Suddenly Sabra: Safe in the siren

In my apartment in Tel Aviv, my fear dropped away. I felt safe and secure among a city, a country, of so many people standing.

siren standing 88 248 (photo credit: )
siren standing 88 248
(photo credit: )
"Finish your food, dear. You know, there were people who starved to death during the shoah," I said to Boaz. I pointed to his breakfast of labaneh, pita, olives, and Israeli salad. "You sound like my grandmother," he said. This was an ordinary conversation for us, but it wasn't an ordinary day. It was Yom Hazikaron. And it was yet another Israel moment that I questioned whether or not we should be eating. Like many secular Israelis, I don't think twice about eating on Yom Kippur. But Yom Hazikaron feels more sacred to me. Maybe in part because it is more immediate - it is not abstract, it is not a day immersed in the misty shrouds of religion. It is real, it is now. I shared these thoughts with Boaz. He agreed. "What I don't get," he said with his mouth full, "is why there is just one day of remembrance. It's not enough." But Israel itself is enough. It is a living, breathing memorial - over 7 million strong - to both the Shoah and those who have died for our country in battle or as victims of terror. Just being here is an act of defiance toward those who'd rather not see us on this land or on the earth. Still, there are times that I don't breathe easily. Though I support Israel - and the steps the country must take to defend itself - the toll it has exacted on the Palestinians troubles me. But there is a flip side to this - the anger that many Palestinians harbor toward Israel frightens me. Sometimes it seems to me that Jews can never be completely safe, that we live in a perpetual catch-22. "When I lived in the States, I had nightmares about the Holocaust," I told Boaz. "Now I have nightmares about terror attacks." "Don't worry, I'll protect you," he said in Hebrew. He took a bite of his food and added, "Unless Iran drops a bomb on us." Oh, right. I have that to worry about, too. "It won't happen. They wouldn't be so stupid," I said. "I don't know. Their president is like Dr. Evil." "So are we safer in the States?" "Where they have the KKK rallies?" Boaz said. I had a memory of one myself. When I was 17, the Ku Klux Klan had gathered in the park that was less than a mile from my house. That morning, when I was headed out for my daily run, my mother stopped me. "Don't go to the park today," she'd said. I didn't, but the specter of men in white sheets stayed with me. Boaz finished eating just in time for the siren. We stood. Save for the urgent tone filling the air, the apartments around us were silent. The doors to my balcony were open. I looked outside. The sky was an unflinching blue. I closed my eyes and listened to the tone filling the air, felt the air filling my lungs. I imagined my neighbors doing the same - standing motionlessly. I pictured people on the street who had stopped mid-step and who now stood frozen, statue-like. I thought of all of us, a nation, inhaling and exhaling together. Though neither Boaz nor I were mourning anyone in particular, we have both been lucky in that neither of us has lost anyone to a terror attack or war, I felt sad... for those who have died and for the unforeseeable deaths that surely lie in the future. But in that moment, in my apartment in Tel Aviv, my fear dropped away. I felt safe and secure among a city, a country, of so many people standing. "What do you want to do today?" Boaz asked me a few moments after the alarm stopped. "Want to go to the beach?" It was reverence, followed by a life-goes-on attitude that toed the line of indifference. Like the black humor Boaz mixed with his breakfast, it was very Israeli. That the fading of Yom Hazikaron marks the beginning of Yom Ha'atzmaut mirrors this attitude - we mourn our dead and then rejoice in our collective life. It is the joining of these polar opposites, this juxtaposition, that makes Yom Ha'atzmaut so exhilarating. And the same could be said for our day-to-day existence in this land. The writer, who immigrated in April 2008, is writing a regular column on her wet-behind-the-ears experiences here.