Day Four: There are more and more dead
Today, the municipality of Tel Aviv announced that it has prepared shelters for the eventuality that it too will be hit with the rockets that are raining down on us, at the rate of some two hundred a day.
It’s odd to realize that while no missiles are hitting Jerusalem, and our city hall has made no announcements, our bubble, seems—at least for now—to have burst.
Nothing feels right any more. Today it is difficult to write. It is difficult to eat. It is, simply put, difficult. There are more and more dead. It is almost impossible to sip a morning coffee at some antiseptic coffee bar, because look where you may, and try to avoid what you might, some newspaper is lying around, with its pictures. A young mother: dead. Three 18-year-old friends driving a car together: dead. A father and his daughter: dead. Jews, Muslims, kids, middle-aged people, native-born Israelis, brand-new Israelis who barely speak Hebrew: all, all dead.
It is like a plague has swept across us or else we are coming to embody terror itself. These are my gloomy thoughts as I drive up to the market this morning, expecting to face the hustle and bustle of life there on Friday, the day when—no matter what happens—people have weekend shopping to do. But even the market, it seems, got hit on the nape of the neck. It is a desultory, nervous day, and very hot.
On a day such as this, it is easier to drink than to eat. I sip a coffee and a fresh-squeezed orange-carrot juice. I buy 100 grams of hot, freshly roasted cashew nuts at Hamami, on HaShezif alley, and nibble a few. The rest I tuck into my bag. At one stall, out-of-season fennel bulbs are on view, slender and pale. Feeling that they must be as out of sorts as I am, I pick up a few.
It is unsettling to see that even the market is affected, that it is not an eternal, unchanging human stream. Instead, I think, it is this conflict that will be eternal. I’m reminded of a friend of mine who, as this war was beginning, said, “we just have to decide if we can live this way. Nothing else will change. The only question is: Can we live with this like this, or not?”
Today the answer seems to be: “Sort of.” We can live with this, but not well. Ambivalence reigns: It feels somehow proper that the market should be shaken up, reacting like all other living organisms to this. But it is disorienting, like seeing a parent cry, to realize that in our sorrow Machaneh Yehuda will not always be stalwart and secure.
One woman is buying two pineapples to take to her brother’s house instead of wine. Her brother has been released from two weeks’ reserve duty in Lebanon, and she is looking for something festive, something unusual. I gaze at the pineapples. If nothing else, they seem impervious. They are plump and prickly and golden, with dusky green hats, like fireworks, arcing over and pointing down. Each goes into its own plastic bag. Then she buys a sack-load of round white peaches. The peaches come with stickers identifying them as Metulla grown. They’ve managed to make it all the way to Machaneh Yehuda, through Katyushas and worse. The pineapples, it is safe to assume, come from some kibbutz hothouse in the Negev. They’ve made it through Kassam rockets. The least we can do, while we stand here, is buy a few.