Life, Life, Life: The newest grief

"That’s one of the worst things those bloody terrorists are doing to us, they are making us fearful of everyone else.:

The 5 stages of grief  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
The 5 stages of grief
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
There is a scene toward the end of Macbeth in which the zig-zagging Ross changes loyalties once again and seeks out Macduff for help.
Macduff has gone to England to enlist the king’s aid to free a battered Scotland, a country disintegrating under a tyrant’s rule. Macduff greets his old friend with a telling question for the times: “What’s the newest grief?” And recently Ross’s answer has been banging about in my brain. “That of an hour’s age doth hiss the speaker,” he replies, “Each minute teems a new one.”
Bad news from an hour ago is so behind the times as to cause derision to one who relates it; new tragedies overtake the old by the minute.
Shakespeare was writing of ancient strife; Macbeth terrorized Scotland over a thousand years ago. But the words resonate today as we go online for word of the latest disaster in our buffeted world; the morning Jerusalem Post’s printed news of yesterday’s terrorism is already out of date.
“Alas, poor country!” laments Ross, “almost afraid to know itself! It cannot be called our mother but our grave, where nothing but who knows nothing is once seen to smile; Where sighs and groans, and shrieks that rent the air, are made, not marked; where violent sorrow seems a modern ecstasy.”
Ross could be talking about our universe today: almost afraid to know itself. No one except those who know nothing can be carefree anymore; the screams and shrieks of the wounded around the world are too many to note, and violent sorrow has become an ordinary emotion.
Before Paris, before Tel Aviv, before Mali and Alon Shvut those words were already slithering around my thoughts.
It was a Saturday night, late, and I’d just discovered a puncture in a back wheel of my car. Long gone are the easy days where I could simply call out to a husband to change the tire; but okay, that’s what insurance is for. A two-hour wait and the welcome phone call jangled the early-morning hush; the puncture-macher was outside. Great.
So there I was, on a dark deserted street, at 1:15 a.m., standing next to an Arab with a blunt instrument in his hand. He was helping me; he’d arrived to make my life easier. I offered him coffee, he gave me his card in case of emergencies. It was all a simple transaction of life: a man earning his daily bread by doing honest work; a satisfied client. It was as things should be.
Except that it wasn’t.
I was uneasy there, alone in the darkness.
But more than that, I was dismayed at myself for feeling this way. I had left apartheid behind nearly half a century ago; I had hated that fear of ‘the other’ in the land of my birth. I don’t want to be a racist; I want to believe that people are people and that most people are good at heart.
I do believe that.
And yet.
That’s one of the worst things those bloody terrorists are doing to us, they are making us fearful of everyone else.
My daughter, walking in the streets of Jerusalem, relates that a woman with her hand in her bag was enough to cause her mind to race. How crazy is that: a lady scrabbling for lipstick becomes a source of anxiety in a city where “nothing is but what is not.”
A cousin hanging up balloons for her baby’s welcome-to-the- world party unwittingly left a pair of scissors in her back pocket as she went downstairs in Jaffa to buy some string. She was almost arrested.
What is to be done? I have a friend who wants to go to the UN, together with women of all creeds and persuasions.
She is sure that women can work this out together, that female leaders can fix our fragmented peace of mind.
Some voices call for vacating the West Bank unilaterally, others pronounce plans to build more settlements there just to show who is boss. Shas leaders declared that stabbings in Jerusalem stem from the desecration of the Sabbath; I’m not sure how they explain away atrocities in Africa or Europe.
World leaders are talking the language of war; closing borders, bombing bases. Soccer matches are canceled in the strangest places; subways are closed in cities that never sleep. As for myself, I’m losing the plot; all I can hope is that God has the plan. For the world at large, preferably – not just here at the center of it.
In the end, someone will come up with a solution; somebody has to. Evil regimes ultimately collapse; we know they do. It took time, but even Macbeth was crushed in the end. In a bizarrely contemporary twist, Macduff manages to lop off the usurper’s cursed head, and pronounce that “the time is free.” Chaos and wanton killings can’t last forever in our streets, supermarkets, malls and public transport systems – one day we’ll find a way to liberate the world. In the meantime… in the meantime… I’m trying hard to come up with something cheery to say… In the meantime, Shabbat shalom to us all.
The writer lectures at Beit Berl and the IDC.