I was at a dinner party in Jerusalem when the news broke that the three kidnapped boys had been found murdered, HYD. The rest of the evening was very surreal. We were all in shock, holding back tears, grieving – while sitting at the table trying to figure out how not to insult the hosts, who had clearly worked hard to prepare a lovely evening. We choked down our food and left as soon as was practicable, muttering our thanks and apologies, and stumbled home.
Today was not much different. We had arranged to meet two couples for lunch at Café Rimon in Mamilla. Since it was so blessedly warm in the sun, we opted to sit outside. Because we hadn’t seen each other in some months, it took us a long time to get around to perusing the menu – there was so much to catch up on. Just as we were settling down to business, we heard, “Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop”! Maybe ten shots that sounded exactly like the pops people report hearing on the news. Allen and I, who have been here two months, in the space of which time there have been 22 Jewish murder victims and almost daily stabbings, shootings and car rammings, knew right away that those were gunshots, not firecrackers. I made the inference that there must be a terrorist stabbing attack underway or just ended at Jaffa Gate, right across the road. Siren upon siren wailed toward our area. When the sirens finally stopped, and the dead and injured were transported away, we sat for a while in silence, trying to process what had happened. We were all struck by how close we were to a violent scene.
It’s funny but all this while I have been saying to myself and others that it makes no sense to be paralyzed by fear of terrorist attacks because in actuality the odds are teensy that I will be the next victim. On the other hand, I have also had an underlying sense of inevitability that something would happen to or near me or someone I know. But so what? What practical consequence ensues from that thought? You can’t simply huddle in your bedroom hoping fate will overlook you. You have to go on with your life. (On the other hand, I expressed this exact sentiment to a friend who then told me that her cousin hasn’t left her apartment in two months for fear of an attack.)
When we roused ourselves, we talked a bit about how shaken we felt, how vulnerable, how “they” just don’t let us live. Then the waitress came over for our orders. We told her we needed a bit more time and scoured the menu for our choices. The rest of the meal continued as normal, or new normal. (Hence the title of this article.) We enjoyed our food, we relished each other’s company, we gossiped, we soaked up the sunshine – but all with an undercurrent of heightened awareness – of our surroundings, of our vulnerability, of the preciousness of the moment.
Tomorrow Allen is taking a road trip to the Negev, and I am going shopping in Machaneh Yehudah. Anything could happen – but that is true anywhere, any time. We choose to be optimistic. We choose to carefully move forward. We choose to be grateful for all the good that surrounds us. We choose life, insofar as we have the choice. Please G-d.