Terror doesn’t scare me. Rather, it makes me rage at my impotence. I can write blogs. I can live here no matter what. But it never feels like enough.
So I was glad when Ricky messaged me that she would be going to the Im Tirtzu protest. Besides Ricky is someone I’ve always wanted to know better. Without thinking of the lost hours at work and in my week in general, I took a plunge and asked, “Could I go with you?”
This was only my second protest ever. I tell people I had a deprived childhood. But in my heart I strive to be a rebel, to retain some of the youthful defiance that had me flying off to Israel in the first place (I was 18).
I had a single reservation: that Im Tirtzu is a student group and that Ricky and I would be deemed too old to protest alongside them. “Are you kidding?” she said. “The more people the better. They’ll be happy to have us.”
And she was right.
The theme of the protest was to make noise against the “Silent Intifada.” The one that the establishment ignores in fear that its acknowledgement will exacerbate the violence. The one that killed Chaya Zissel Braun and Yemima Mosquera, HY”D, may Hashem avenge their blood.
It was at the site of their murders that we would protest: make noise against the silence.
I knew from the press that Im Tirtzu would have whistles and drums. I wondered if they’d have enough instruments for extra protestors, so in a flash of inspiration, I grabbed two pot lids and stuck them in my handbag, after testing to ensure they made an effective clang.
Ricky, knowing I was a novice and knowing also that even after 35 years in Israel, and after years of after-school Hebrew school, my Hebrew still sucks, translated the slogans as they were chanted, via megaphone, to the crowd. There were signs with photos of various terror attacks and I grabbed one to hold up. There were Israeli flags and drums, as well.
It was awesome to be part of a protest. It was exciting. It felt pro-active. It was fun and electric. But most of all, I felt I was doing something for my land and for my people.
Cars and buses passed us by. Jews would honk in rhythm with our megaphone guy’s chants. They were showing support, Ricky explained, and she showed me how to acknowledge and thank them with a nod or a wave.
Arabs passing by us showed their disapproval in many different ways. One guy drove around the block about 4 or 5 times, slowing down, each time he passed by us, staring us down.
He meant to be threatening. Well it was, just a bit. At the very least, this had the effect of making me watchful.
A woman drove by and gave me a look that festered with hatred. I felt the evil coming off her, dark with false piety and black at its core. We were poles apart.
And that’s the thing: the reactions to our protest were so polarized. There was approval and light and there was black bitter hate, savage in its expression. “If looks could kill.”
We stood across the street from where that little pink baby girl, Chaya Zissel Braun, so long awaited by her parents, was thrown from her stroller. She flew into the air 10-20 meters high before plunging to her death on the concrete of a busy Jerusalem street. An Arab overtaken by anger and hatred did that to her. He rammed his car into a crowd of Jews. He couldn’t bear to see them standing there, living life free as Jews in their own land, them and their land unconquered by Islam, refusing to submit, they had to die so he made them die.
But really he just hated. Hated Jews because he needed an object. He simmered and overflowed with it. It was the evil inside of him, lusting for expression. And he liked that. He wanted it to out. He wanted to feel it full force; that marvelous black feeling with the bloody red aura tinged with faded gray and souls, too many souls calling to him. Jewish souls he wanted to, craved to, snuff out.
And so he did. Chaya Zissel Braun took flight and people watched and could not stop it: could not close Pandora’s Box, could not place a cork in the searing black hatred that coalesced and coagulated with the remains of human detritus as a Jewish soul flew free and clear to the heavens.
A bus drove past. An Arab leaned out the window and thrust a small glass bottle forward so that its contents (strawberry Schweppes)sloshed out, dousing my legs and feet. Then he threw the bottle in my general direction.
Nyuh uh uh.
The bottle rolled harmlessly into the gutter, whole and unbroken.
Soldiers and cops came running out of nowhere in a flash to chase the bus down. They flagged the bus, made it stop. Ricky urged me to go after them but by the time I made it over there, they’d let the vehicle go. I told them I could identify my attacker and they had the license plate, but that was the end of it. Maybe if I’d been quicker. I don’t know.
No matter. It was meant to happen. I felt GOOD about being attacked like that.
Isn’t that odd?
It felt like an initiation of sorts. I’d finally done more than write on behalf of my beloved country. I’d had something thrown at me.
I’d made noise. For real this time instead of black letters on a webpage somewhere in cyberland.
I’d banged pot lids for Jerusalem and for the sake of my people. For the sake of Chaya Zissel and Yemima. I’d held up a sign and chanted for my land, for my nation.
I had at last earned the ultimate privilege. I was one with my people; would be one with my people, forever. Even when my earthly body would no longer grace the earth, tinted pink with strawberry soda and courage.
The nation of Israel lives. And here is why:
We are too stubborn to die.