If my friends still lived here

It’s been a pretty rough morning.

I know exactly which of my friends I want nearby as I read these articles but, like most of the people I’m closest to, we no longer live in the same city.

If they still lived here we’d be getting together tonight. J would pick up a bottle of wine and make a loaf of bread. D and I would grab cheese, maybe a vegetable or fruit for balance. I’d set a batch of brownies in the oven, timed to come out exactly when they came over. (It wouldn’t work; timing is none of our strong suits. We’d eat them a little cooler, a little late. It wouldn’t matter.)

If they still lived here we’d lie on couches, or maybe just sit on the floor wishing it was still warm enough to spend evenings on our porches.

And we’d talk. And we’d worry.

I would tell them how scared I am. How sad. How I can’t imagine getting the pictures of dead men in prayer shawls and bloodied prayer books out of my head. I don’t normally see eye-to-eye with ultra-Orthodox men–not that they would even look into mine–but death is death and prayer is prayer and terror is terror. It couldn’t have been me, but it could have been me, in that synagogue. My prayer shawl looks a lot like their prayer shawls.

Yet the Biblical allusions in the Israeli government’s call for revenge with “a heavy hand” make me queasy. B’yad chazaka u’vizroa netuyawith a strong hand and an outstretched arm–is how G-d led the Israelites out of Egypt, yes, but what about the cost? The Exodus story is full of illness and pain, culminating with the death of all the first-born sons of Egypt, the drowning of all of Pharaoh’s army in the sea. This is a moment we are taught to celebrate but, again, death is death.

It’s a cycle. Horror begets horror. A violent Israeli response can only be met with more violence. History shows that pretty clearly. Death leads to more death.

But how could there be no response? Who can see the pictures and do nothing? Who can read article after article about stabbings and do nothing? Isn’t there a need to show that actions have consequences? What does a government need to do to protect its people, not to mention its country’s existence?

It’s an awful cycle and the worst part is that it seems there’s no way out. Participating makes it worse. Not participating might also make it worse.

Can anyone truly imagine real peace anymore?

If my friends still lived here I would tell them how surprised I was to see the news prominently displayed on the top left corner of the New York Times’ website. The Times is not particularly friendly towards or forgiving of Israel–an above-the-fold article laying no fault on the Israeli government in headline or lead is rare. I would tell them how, cynically, I immediately wondered if it’s because this time the dead are all American and British citizens.

I would tell them how I feel guilty for being so cynical.

They don’t live here anymore. Instead of having them over, I sent them e-mails saying how much I miss them. Instead of freshly-baked brownies, I’m eating dollar Rite-Aid cookies. Instead of talking I’m reading articles alone in my cubicle and writing, and processing, by myself.

This way is ok too, I guess. But I do miss the cheese and their company.

Yours truly,
~hbd

Note: It seems the New York Times agrees.

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