Everyday life in an extraordinary place.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Going On

Scene of the terrorist attack on bus line 32-Alef
Photo copyright Yediot Aharonot

This Postcard from Israel was originally written on 18 June 2002

"Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come."

William Shakespeare
Julius Caesar, Act II, scene ii

For months, the debate has raged here over whether it is better to carry on with our normal lives or to restrict our movements in the interests of safety. Many people feel that to make any modifications in their daily lives is to grant the terrorists a victory. "We won't let them beat us!" is their battle cry, and they continue to frequent crowded cafes, shop in the malls, and in general go on as they always have. One poignant example of this is the man who survived the Park Hotel massacre on the eve of Passover, only to die at the hands of a different terrorist in last month's bombing in the Netanya shuk.

The people on this side of the argument would agree with the quotation above. To live in constant fear is to die a little every day. And that does give our enemies a victory. Better, they believe, to live as normally as possible; to come and go as they wish, free people in a free country. Of course they are right. They should be able to move freely, to enjoy the privileges of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

And yet, I think there is hidden in this viewpont a certain sense of "It won't happen to me." This perception of invulnerability carries a seed of irresponsibility. It denies reality, to an extent, and reflects a lack of consideration for those who love and depend on you.

"The better part of valor is discretion."
William Shakespeare
King Henry IV, Part One
Act V, scene iv

Those of you who know me are aware that this is more in tune with my philosophy. I am not a big fan of doing things just to prove a point. And, indeed, friends who once scoffed when I told them I refused to go downtown anymore have started coming around to my point of view.

We no longer shop in the mall or downtown. We no longer take our children to holiday shows or celebrations in the center of town. (Indeed, recently many cities have begun cancelling the celebrations. This sparked a whole new round of debate.) But we don't really miss those things. We are very cautious, perhaps overly so, but we have a wonderful life anyway.

But what about those for whom going downtown or traveling on the bus is not optional, but a required part of their daily routine? Those children killed in the bombing on the bus in Jerusalem this morning were not off to the mall to hang out and have fun - they were on their way to school. What about people like my friend, Noa, who works in the heart of downtown Netanya? Several times she has heard explosions from terrorist attacks in the city from her office.

These people cannot make a blanket decision to drop out of school or quit their jobs, in order to stay safe. The must go on with their lives, not out of bravado, but from necessity.

Many people have asked me, "How do you manage? How do you go on, from day to day?" The answer is we simply do. We get on with our lives as best we can, being as cautious as possible. It is rather like the philosophy found in this, the last quote I will throw at you today:

"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, 'I'll try again tomorrow.'"
Mary Anne Radmach

(c) Amy Samin

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