They say... / by Sophie Schor

This morning I walked. I walked down a street until it ended so that now I can say that I know where it goes; it's been added to the mental map in my head of my new surroundings. I walked till the backs of my heels burned, alerting me that these were not the appropriate shoes for such an adventure.

I sat down at the edge of the sea. I watched the day awake before me and three men gathered at the edge to fish—they stood there, pole up, line in the water, shaking hands. One man, suddenly I noticed, was walking at the edge of the sea—thigh-high in the water. I hadn’t realized that it was that shallow. He was stalking schools with his net. And in one quick and practiced movement, he flung it from his shoulders into the water. As he lifted it, the silver-bellies of the fish glittered in the morning sun.

I sat, observing as one, two, four army helicopters headed South. Gaza? I wondered. But who am I to know for sure.

It’s the 3rd Intifada, they say. It’s nothing new, others say. Terror returned to the streets of Israel, they say. Terror continued in the West Bank, others say. A settler couple killed in front of their children, they say.  27 Palestinians dead in 2 weeks, they say. Most under 18, they say. She wasn’t even close to the soldiers and got 10 bullets, they say. People stabbed just because they are a Jew, they say. Gaza is rioting near the border, they say.  It’s all about religion, they say. Must return to a state of security, they say. It’s because of the occupation, they don’t say.

My stomach sinks and my brain turns off. Too much, I say.

I can’t keep track, I can’t process, I can’t write, I can’t update. So instead, I go to work. I make coffee. I fill brown paper bags up with the beans we roasted from Bali. I consider taking up smoking—to cope with the stress. Seems to be what most people do here. I think of what my parents would say. I squash the thought like an imaginary cigarette butt in an ashtray.

I went to the meeting with All That’s Left last Thursday. It was hard to stay focused. That day, there had been stabbing attacks in Tel Aviv, Petah Tikva, Jerusalem, and Afula. As the news says, the Palestinian attackers were “apprehended”—which in most cases means shot dead on the spot.

As we sat in the living room of a friend’s apartment in Jerusalem, we kept hearing the rise and fall of nationalist chants and cheers from the nearby park. A huge protest was happening that night in Jerusalem—people were marching from the park to the Old City demanding “security” from the government and waving Israeli flags. Helicopters flew overhead and Jerusalem activists had been placed on-call to go out into the streets to counter the nationalist fervor and prevent/witness/record any potential attacks against any Palestinians who might be walking the streets of Jerusalem and isolated in this crowd.

The sound of the yelling and chanting echoed over the rooftops and kept crashing in through the open windows of the living room where we were trying to organize. It was a strange collision of reality and theory: here was a room of activists strategizing, and here was the hateful reality that we are trying to fight colliding into us. The meeting ended abruptly as an alert was sent out to the group that many of those participating in the demonstration had ran off from the cordoned path set up by the police and were roaming the streets pumped up on the energy of the crowd. The meeting dispersed, many went off to be present at a counter rally. Others walked in groups and escorted Palestinians off the streets of West Jerusalem and away from chants of “Death to Arabs” and “The Country Demands War.” 

Since then, it’s been a frenzy of protests, counter protests, more stabbings, more arrests, more helicopters flying overhead, more political analysts adding their two-cents. Demonstrations here in Tel Aviv have been held in Kikar Rabin (Rabin Square, infamous location for rallies in Israel). Rallies demanding an end to violence and intolerance. Rallies demanding that the government takes care of the security of the country. Rightists, Leftists, everything in between; they fill the square taking different shifts, never once hearing the other's demands.

And here, my phone goes off with an alert about another stabbing this morning in Ra’anana and in Jerusalem. Too much, I say.

Unlike the new street I meandered this morning, this is a road we have been down before, and it goes nowhere.