Thoughts on the matzav

26 Nov

by Ilan Bloch

Marina Maxamilian opens the night

Marina Maximilian opens the night

Eleven years ago, I made Aliyah to Jerusalem – at the tail end of the Second Intifada. I can count the number of terror attacks in the city which occurred during my first year or two of Aliyah on the one hand.

Last week, I went to the International Exposure to Rock and Indie opening night at Jerusalem’s Yellow Submarine. It was a strange experience; on the one hand, it was only a day after the heinous terror attack in the Har Nof shule which claimed five lives and, on the other, as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Culture Department spokesperson who talked at the event made clear – Jerusalemites are actually really glad when international visitors and tourists don’t cancel their plans because of terrible incidents such as this one. As a Jerusalemite, I was so happy to be at a musical showcase with performers from three continents at one of Jerusalem’s top night spots but I was also terribly troubled; my mind was racing with questions.

Could I enjoy myself during a night out in Jerusalem after what happened the morning before?

Is it really enough just to acknowledge the tragedy and then move on with the night as planned?

If I had changed my plans would I “be letting terror win?”

Is it sometimes appropriate to change plans in the face of mourning? If the answer is so clear on a personal level, why is it not on a national level?

Why hadn’t I felt this way in relation to the previous terror attacks? Did this one hit home because as much as I don’t see my reasons for being in Israel as relating to Jewish power and self-rule, there was something so Diasporic/Exilic about Jews dying al Kiddush hashem (as martyrs), butchered in the middle of tefilah? The proposal which I have heard discussed of guards being placed outside synagogues during services is so disturbing because at the end of the day perhaps one of the reasons I came here was to no longer be in such a security predicament. I didn’t “escape” from Australia yet still, the idea of Israel as a “safe haven” was/is so ingrained in me from my Zionist upbringing that it is difficult not to be shocked by the fact that this particular attack took place in Jerusalem under Israeli rule. (Of course, we shouldn’t lose perspective; the security forces who put a stop to the nefarious act were Israelis and they were defending Jews, not sponsoring the murder like in Tsarist Russia.)

I wonder if Jerusalemites who left the city for places like Modiin, or people born and raised in Tel Aviv, have these thoughts? If they don’t does that allow them to find more meaning in their lives because they don’t need to deal with all of this, or does the ideological self-reflection which perhaps takes place more easily and richly in Jerusalem bring meaning to its residents (or perhaps disrupt the ability of its residents to find meaning on a most basic level?)

And then I wonder, even though I am not at all scared in regard to my personal security, as a tour guide, who wants more tourists to come to Israel (including to Jerusalem), should I even be writing this post? Does talking about it facilitate necessary processing (for Jerusalemites, Israelis, Diaspora Jews and others) or by discussing it continuously does it not only pay due honor to the victims’ memory but also enhance the evil perpetrators’ aim of terrorizing?

Ilan Bloch is the Director of Teaching Israel.


2 Responses to “Thoughts on the matzav”

  1. Marc Schulman November 26, 2014 at 9:38 am #

    You raise an interesting question. As someone who now lives in Tel Aviv, my two previous stints in the country were in Jerusalem where I lived for a total of 9 years, I can say its very different. My eldest daughter lived directly across the street from Cafe Hillel and I have no doubt that she moved to Tel Aviv partially because of that experience. We moved here this time because we love Tel Aviv and all my kids wanted to live here and not in Jerusalem. Compared to Jerusalem Tel Aviv is a very relaxed city. The tension that exists in Jerusalem is somehow absent here. Even during the war this summer, it seemed very different, less stressful. Part of it is clearly a question of personal safety, in Tel Aviv I never have to think twice where I am going and is it safe. There is also none of the tension that exists between Jews in Tel Aviv like it exists in Jerusalem. I am not sure if it lets us reflect better, in my case I write more- but a the moment I write for Newsweek to I have an outlet I never had, but there is something to be said to living your life in a much more relaxed atmosphere without the daily tension that Jerusalem brings. Living here is never without tension, and whether you live in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem you still have to worry about your kids and their friends in the army, and of course you have to worry about small things like rockets from Gaza or a nuke from Iran, but its a lot easier to worry about existential issues when you can do that in a daily atmosphere that is relaxed laid back, and if you want to you can take a walk anytime you want along the beach

    • Teaching Israel November 26, 2014 at 9:46 am #

      Thank you for your comment Marc. It has given me a lot to think about.

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