I’m a news-aholic. I confess it; I accept it; I give up. My nature won’t change and the only thing I can do, at times, is control how often I listen to the news. I know where it comes from. I wasn’t like this in the States. We moved to Israel just before Yitzchak Rabin’s “great” Olso Plan…the one that plunged us into more years of buses exploding, malls, cafes. For years, something exploded somewhere on a regular basis, and when it didn’t, it was only for the grace of God and the alertness of the army and security forces.
For all that I love this city and the wonderful community we have found here, the biggest trauma to my psyche happened when we moved to Maale Adumim just before the second Intifada. We live overlooking the beautiful hills of Jerusalem and a road, far down crawls gently down our mountain, across the valley, only to climb again and reach the heights of Jerusalem. When something explodes in Jerusalem, the first reaction is to call “all ambulances”. Then, as the first arrives (The Ostrich Calls to Me) and assesses the situation, the horror is either confirmed and ambulances arrive in huge numbers, or scaled down to meet the need.
What this means for me, is that in the moments after an attack, often long before news has reached the television and radio stations, I hear ambulances. One means someone is sick or having a baby. Two means a car accident, even, perhaps, a nasty one. Three…three is the nighmare returned. Three is a multi-casualty incident – usually, almost always, a terrorist attack.
It has been many years of “relative calm.” How I hate that term. What it means, in a very real sense is NOT that our enemies have stopped trying, but that we have gotten so much better at stopping them. It has been years since I saw three ambulances racing up the hill and yet I still tense when I hear a siren. I go to the window and count. One ambulance…hopefully a baby arriving. One ambulance…perhaps a broken leg. Hope it isn’t anything serious and go back to life. Two ambulances…they should learn to drive more carefully. A few extra minutes and maybe it wouldn’t have happened. I hope they’ll be okay, and go back to life. There aren’t three today. Breathe. Go back to life.
When I’m not at home, and even when I am, I check the Internet news sites regularly and often listen to the radio on the hour or half hour. The Sabbath provides a most welcome break. Twenty-five hours of quiet. Twenty-five hours where, unless I hear an ambulance, I don’t think about something blowing up.
But as soon as the Sabbath draws to a close, my mind wonders what has happened in the last 25 hours. With Elie in the army, I don’t feel comfortable closing my cellular phone and so it will beep if something happens. This week, it didn’t beep. That’s always a good sign.
I sat with my 8-year-old going over her weekly vocabulary words; I checked that my 12-year-old has gotten his backpack ready for school tomorrow. They’ve both eaten and my 18-year old has gone out with a friend. I loaded the dishwasher, cleared the dining room table and put away the Sabbath Challah board and cover till next week.
My time. I turned on the computer and began to surf the news channels. I check CNN to see what has happened in the world; I check Israeli sites to see what happened here. Thankfully, the police officer wounded in last week’s terrorist attack (in which a young Palestinian stabbed the officer and murdered an 86-year-old man), is doing much better. Arabs attempted to enter a Jewish village on the Sabbath, and these items catch my eye:
IDF forces apprehended a 17-year old Palestinian who arrived at Hawara checkpoint, south of Nablus, carrying a pipe bomb on his person.
Terrorists threw three firebombs at soldiers near the village of Azoun. The soldiers were unhurt.
The village of Azoun…again. The soldiers…Elie’s unit. The news already tells me that no one was hurt and my brain explains to my heart that had something happened, we would have heard long before I loaded the dishwasher, long before I opened my computer. My brain continued to explain, moving to other topics of interest, things I should do this coming week. I have to pull out the winter coats; the nights are starting to get cold. I need to buy another blanket. The economy.
It was at that point that my heart faded out and began a discussion with my fingers. Doctors will tell you that the fingers are controlled by the brain, but mothers know differently. Fingers listen to the heart as much as the brain, and often even more so. My brain droned on about the upcoming elections and then returned to the issue of the economy as my fingers picked up my phone and pressed the necessary buttons to call Elie.
He answered quickly and whether my brain kept talking or not, I cannot say, for all the ears caught was the sound of his voice. Yes, he says, it happened; everyone is fine. He updated me a bit on what happened. Several Arabs threw firebombs and paint on army vehicles. No one was hurt. People were ordered to stay in their homes while the army searched. No one was hurt – that’s the main thing.
We talked about several family issues. Elie gave his opinions and comments on each thing and it felt good to talk to him, to make him a part of things that are happening here. We’re renting a house which is in very bad condition, but the owner (like many of the absentee landlords here) wants to raise the rent (without actually doing anything to fix the place). So we are thinking of moving nearby where we would actually pay less. It’s a smaller house, but with three kids living most of the time out of the house (married, army, hesder), we could deal with that. It means Elie and his 18-year-old brother sharing a room when they come home.
Elie was fine with that and made suggestions about things we could throw out or consolidate. He told me that he could request vacation time to help with the move, “combat soldiers never use up all their vacation days.”
We talked about the family cars, about work, about the economy. Nothing particular and everything specific. He told me that the rain had triggered security fence alerts that the soldiers had to go check and he told me that the command post was concerned when it started to rain really hard. They called to check one position to see if they had the necessary rainwear. The soldiers said they had what they needed, but that it wasn’t raining.
The command post told the soldiers – put on the rain gear…the rain will be there in a few minutes and sure enough, within 5 minutes, the rain arrived at that outpost as well. It didn’t rain here over the weekend. That’s common. Maale Adumim sits just to the east of Jerusalem, one mountain over. Between us, there is a deep valley. But the weather here is often very different, even from Jerusalem. We are just on the edge of the desert, our nights are cool and our days dry and hot.
Often, it will rain in Jerusalem and we will get a few drops (if that). Today was no exception – it rained long and hard where Elie was; not at all where we were. It was probably one of the longer conversations we’ve had over the phone in quite a while. He was about to go to sleep – had 8 hours before he was expected back on duty. We finally said our goodbyes so he could go rest.
My fingers closed the connection as my heart turned to my brain, “Now, where were we?…ah, yes, the economy….”