These past few days have been harrowing to say the least, and as they multiply, stack up one on top of the other, they're beginning to teeter toward the horrific. They've been characterized by (sometimes) hourly attacks on Israeli citizens, (and to date, unfortunately, two inexcusable but still countable revenge-seeking counterattacks) making each twenty-four hour toll of incidents, whether small or large in nature, staggering. While the majority have been pinpoint and limited in scope, several have been deadly, claiming the lives of young women and men, mothers and fathers; everyday people who were just driving in their car, walking to work, taking their kids home, minding their own business. Checking for news updates on the computer, or cell phone, is sure to trigger an anticipatory steadying of nerves, shaking hands and full-blast anxiety attacks.
What the hell is happening? Just a few days ago the only thing we were talking about was the outrageous price of tomatoes; the press was full of funny cartoons, humorous skits popped up on local television variety shows and the holiday table was abuzz with the topic--no one expects a food shortage in a country so over-focused on providing one abundant repast after another. The high holidays had finally come to a close and we were all waiting to resume some sense of normalcy, with or without those all-too-precious tomatoes.
Suddenly that door was abruptly slammed shut and another had opened. The back-to-life we'd anticipated was something else entirely; an old story yet with a new twist. In this part of the world political terrorism is nothing new but the intensity of these micro-attacks has surprised many. Suddenly nobody really cares about those tomatoes--instead we just pile them in the cart and pay the bill.
Of course Israel hasn't cornered the market on tragedy. Just last week there was yet another college campus shooting in Oregon (and in Arizona as I edit this piece), a stampede at Mecca killed over 1450 (what kind of number is that!!!), a woman (yet, another) was killed in Philadelphia solely for being transgender and an eleven year old shot and killed an eight year old who was annoying him. It was a week that saw an entire city's universities (Philadelphia has more than a few) go into high alert due to a threat discovered on the web and another city's university completely close its doors because of one scrawled on the bathroom wall (Eastern Kentucky). At this point it's pretty much naive to go to sleep thinking everything is going to be "okay."
For that reason I was fairly shocked to see a spate of notices, news updates, Facebook comments and emails just a few days back, in the middle of this internationally tough week, reporting that a handful of individuals were staging a protest against the amount of wall space devoted to the art work of Renoir (yes, Jean-Paul).
Really? I mean, I'm a firm believer in freedom of expression and the concept that life can't only focus on headline news. And for the record, I'm not a real fan of Renoir. But honest to God, was now precisely the best time to stage such a ridiculously superfluous protest? It had, objectively, been a tough week back in the States as well. And although a lot of people don't appreciate Renoir's saccharine paintings (albeit they might if there simply weren't so many), the claim that they are a form of "aesthetic terrorism" is just in bad taste at the moment, if not borderline offensive.
Sitting over here in the potboiler I took a deep breath and pored over this bit of news. I tried to find some justification for this protest, to appreciate a group of art historians (after all, they are, officially, my people) staging a demonstration based on a good dose of legitimate thought. I maintained a straight face and assessed the arguments behind the claims as presented in multiple notices in the international press (a heck of a lot more notice, I might add, than what's been going on over here in Israel.) Perhaps, I thought evenhandedly, it's important to emphasize that life and thought go on despite the doom and gloom and perhaps, specifically, because of it.
It didn't wash. There's a time for levity. In fact, it's almost always welcome. But this particular protest, with its slogan of fighting, of all things, a form of "terrorism," smacks of the obnoxious and crosses a line. I simply can't wrap my head around the focus on such an inane subject at a time when gun law reform, the immigrant crisis, persistent racism and hatred and yes, actual terrorism, daily demand so much attention--and right there on their doorstep!
This brings me back to the farm. We've definitely got our own problems. But one thing I can say for this crazy hotbed of a country is that the population knows when to drop the petty and focus on the germane. Timing, in life, is essential. Furthermore, some sense of sensitivity, in a world known for very little, would be more than welcome.