JWR Wandering Jews

Jewish World Review June 19, 2003 / 19 Sivan, 5763


A nation of schizophrenics?

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Who says schizophrenia is a disorder or a disease? In Israel it seems more like a way of life!

On June 11, 2003, we were invited to a wedding. The son of very good friends was finally taking the big step. A beautiful young man - charming, accomplished, intelligent, handsome; a soldier of high rank in the Israeli army - was getting married to a lovely young woman, highly accomplished in her own right. Idealistic, thoughtful, a lawyer, smart, good. What else could one ask for a young couple just starting out?

I was in high spirits the entire day, anticipating the wedding. The weather was perfect; everything was well planned and in order. It was going to be a beautiful affair. The thought even crossed my mind, "Thank goodness it's quiet here (i.e. Israel, the Middle East, the World!) today. Nothing to spoil the blessing of a another wonderful new Jewish beginning, another new Jewish home."

Then I received the first phone call. At 4:20 P.M. a bus had been blown up on Jaffa Street in downtown Jerusalem during peak rush hours. Sixteen killed, scores wounded, several very seriously. The city center was closed off; ambulances were frantically making their way through the crowds; sirens blared; the news was repeated over and over again on ten different stations.

Catastrophe hits people in different ways. My short, initial reaction is shock. As though someone had punched me in the stomach. I take a deep breath, and after a minute or so, the walls go up. As if my senses closed down and refuse to accept information. I need "breathing time" to get myself together, put my thoughts in order, my heart on hold. It's much too painful to absorb head on. Objective, analytical thoughts run through my mind, as if I were contemplating a check list. First thing is to Check out where immediate family members are to make sure no one was in the city. The calls start flying. Then friends across the country, and from abroad, start calling in to make sure everyone is OK.

"Good thing no one in the family has to give birth right now," I think. "The hospitals will be full. Wonder if this will delay the wedding any.

Should I call and ask? No, leave them alone. They'll be upset enough as it is. Will we be able to drive through town or will the roads still be blocked? Wonder which direction the bus was going, to or from town. It'll make a difference in terms of who was on the bus. Does it make a difference who was on the bus? Whoever was on the bus is lying out in a plastic bag or spread around in pieces on the sidewalk now. Hope it wasn't kids. Hope it wasn't older people. Hope it wasn't anyone. So who are the sixteen killed if they are no-one???"

I close off this avenue. To start thinking like this gets you no-where except to the nearest mental health clinic. But I still don't feel anything. I have to get to the wedding. These are good friends. The kids deserve a good start. You can't go to a wedding in mourning. I hope I don't know anyone from the bus. So someone else will know them, not you. I don't want to know anyone from that bus. I'll lose control and start screaming - from rage, from sorrow. I won't think about it. What shall I wear? How can you think about what to wear when sixteen Jews were just killed and their bodies are trapped in a burnt bus or scattered on the streets of Jerusalem???

The wedding takes place as planned. It is very luxurious; the bride and groom are simply beautiful. A balm for sore hearts. The security is the tightest I have ever seen at any affair. We are checked three times before entering the building and are asked to present ID cards. A friend at our table says she mentioned the bus attack in the car on the way to the wedding and her son (also a soldier) said, "Not now. Now we are going to a wedding. We will not talk about the attack." Do you think that sounds cold, cruel, insensitive? No, he is affirming Life. That attack is churning away inside him but he will not stain or spoil the new life his friend is about to begin. This evening there is a wedding. Tomorrow, or later in the night, there will be time for mourning. After the simcha.

Mourning and simcha. Jewish schizophrenia. Historical Jewish experience. Life in Israel. Sometimes I need to scream, to cry out, "Enough!" To block out and obliterate all the evil, the human evil, in the world. But I know it cannot be. Evil can only be obliterated by constant vigilance and battle and by a profusion of good. Let there be weddings. Tomorrow we will hear funeral announcements on the radio all day long, and we will see pictures in the newspapers. Pictures of lovely, smiling, productive, loving, good people who are no longer here. And we will endure, and grow, and mourn, and multiply, and suffer, and build, and cry ... and give thanks that we are here.

Our enemies do not understand. They succeed in inflicting pain and sorrow but they will never triumph. They live to inflict death; we live to promote life. If we are sometimes destined to die at the hands of our enemies, we are nonetheless secure in the belief that Am Yisrael Chai. G-d is Eternal; the Jewish People are His Chosen Nation, and will continue to live.

May G-d comfort the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem and may the streets of Zion abound with brides and grooms and wedding canopies. And may our schizophrenia turn into pure, unmitigated, unblemished joy.

— Yaffa Ganz

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JWR contributor Yaffa Ganz is the award-winning author of more than forty Jewish juvenile titles including the two-volume teen history "Sand and Stars --- A Jewish Journey Through Time" and the popular Savta Simcha Series. You may contact her by clicking here.


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True confessions
School Daze
Jewish summers --- a time lag

© 2001, Yaffa Ganz