November 27, 2019

What's Next?

I take a break to sit outside on this brilliant November afternoon.  Feeling the warm sun tickle my face, I  look way up to a cloudless, deep blue sky. Birds perch in treetops and sing. It all feels so tranquil - idyllic for a former Canadian who knows about November sleet and snow all too well.

I take out my phone and scroll through the headlines. “IDF girds for response after attacking Iranian, Assad targets in Syria.”

The Iranian Quds launched four rockets from Syria into the Golan early yesterday morning. In response, Israel bombed Iranian targets in Syria. And so the story goes.

Rockets from Gaza aimed towards Israeli civilians. (AnasAba/AFP)
Last week, Gaza launched over 250 rockets at highly populated cities. Israel retaliated. A cease fire was called. And was broken. And again it is quiet. And so the story goes.

Deliveries in shelter at Ashkelon Hospital (Yedioth Aharonot, Gadi Kiplu)
Living in the north, we did not really feel the effects of this terrible siege;  alarmed parents woke their kids to run into shelters, and entire families lived in in these small safe rooms for days; elderly people ran for cover, many falling in their panic; and women in labour had to deliver their babies in  underground shelters.

Wedding in a bomb shelter (Karin Kleinberg)
Weddings that were planned for months had to be cancelled at the last-minute, the bride and groom scrambling to find a new event hall – or not
One couple from the south had to scramble to find a new wedding hall, relocating the wedding in Tel Aviv. A famous confectioner, Lior Koka, used Instagram to help them plan their wedding again. Lior wrote to her 163,000 Instagram followers at 7pm, “We need help with all the rest.” 
Bride, in the middle of her wedding photo shoot, takes cover (Shirel Ben-Hamu)
People responded right away and within an hour and a half, a professional makeup artist, hairdresser, DJ and photographer all volunteered their services. Restaurants offered catering including desserts - and even a barman.

Despite all odds, life continues and it flourishes. And when the rockets stop, life returns to what I guess is normal - although no day in Israel is ever normal. 

I scroll down the headlines and see the other leading story. “Liberman says he won’t endorse Gantz or Netanyahu, signaling third elections.”

Each politician blames the other for not being able to compromise and make a coalition government. They have argued and accused one another, but politicians’ egos are obviously more important than governing a country.

We went to the polls on April 9 where both Likud and Blue and White won 26% of the votes and won 35 seats each. But they were unable to pull together a government. So Israelis went back to the polls on September 17. Both Likud and Blue and White won 25% of the vote, with Blue and White getting 33 seats and Likud winning 32 seats.

It is now November and there is still no government, so back to the polls it is and so the story goes.

There is an absurdity to all of this and yet there must be some backstory that we do not see. How can any country exist without leadership, with constant terror threats and with rockets being fired at civilians from two of its borders?

Not only does Israel exist, it excels. Despite the existential threats and a government in shambles, scientists and researchers are busy in their labs working on medical innovations. 

Arab Israelis on campus (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)
High tech companies are coming up with solutions to keep the roads safer, improve cybersecurity and create non-polluting fuel. Students continue studying, with Arab Israelis, who excel in higher education, now comprising one third of the students at Technion. 

Tourism is booming, with over 2.2 million people visiting Israel to date in 2019, up over 10% from last year.

I put down my phone and stand on my balcony, from where I can see the Golan Heights.  It looks quiet, hazy, serene and I wonder, how can this be? And, what's next?

After living here for 14 years, I can see that despite all odds, life here continues in a beautifully absurd way.