Starting the new year in Israel was special since I was celebrating my daughter’s wedding. Now, through my daughters, I have two extended Israeli families, and my connection is seemingly forever with one grandson and who knows how many more Israeli-born grandchildren to come.
With the early-January wedding coinciding with trouble there, I was concerned. Before departing, I promised myself I would be careful, vowing not to walk around too much, or take public transportation. But I arrived and quickly forgot what I had promised myself.
Daily life and living overtook my apprehension. I learned valuable lessons as I lived the expression, “life goes on.”
I was in Tel Aviv on New Year’s Day when two people were machine gunned to death by an Israeli Arab. A third died later. I was staying around the corner from where it happened and had been in front of the Dizengoff Street location both that morning and the night before.
I was headed in that direction that fateful afternoon when I heard the wail of sirens and then my cell phone. My daughter informed me of a shooting, adding the gunman was at large. She told me the police ordered a lockdown and that we shouldn’t leave the apartment. That was at 3 pm.
My daughter had planned a Shabbat dinner for that night, and family and friends who’d travelled to Israel for the wedding looked forward to meeting. Most of us were staying in the lockdown zone.
As nightfall neared, and with the gunman still not found, a decision had to be made about the Shabbat dinner. It was agreed to have the dinner for those who felt comfortable enough to venture out, and everyone agreed to meet and go together. In pouring rain, we hailed taxis and went to my daughter’s with the sights and sounds of the aftermath of a terrorist attack in front of us.
For me and my life-partner, the choice was to go or to stare at the walls in a studio apartment with no kitchen. We feared being bored to death and we wouldn’t permit ourselves to be frightened. So we went. We enjoyed the companionship, and my daughter was so relieved her wedding activities didn’t begin with a cancellation.
We walked back to our place without incident and tried to sleep. But, just hours after the attack, we heard a loud happy party above us. Yes, life goes on and, as I was to find out, life goes on for the Palestinians as well.
The night we left for the airport, with my daughter who lives in New York City and her baby girl, the pre-arranged taxi with a luggage rack didn’t show up. After 15 minutes of nervous waiting, a licensed taxi stopped. I told the driver his car wasn’t big enough for the luggage, three adults, a baby and a baby stroller. He told me it was. Exasperated, I told him to try and somehow he succeeded.
While he spoke little English, he did speak fluently in Hebrew with my daughter. Although it didn’t matter to us, it mattered, big time, at the airport that he was Palestinian.
As many of you know, when you arrive at Ben-Gurion airport, you pass through a preliminary checkpoint and cars are usually waved through by Israeli soldiers after a brief conversation.
After seeing several cars pass through routinely, our turn came. Our driver opened his window. The solider looked at him and asked for his identity card. The driver pulled out his wallet and removed his plasticized ID. The soldier glanced at it and told him to pull over.
Within seconds, three soldiers with machine guns on their hips approached the car. I looked at the driver, but his expression didn’t change. He had seen this movie before.
When the soldiers realized my daughter was the only Hebrew-speaking passenger, their questions about the Palestinian driver were directed at her. They wanted to know how we knew him, if he had acted correctly, if he did anything wrong. The driver sat behind the wheel understanding everything until the questioning ended and we were cleared.
From deadly acts of terror to scenes like this – it is so sickeningly sad.