Israel seems to have gone into high gear in its plans to distribute gas masks to all its citizens. For days and days, there are long lines as people wait to receive theirs. In some cases, like us, the old ones need to be returned. This is all so very hi-tech. There is an efficiency there – that is belied by what is happening. No one in line has any doubt that this is because of Iran – it is that elephant in the corner; that massive threat just around the bend.
We found our gas masks yesterday – gone was any opportunity to put this off any further. Elie and Lauren and I drove to Talpiot, a neighborhood in the southern part of Jerusalem. We parked, walked upstairs, and right away saw that there were hundreds of people there waiting. It was a mix of so many things.
One security guard was calling out numbers…620…621…622…623. We were 791 until the man in front of us pulled out a bunch of tickets and gave us 790. He’d found an ticket with a lower number and planned to cut forward in the sequence. He was 686. Apparently the woman in front of him had the same idea. She saw us standing there – and handed us 671 – we went in front of 686. He was philosophical – what he had done to others was just done to him…not much he could complain about.
Of course, he then pulled in the ace of his deck – he pulled out his handicapped ID and asked the guard if he could please advance. Two points to him…he went to the front of the line. Things moved amazingly fast – we were ushered forward to stand on one side of the table. We handed in the old gas masks – it pulled something inside of me when I saw him count them and toss them aside.
He asked for my identification card, and with that, determined that he could give me 5 gas masks – mine, my husband’s, Elie’s, Davidi’s and Aliza’s. “What about Shmulik and Amira?” I asked him. “I gave you seven.”
“Wait,” he told me as he began. He pulled out a box, plugged in a number, and wrote my husband’s name on the box. He then used an infrared scanner to go over the bar code – all so efficient. We’re talking gas masks here! But that was for later. This was about processing people – not about politics or global threats by a madman.
“I have Shmulik’s teudat zehut [identification card] with me,” I continued.
“Wait,” said Elie.
The man gave me another gas mask – for me; one for Elie; one for Davidi; one for Aliza – her box was a different color and was larger – because while the rest of us have adult gas masks, she has the “youth” size.
He took Shmulik’s identification card and began processing it, “what about Amira?” I asked him again. Yes, I wasn’t handling this particularly well, was I?
“Wait,” the man said to me again – and I have to admit, there was patience in his voice each time. The woman next to me started arguing. She wanted to get someone else’s gas mask and the man told her she first had to call the Home Front office. She complained that she had been there more than 2 hours already and wasn’t leaving without the additional gas mask. She was very upset – again, the man taking care of me spoke to her calmly.
My mind was already racing with arguments if he wouldn’t give me the last gas mask – which was silly, I kept telling myself. Even if they give me Amira’s, she still has to come back for her husband and her son. When he finished Shmulik’s gas mask – I had six boxes. “Amira?” I asked him again. Clearly, my brain had no intention of listening to my heart.
“Which one?” he asked me and I showed him.
He plugged in her identification number and went to get a box. I was so relieved – ridiculously so. “Haim didn’t turn in his old one,” he told me (referring to Amira’s husband), but I can give you one for the baby.
This was more than I had hoped for, “okay,” I responded as he turned to retrieve the biggest box of all. I don’t know whether it is the tent version for an infant or the one for a toddler. “What’s the baby’s name?” the man asked.
Elie told it to him and the man wrote my grandson’s name on a gas mask. I called Amira as soon as I was clear of the area and told her. She was happy. Can you understand the concept that a young mother was happy that her son now had a gas mask? When you can, you’ll understand what it is to be Israeli – at least in part.
I could be philosophical and tell you that the concept that we might need them has not sunk into my brain in any way. I am going through the motions – almost believing that if we prepare, it won’t be necessary and if we aren’t ready, we’ll need to have been.