"It's fine until it's not fine." This sentence has been echoing in my head for a long time now. Especially when it comes to walking through neighborhoods I'm "not supposed" to be in, or villages I'm "not supposed" to see, or people I'm "not supposed" to meet.
Riding home on the bus last week, our entire way was detoured as the road was blocked. Stones had been thrown at the light rail station by Palestinians in the neighborhood Shuafat, police were looking for the people who had done it. But that moment of seeing the red tape across the lampposts and the flashing lights, my heart was in my throat wondering what had happened. How bad? To whom?
Meanwhile, up North sirens blasted warning the incoming of a possible rocket, and people were told to go to shelters. Only to be alerted minutes later that it was a false alarm. Twitter is a tricky flirt to follow.
Or everyday I take the bus into university, the bus stops as a security guard climbs on the bus to walk down the aisle to "inspect." By inspect I mean, it generally is the same tired looking woman with her hair in a messy ponytail and chipped nail polish, headphone playing music into one ear, who walks up and down, glances at people's faces and somehow gives the nod that it's okay. We then get off the bus, pass through metal detectors and a check of our student IDs before being ushered into the university.
I've begun thinking about the implications of these daily checks and these accidental sirens or the intensive double screening at the airport that my non-Jewish friends endure before flying. Our emotions are hijacked and kept in a state of fear and insecurity. I wonder how much of these security measures are actually necessary versus how much of it is perceived as necessary.
These fears aren't rooted in complete disillusionment though. I am also aware that I am here at a time of relative calm--it's not the 90's or 2000s with the Intifadas and buses and restaurants blowing up in Jerusalem. My Jerusalamite roommate told me of the time she was in her room and a molotov cocktail was thrown through her window. She only lives in apartments now that have metal bars on the windows. There have also been many attacks on Israelis in the previous days (see last post here) as well as several Palestinians who have been seriously wounded or killed. The situation while "calm," is not fine. Yet I go to school and make dinner and see friends and buy toilet paper as normal as can be.
This live on the edge mentality, that everything is fine until it's not fine, dictates life here. Limits people, pushes other people to extremes, highlights tensions, makes it hard to sleep.
I had a conversation with my cabdriver one day and he threw his hands in the air when I mentioned something about politics and just said, "Everyone living here has high blood pressure. We are all sick. This needs to end so people can just live."
Conflict is real. Something that I have to keep reminding myself as I take a deep breath.