Thursday, June 20, 2002
Dear family and friends,
Thanks for all your concerned e-mails. We're OK, we weren't in the areas of Jerusalem that have been bombed this week. On Tuesday I was at home and when the bomb went off on Wednesday crazily enough I in the port city of Ashdod escorting a group of British tourists who are visiting Israel on a solidarity mission. Today I was in Jerusalem, and as you can see, nothing blew up there today.
I'm sorry that I'm writing such a grim letter, and I'm sorry that I'm still writing mostly group e-mails, I tried to get back to writing to each of you individually, but quite frankly, it has been too painful and too difficult, so I'm only writing a few individual letters a month, and as I have a lot of letters to catch up with it is taking me a long time to respond personally to all of you. Every time I sit down to write I wonder whether I might, God forbid, be killed before my letter arrives. As you can imagine, that kind of makes it hard to sit down and write the letter in the first place.
When I began writing this evening at about 9.30pm the number of Israelis murdered this month by Palestinian terrorists stood at 64. By 11.15pm and that figure was 68. Gunmen infiltrated the Israeli village of Itamar tonight, breaking into a family home and shooting its residents. Now, just after midnight the number has reached 69. The body of another little boy was just salvaged from the burning ruins of the house. I feel like going to bed and telling Jason to wake me up when the war is over.
The atmosphere at college today was subdued, with an almost palpable feeling of hurt, of loss. In my first class of the day, an overview the biblical prophets, we could barely keep to the topic. The final unit of the course was on prophecies about the end of days. Over and over, themes from our current reality cut into the theoretical discussion of topics from Isaiah and Jeremiah. Recollections from the funerals so many of us have attended over the past year mixed with commentaries on the “birth pangs” of the messianic era, reflections on the death around us alongside the prophecies of a future world without sorrow.
Upstairs in the beit midrash (study hall) I tried hard to prepare for my next class, Chronicles. It was a futile task. I could see that my teacher was upset, and as I sat there pouring over my notes I could overhear snippets of conversation from the next table, as she and other students talked about friends killed and wounded in yesterday’s bombing.
This was the last class of the year and we were studying the final chapter of Chronicles, about the death of King Josiah and the beginning of the end of the Kingdom of Judah, the chain of events which would ultimately lead to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and exile to Babylon. Not the most cheerful subject matter under any circumstances. Today it was hard to hold back the tears.
My teacher did her best not to leave us only with tragedy, devoting the last few minutes of the class to sources about redemption, about hope, a little light to diminish the darkness closing in around us.
As she rounded up the session with a few end of semester words of thanks her voice faltered slightly, and in a quiet, slightly shaky voice she announced that today’s class was dedicated to the memory of a friend killed in yesterday’s bombing. We sat in painful silence for a few minutes, unable to just pack up and go, each and her own hurt.
And then we walked out into the Jerusalem sunshine to catch our buses home.
Across Jerusalem police have set up roadblocks at main junctions and along major roads. Police or soldiers stood guard at many bus stops.
It was an odd feeling, riding on the buses today. My mind kept going back to Wednesday’s bus bombing, to the Megido bus bombing two weeks ago and to the attack on a bus stop yesterday. The horrifying news footage would not leave me. As I sat in the bus I pondered the force it took to render the solid looking vehicle into a twisted, blackened piece of scrap metal.
I felt especially tense when a young Arab man stood next to me on the bus. A young guy carrying a bag. Probably just out shopping. Maybe not.
It is madness. There is no way of knowing whether he was an innocent local Arab or a Palestinian terrorist. It is one of the most maddening aspects of this war, the way the enemies’ “soldiers” masquerade as civilians so that suddenly you feel as though you can’t trust any Arabs at all. It hurts like hell.
The nervousness is fleeting though. Yes, I guess it is always lurking somewhere in the back of my mind, but I find that as the war goes on the fear is further and further from my thoughts. I suppose that is the way we learn to live in such a situation.
I don’t know if it is real or only my perception, but the bus drivers have seemed friendlier, more polite lately. I find that my cheery “shalom” is more likely to be responded to with a smile, my “thank you” is more likely to earn a “you’re welcome”. After all, who knows if this is our last bus ride.
We're still hanging on.
Links to external sites
Documenting the Palestinian terrorist assault
Official Israeli government sites
News from Israel in English
Media and politics
Buy Israeli online (New!)
Copyright 2002 by Leiah Elbaum.