Wednesday, May 7, 2008


The usual caveats apply. This was written in August 2002, at around 2 AM when I was too stressed out to sleep. As in, a long time ago and at a particularly tough time. Life is much better now.

I have a really nasty confession to make. Last week, when I learned that Americans had been injured in the Hebrew University bombing, one of the thoughts that went through my head was “Thank God! I am off the hook!”

"Off the hook for what?", you ask (even as you wonder how I could ever be so callous). Trust me, four months of this, and you would be callous too. Ever since the bombing, I have been, if you will excuse my pun, bombarded with requests. Can I do this interview? Can I come speak to this group? I feel as though I have become something of a poster child for victims of suicide bombings. This may be an overstatement. Maybe Israelis who are injured go through the same thing. However, what I have heard, over and over, is that I am special. I am not special because of the extent of my injuries. In comparison to many, my injuries were not at all extensive. Nor am I worthy of note because I displayed bravery in the face of danger. There was no bravery here. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Rather, I am special because I am a native English speaker. To be more specific, I speak English with an American accent. As of last Thursday, however, there is a whole new crop of American English speaking Poor Sad Victims Of Terror ® available to give interviews. I am off the hook.

But why would I want to be off the hook? I should want to help! I should want to raise awareness! (And, ahem, money). I should be elated and honored to meet with every last solidarity mission that comes through this country. I should be begging for the opportunity to share with them my poignant-but-gutsy story. I should be grateful for the chance to explain, for the 100th time, and probably to the secret disappointment of the questioners, that, no, I do not get nightmares and am not particularly traumatized. I should get misty eyed as groups sing Am Yisrael Chai way off key, to cheer me up, and read me letter after letter from elementary school children. (Of course, I should also keep a straight face as they inadvertently read me, with great ceremony, one child’s awestricken letter to a Brave Israeli Soldier ®, even though I am a Poor Sad Victim of Terror ® and not a Brave Israeli Soldier ®).This is my golden opportunityto Do My Part, to Make A Difference. To Pay Back my Debt to Life, the Universe, Everything and the Worldwide Jewish Community…and I want to be off the hook? What is wrong with me?

This is what is wrong with me. For the first month and a half after the bombing, I was not working, and could not do much of anything. The month after that I only worked two hours a day. During that period, if people asked me to sit for an interview, or meet with groups there was no problem. I had the time, I was grateful for the help I had received and I pass it forward. But I never thought that this would last beyond the first month or two. My assumption was that the interest would wane as my wounds healed, and I became less dramatic. That did not happen. Four months after the bombing, I am still fielding at least one or two requests a week. Friends, acquaintances and organizations will write or call with requests. “A solidarity mission is coming to visit and your story is so great, so inspiring, (read: “so likely to raise money”) that we would love if you would speak to them”. Or, “So-and-so is writing a graduate thesis/ filming a documentary/ writing the Great American novel/ working on a very deep and meaningful conflict resolution project/ whatever and they were looking for good people to interview and your story is so powerful that I gave them your email. I hope you do not mind”.

I do mind. I really do. Although I am still undergoing treatment, and probably will continue to do so for approximately the rest of my natural life and perhaps a couple years beyond that, I really am trying to get my life back on track. Last month I went back to school and started working half time. As of now, August, classes are in full swing, I am working close to full-time and have finally come off the dole. To summarize, for two months now I have been juggling all of the elements of real life: work, classes and homework with the critical elements of being a Poor Sad Victim of Terror ®: administrative fun with National Insurance and countless doctors’ appointments. I do not have time for this. As difficult as it has been for me to learn how to do so, my nice American-accented English is now expressing the word “No”.

But if I chalk my feelings up to a lack of free time, I am only telling half the story. The other half goes something like this: “I am sick sick sick of this god-forsaken, stupid bombing and of being a god-forsaken stupid bombing victim. I want it all to go away”. This has nothing to do with trauma. I emphasize this because whenever I mention this aspect of being Poor, Sad Victim of Terror ® to people, their faces immediately take on this sad, ‘I-understand-your-pain’ expression. They speak to me in slow, gentle tones just dripping with concern: “of course, it is painful to re-live it”. To clarify. I am not traumatized. I am not in pain. I am stressed and I am irritated. To use the vernacular, I am royally pissed off.

Here is what all of you seem to be forgetting. You can put terrorist activity in a defined space. When you have time, and to the extent you have time, you can take it out and play with it for a spell. You involve yourselves. You read articles. You send checks. You write your representatives in Congress. You are all very sincere and well meaning and believe that it is so important that those outside Israel really understand what is happening and understand what we Poor, Sad Victims of Terror ® go through. Then, when you are done being sincere and well-meaning, or if you discover that it does not fit into your schedule this month, you can go off and do other things.

