Friday, October 23, 2015

Never Hide!

The streets of Jerusalem were quiet at 3 am.  I walked with my two daughters to our friend’s home to watch our beloved Chicago Cubs lose game one of the NLCS.  I felt completely comfortable at this hour, in a way I never felt safe walking to the 7-Eleven nearest Wrigley Field to get ginger ale for a sick child.  Walking the streets late at night felt normal, even during this wave of attacks.
The game ended, we walked home and started our day.  I dropped my youngest daughter off at school and went to the gym near the Old City.  Afterwards, I had a strong feeling inside that I needed to walk around.  Strolling felt necessary.  
First stop: Roladin in the Mamilla Mall to get a large café hafuch.  While there were people walking, window-shopping and sitting in the restaurants, the mall was far from full.  It seemed there were as many police officers and soldiers as there were customers and it felt safe.
Second stop: The plaza outside the Jaffa Gate.  I met a group of Armenian Christian tourists from Australia finishing their tour.  At the same time, another group, from the Philippines, was just setting off on their Old City adventure. Standing across from the outer walls of ancient Jerusalem, I saw that the tourists looked happy and comfortable, not  nervous or frightened.  
Third stop: The Old City.  I talked with Zaki who sells Middle Eastern bagels and breads. We exchanged pleasantries and he complained that all he wanted was  “to be able to feed his family and for us to live in peace.”  I agreed.  Zaki then asked, “But tell me, Why do you people want to go to Al Aqsa?  It is not your place.  Why do you provoke?”  The “Jews want to take over and destroy Al Aqsa” is a total fabrication, a lie spread by Fatah and Hamas to provoke Palestinians that has no basis in truth. But I knew I would not be able to convince  Zaki of the truth. Instead, I asked him which of the yellow bagels was more authentic, the chocolate or the date-filled, purchased the date-filled one, and continued my walk.
Fourth Stop: Jaffa Street.   Like Mamilla Mall, there were people going about their regular errands – shopping, eating, talking and working – and plenty of soldiers keeping watch, keeping us all safe.  Like the Arab shopkeepers at the Jaffa Gate, there were plenty of storeowners complaining about the lack of business. During these conversations, I started to get a hint of why this walk was so important.

Fifth Stop– Ben Yehuda Street.  I moved down Jaffa Street toward Ben Yehuda Street. I found the answer to my question, my need to walk around town, in a Simon & Garfunkel-esque way, almost straight out of The Sounds of Silence.  The words of the prophet were not written on subway walls – we don’t have subways in Jerusalem – or tenement halls; rather, it came in the form of an advertisement for Ray Ban Sunglasses. In big, bold letter, above a group of  athletes were two words:
“Never hide.”  It is so simple.
I needed to walk around downtown Jerusalem because I could not hide.  

Hiding means the terrorists win, they cause me, they cause us, to change our lives. They dictate where we go and what we do or don’t do.  They breed fear, hatred and, unfortunately, more violence.  I won’t hide because this is my home, my country, my city.
“Never hide” doesn’t mean take needless and careless risks.  Like any major city in the US, there are certain areas here I don’t go to because the “crime” statistics are too high to make it worth the risk. At the same time,  “Never Hide” also means not to avoid your gym or your regular coffee place or wherever you like to sit and work.
“Never hide” means not conceding our Jewish values.  It means being like the children of Aaron:  pursuing peace.  It means remembering that redress is in the hands of God, not people; that we demand safety but won’t execute vengeance. It means that even in a war on terror, we trust the IDF and Police to protect us and to do so in an ethical way.  At the same time, “Never Hide” does not imply or permit violence, vigilantism, chants of “Death to Arabs.” That is simply not our way.  “Never Hide” demands that we call out our own who act counter to our tradition, who murder, beat and berate in the name of vengeance; it means we don’t let them hide from justice.
Unlike in the past, we no longer need to hide. We are a “Free people in our own land.”  We can and must be publicly proud, both in Israel and across the world.  We cannot sit alone in our darkened rooms, letting life pass us by, conceding victory to the terrorists.
In fact, I believe that the more we are out and about, the greater the sense of individual and collective security we will feel. I write this secure in the knowledge that things will ultimately quiet down and return to normal.  One day, there may even be Peace here.  Let’s hope and pray it arrives before my Cubs make it to, let alone win, the World Series. While we wait for and work toward it, we can say, as Cub fans do every year, “There’s always next year.”  And there is always the next cafe hafuch, the next moment of pride and the next possibility for Peace.

Until  that time, the words of the Ray Ban prophet will continue ringing in my ears:

“Never Hide.”

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