus-far, rocket free home in Modiin.

And the fear that it could happen here, or in any other part of Israel.

And I don't know if I could wait 7 years or more before getting the hell out of there.

ck said...

Hey I'll be back in Israel soon. Call me next Thursday and let's go! 054 664 7238

Gila said...

Walla! It is a date. Not this week, next week, right?

Marnie said...

I definitely cannot imagine it...It was bad enough living in NYC during 9/11. Every day, for months and months, I thought we would start having suicide bombers on every street corner...but the fear faded, much more quickly, in retrospect, than I would have expected.

Have you seen this story? I'd be interested in your reaction, if you care to share it with us...

Jerusalem Artichoke said...

It seems like the Israeli response to Sderot is so similar to the American Jewish response to Israel--well meant, helpful to some degree, but perhaps too self aware.

Everything from the way people related to you as the Bombing Victim Muppet to the classic scene in Salah Shabbati where they keep changing the name on the generously donated grove of trees has this same ring of people needing to Do Something for people who are worse off/braver/more idealistic.

Yaeli said...

Me me next week too! 054 255 6837

Eliya said...
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