You are dabbling in my bombing. I am wallowing in it. I cannot escape. What am I supposed to do—say I am done with it? Ignore it? My entire life has been taken over by this, this, THING, and it will be taken over for the foreseeable future. It is now nearly four months out, and I have five doctor’s appointments next week. At a minimum, I will literally be dealing with the medical treatments for the next year and a half. I still spend at least several hours a week dealing with National Insurance. My career, my earning power and my absorption into a new country have all been shoved back six months to a year. Beyond the obvious fallout there are other, more subtle intrusions. The bombing has leached into the simplest of my actions. I choose to wear a sundress because there is a heat wave—and have to bear people staring at the scars on my arms and legs all day. I went to the beach with friends and had to put on mounds of sunscreen and rent two umbrellas because I am forbidden to sunbathe. I went to a sandwich shop with my cousin and had to ask the staff to turn off the music so I would be able to enjoy a conversation during the meal. I went on a blind date and ended up waging a futile battle with my hearing aids as they picked up every conversation but the one I was having. I made the mistake of explaining the situation to the guy. Instantly, I stopped being Gila the person and was transformed into Gila the Poor, Sad Victim of Terror ®. I spent the rest of the evening answering questions about the bombing. Needless to say, he was not interested in me, even though he found me so sad, equally brave, is sure I will meet someone and wished me a refuah shlemah. Can’t I do ANYTHING without that stupid bombing coming along?

I am just so tired of the whole thing. I am sick of doctors, sick of the hospital, sick of National Insurance, sick of my hearing aids, sick of my glasses and sick of my scars. I am sick of people asking me about my recovery. I am sick of being stressed out—so stressed out that here I am sitting at my computer at 2:00 AM because I am too wired to sleep. In short, I am sick and tired of being a bombing victim. The last thing I want to do now is give this bombing more of my life. There are new American injured? Yofi. I am off duty and off the hook.


Ralphie said...

So all these years later... does anyone still ask you to speak/make an appearance/etc?

RivkA with a capital A said...

Yeah, I also was wondering if it "worked."

After all, not only were you a poor, sad, victim of terror, but also a spunky, funky, entertaining babe....


QuietusLeo said...

Gila, I love your writing even when you're pissed. And for the record you (and I) speak American. It's somewhat different from English ;)

Ari said...

Have you read Flags of our Fathers? It was about the heroism of American soldiers at Iwo Jima, and the behind the scenes story of the famous flag raising on that island.

What's interesting is that some of the soldiers felt manipulated by the way in which that Kodak moment was mass marketed to raise war bonds. In their minds, they were just doing their duty, and they felt like frauds or shills for propaganda...and also much less "worthy of adulation" than others that had sacrificed more. Each of those soldiers dealt with these feelings in a different way.

In a sense, you too were drafted into a war, and wanted to get an honorable discharge and go back into civilian life.

Not implying that you had the same feelings as some of these vets -- but I think you can identify with some of their sentiments.

If you haven't read the book yet, you might appreciate it more than most. It was turned into a movie, but I haven't seen it, and don't know if it captures this sub-theme.

It's also a really, really well written piece of literature. You'll want to devour it in a sitting or two.

Baila said...

Ahh, but imagine if you WERE the last sad, victim of terror? Ever?

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

Perfectly written. As usual. (But especially this time.)

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

I'm left speechless. As usual.

vedaal said...

" ... The usual caveats apply. This was written in August 2002, at around 2 AM when I was too stressed out to sleep. As in, a long time ago and at a particularly tough time. Life is much better now. ... "

so why do you write about it now in 2008?

(*not* a criticism,
just a confused question ...)

confused in not being sure how to react in a way that would help you feel better

not to want to help you feel better because of the 'bombing' thing,
but simply because you are sharing a part of the pain of your life,
and any caring person who feels the pain, would want to help ...

you really DO have so much going for you now, INDEPENDENT of the bombing, and enough to rant and blog about being living in Israel, being single and dealing with all the jerks out there
(including occasional jerks like myself on your blog ;-)
and all your visitors here would still love, and rush to read, whatever you write, even if there was never a mention of the bombing again)

you have:
--a great sense of humor
--a captivating writing style
--a decent job and independence
--a fair circle of genuine friends
--great Naot boots
--(and by independent eye-witness accounts :-) , look quite attractive even if you're not yet at what you consider your ideal weight ;-)
[put up a picture if you don't believe that,
and see what responses you'll get here ;-) ]

with each post you put up, with its caveat that it doesn't apply today,
especially with the post now,

i just want to point out,
that if it causes you pain to write about the bombing details,
everyone here will still faithfully read what you write, even if you never post another word about the bombing,
are everyone is at least as interested, if not more interested, in the 'Real GILA Here and Now' (freewareTM, feel free to copy, modify and use as you see fit)

so whenever you feel like:
"The last thing I want to do now is give this bombing more of my life"
just write about what you're feeling now outside of the bombing, and are ready to share

posted out of genuine concern and confusion,

if this upsets you,
i apologize in advance,
and promise to to post anything like this again

Gila said...

Vedaal--I think you are misunderstanding me. The article does not describe how I feel now. The article was written 6 years ago, and describes how I felt then.

I really am fine now. As for the writing--it is not painful. I LIKE writing. It is my hobby. Writing about the bombing now (from my point of view) has relatively little to do with the bombing and a lot to do with "oh, what an interesting topic to write about".

As for being sick of the bombing--trust me--I could never have spoken to a group the way I speak on my blog. :)

And as for life in Israel etc--I actually used to do that. It was quite dull.

Batya said...

You're a fighter!

After "my pigua," I was also on TV. That's because right after Terem, I was only slightly injured and prefered avoiding ER, I waited for friends to finish work to take me home, and davka their office was then in the JPost building. I was angry with the police for trying to prove the pigua was an "accident," so I barged into the late David Bar Ilan's office and demanded to be interviewed. When Steve Leibowitz read the interview, he put me on live IBA.
I got David to do a double-sized editorial against the police...