One thing I’ve learned about the Jewish world (especially in Israel) is the power of memory. Jews aren’t supposed to forget things: the exodus from Egypt, that we were once strangers in a strange land, the widow and the orphan. And we keep days in the calendar on which we remember events such as the destruction of the Temples (Tisha B’Av), the Shoah, the soldiers and victims of terror who have fallen in Israel, the trees (Tu B’Shvat), our deliverance from destruction in Persia (Purim).
Memory is collective, but also more personal. I remember the bumper crop of Chabad kindergartners named Menachem Mendel about 5 years after the Lubavitcher Rebbe died. And last night at dinner Beans told us there is a new girl in her class. Her name is Shalhevet, and she lives in… I knew before the word was out of Beans’s mouth. Hevron. Because in the spring of 2001 (when the Cap’n and I were visiting Israel and I was pregnant with Beans) an Arab terrorist shot Shalhevet Pass, age 10 months, in her stroller as she was out with her family in their hometown of Hevron. She was one of the early victims of the Palestinian Terror War that stretched from Arafat’s refusal to end the conflict at Camp David in 2000 until 2006.
There is a feeling where I live that things are heating up again. There is a new solid wall going up next to the Tunnel Road into Jerusalem. Three Israeli policemen were killed in their vehicle near Hevron a couple of months ago. Four Israelis were murdered on the road to their village two nights ago, including a couple with six children (the mother was pregnant with their seventh); a newly wedded husband; and a wife and mother of a young daughter. And now, I read that two more Israelis have been wounded on the road. To remember the more than 1000 Israelis killed since the “peace process” began, the Efrat chat list has been carrying a conversation about establishing a memorial to the victims of terror, many of whom lived in Efrat.
I sometimes try to remember what it was like to forget. The daily reminders that there are no borders, no security, no peace, make living here a fatiguing experience. And yet I remember hearing about Sigmund Freud’s battle with cancer of the jaw. His doctor prescribed opiates for the pain (sort of like what living in America was for me), but when he tried to take them, it made his mind go fuzzy and numb. In the end, he chose to go without the drugs, preferring to remain clear-headed and to feel the full joy of life, dealing with the pain as best he could. I know if I were to go back to America to try to escape the sadness, the anxiety, the anger, I wouldn’t stay. I might enjoy a break of a few days, a week or two, and then want to be back on a plane again. The joy of living here, even with all of the sorrow, is too great. So we live with the memories, and the present, as best we can.
Perhaps some good will come of Netanyahu’s meeting with Abbas, though we all doubt it here. What matters most is that we’re here.