I live in an amazing city, perched on the hills just to the east of Jerusalem. It is considered a suburb of Jerusalem in many ways, though it is a city in its own right. A city of 45,000 people. We have many of our own facilities...we even had a movie theater for a long time. We have our own ambulance squad, though most of the actual ambulances are "on loan" from Jerusalem.
What that means is that in the moments after a terrorist attack, when they call all ambulances, three of our ambulances are called as well. For years, during the worst of the second intifada, that's how I knew there had been an attack - even before the media. I'd hear sirens and I became addicted. It was a way of dealing with the stress and even when things calmed down, to this very day, I listen for sirens and try to see the road to count. One ambulance means little - an accident at home, hopefully a woman giving birth, a normal incident. Two is likely more serious - usually a car accident.
Three is only one thing - a terrorist attack. The sirens wail as they fly up to Jerusalem. Three was what I dreaded seeing and when I did, I would go to the computer, the radio, the TV back when I had one...anything to catch a glimpse and then realize I was in those awful moments when I knew before the news was reporting.
Sometimes minutes later, even as long as 15...the map would come up first. We knew the rough location, but not the numbers. Then they would climb. It was almost a relief to listen and know that I was no longer alone.
This happened again a few minutes ago. I'd forgotten how horrible that feeling is.
Shmulik called in the early hours of the evening to tell me that he was in Hebron, near the Tomb of the Patriarchs. His commanding officer had gone to inspect the deployment of troops. It is the Jewish holiday of Sukkot and so many people go there to visit. It is an incredibly emotional place, solemn, special.
"See if you can take the time to daven Aravit [say the evening prayers]," I suggested. I don't know if he succeeded or not. I only know that a short time ago, he called to tell me he was back on base. He wanted to tell me he might not get home at all tonight; and if he does, it will be very late.
"What happened?" I asked him, knowing it couldn't be good.
"Shooting attack," he told me. "In Hebron. Two wounded."
I forgot him telling me he was on base. I forgot everything except him telling me he was in Hebron earlier this evening. "Where are you?" I asked him, none too calmly.
"On base," he said again. "on base."
"How bad?" I asked him. He didn't know.
"Check the news. It should be on soon."
And so I opened my computer. I went to three sites...nothing. It was a return of those horrible moments when I know enough to feel anger and sadness and worry, and not enough to know how bad. Was the anger to be joined with mourning; would there be more orphans...as there were just weeks ago?
Please, I begged the Internet. You were merciful a few minutes ago in not telling me until I'd heard from my son...now tell me.
"One lightly injured in shooting attack near Hebron."
"Pregnant woman injured in her leg; her husband drove her to the hospital. Light condition."
And the worst headline award, once again, goes to YNET for their "Woman gets shot in the south." Gee, YNET, why'd she go and do something so silly? Woman gets shot??? I'm always amazed by the way media loves to frame terrorist attacks in the passive tense because they don't want to admit to terrorism. Can you imagine the outrage if someone were to write something as offensive as "World Trade Centers get themselves blown up" or even "Twin Towers got attacked"? As if the WTC were responsible...as if those who were responsible then...and those who were responsible tonight, were not the real terrorists.
But returning to my point...which is hard when my brain doesn't want to work...when it only wants to panic, when it only wants more information put in, rather than allowing words to exit. The worst moments of a terrorist attack are those first ones. The minutes before you know...worse, the times I know that others don't yet know because I heard the ambulances...or, in this case, because Shmulik called me mercifully to know he wasn't there when the attack came; that he is safe.
These are the confusing times - so much of the information changes as pieces drift in - one or two - lightly or not. A woman; a man. Who knows?
It will come out. The stomach will settle and return back to the anger of earlier in the day when I heard Mahmoud Abbas say that Israel had to choose between peace and settlements. He's angry that Israel has stopped the building freeze. We promised 10 months and we gave him 10 months. He waited and did nothing for more than 9 of those months and now he says WE don't want peace? Now he says WE must choose?
Once again, my cowardly government will not answer him correctly. Oh, we may start to build (of course, the ultimate cowardly Ehud Barak is likely to avoid giving out permits thus thwarting law and justice by creating his own totalitarian rule), or we may not. But Netanyahu will likely cave to Obama, who is also demanding that Israel not build anymore in "the territories."
One has to wonder where Obama was the last 10 months as well - oh, that's right- he was busy criticizing Israel for not doing enough for peace, ignoring the freeze just like his Arab brothers.
And then there's the latest flotilla - this time by a bunch of "Jewish organizations" who urge Israel to practice "true Judaism" - these Jews who probably know nothing of Jewish law, certainly I'm sure they are not paying attention to the laws of Sukkot (unless someone wants to tell me they built a Sukkah on the ships they plan to sail into Gaza?
And what is their goal? I listened on the news...wondering if perhaps they were going to demand Gilad Shalit be free...no, silly...they have swallowed the hogwash of the propaganda makers...hook...line...and bull. They are worried about the poor Palestinians...presumably not the ones cavorting in Gaza's latest mall, swimming in those luxurious pools and living in those amazing mansions...no, the other ones...but not, certainly not, a word about Gilad Shalit.
Aboard this latest flotilla is a former pilot from the Israeli army who thinks he is God-like enough to solve the problems of the world...well, not Gilad's problems. Gilad is not relevant to him, only his ego and image and publicity - that pompous pilot and his shipmates.
So they will try to thwart the Israeli navy as well. The good news is that this time, when Israel stops them, few people are likely to care. My personal prayer is that Israel will sink the ship - and let the Gazans save those onboard. In fact, perhaps they should allow them to enter Gaza...and leave them there. No, Israel won't leave them there...it isn't our way...but please, Israel...please learn your lesson - sink the ships now. Give them one warning and then tell them to prepare their life boats and while they do...quietly send our boys under and let them carve a big hole in the bottom and let it sink. This time...and every time.
I know I'm being mean; I know I'm not being diplomatic. I should write more carefully, with less anger...but from the morning to the night...from one incident to another. From Abbas' asinine words to the idiots on the flotilla, to the shooting attack. It was a day of awful moments today only relieved by the gift of knowing my son was safe and for that, I give the greatest of thanks.