Over the past several years, I have read numerous writers and articles on and offline. Just earlier today, however, I was unusually struck by the power of a post by a writer who has just created a new blog. Gila writes at My Shrapnel, a blog where she tries to speak about her life as an “average Joe.” An “average Joe,” that is, whose life was forever changed by a female suicide murderer who blew herself up near Gila several years ago at Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem.

Sometimes, our debates with the Arabs, the Israel-bashers and the pro-Palestinians are so focused on the politics, history and details of the conflict that we forget the real pain of the victims and their families. Hundreds of Israeli civilians were murderered and thousands were maimed and injured by Palestinian bombings and snipings over the past several years in attacks targeting Israeli civilians. Israel and its media have made it a point not to release images of the victims, the blood, the body parts or the recovery stages. Furthering the sanitization of their suffering, the Israeli and international media rarely seem interested in the Israeli victims’ pain or their families’ suffering. I suspect the reasons revolve around the perception that the underdogs in the conflict are the Palestinians and their suffering is real while the suffering of the Jews and Israelis is…uh…justified as the stronger of the two parties.

The pain is far from justified, the attacks are as unethical as warfare can get and cannot be justified in any way and those who perform these attacks are the vilest criminals. Here is a rarely heard voice of an Israeli victim of terror (copied from the My Shrapnel blog with her permission):

Friday, January 11, 2008

There are days when I feel like I am such a disappointment. Everyone wants to know what it is like to be blown up, and I have nothing to give them but a simple timeline comprised of three seconds. Second number one I was standing. I lost second number two. Second number three found me on the ground, conscious. I woke up stunned, but calm, and stayed that way. That is the whole story. But people persist in wanting more. I am questioned thoroughly. Surely I left something out:

“Did you notice the bomber?”
“No. Apparently she was disguised as a pregnant woman. Pregnant women are not an unusual sight in Jerusalem.”
“Well, didn’t you have a feeling that something was wrong, or a sense….”
“No, only that I had missed the last bus.”
“A premonition? Ominous dreams? Crows screeching and waking you in the dead of night?”
“Hmmm…let me see…dreams, birds…. No, I do not recall anything of the sort. There are lots of cats around, and they are noisy, but I do not think that this is the same as a black bird”
“Okay, okay, I am with you. It was a complete and utter surprise. So then you heard a boom?”
“No. I really did not hear anything.”
“Oh, but you must have felt something: the white-heat of the explosion, the shrapnel ripping into your body?”
“The searing smoke ravaging your lungs?”
“No, sorry.”
“Life passing in slow motion before your eyes?”
“Oh, there was no time for that!”
“The eerie silence followed by heartrending screams and cries for help?”
“I suppose there must have been but I did not hear it-my eardrums were wiped out.”
“And then you lay there racked in terrible pain….”
“Actually, no, I wasn’t. I must have gone into shock from the blow to the head. Lucky me!”
“You must have been terrified though.”
“Not at all. I was very calm. I even asked the paramedic to put my keys back in my bag and remembered to tell them about my drug allergy.”

Generally, at this point, they give up, though I suspect that they do not fully believe me. I can see them, chatting with friends, and attributing my rather boring version with some post traumatic stress disorder. The real memories, the riveting, dramatic, CNN-ready memories are either buried in my subconscious or consciously suppressed by poor, traumatized me. Even some of my closest friends refuse to believe my account of things, and insist that I told them that I heard a boom and must have buried the memory since.

I used to be confused by this stubborn persistence in searching for drama. Why, in G-d’s name, would you want me to suffer? Recently, I think I have begun to understand. You want me to reassure you, don’t you? You want me to tell you that you will not be erased without warning.

I cannot tell you that. I cannot even tell myself that.

Had I been less lucky, second number three would have found me on the ground, dead. Even the clap as I lost consciousness would have been lost, as I believe that one is only cognizant of it to the extent that there is a beginning and an end-a leaving and a returning. I would have died and never known it. There would have been no goodbyes, no final thoughts of my loved ones, nothing. Everything that was in my mind, all of my loves and hates and hopes and dreams, everything that makes up who is Me, would have been instantly and completely wiped out.

But this is too terrifying and you cannot accept it. You want to believe that, when this happens to you, you will be on notice. You will be able to fight for your life. If you see the terrorist, you can dodge. If you feel the heat of the explosion you can turn away. If you feel the shrapnel entering me, you can declare to yourself: “I will not die” and force the breath in and out of your body. Knowledge is power.

How can you possibly accept a vision of yourself as without power, as powerless? How can you accept a picture of yourself knowing nothing, and having absolutely no option or opportunity to fight? How can you just die, without even realizing that anything hit you. One moment you exist. The next you do not.

This shakes you to the soul. I know, because once I was shaken too. A couple years before I made aliyah, there was a terrible car accident in Virginia. A dump truck was cut off by another car, lost control, hit a concrete barrier and was launched airborne. It fell down on top of a family car, killing the driver and his wife instantly. I did not witness the accident, nor did I see any footage of it on TV. Nonetheless, that accident haunted me for weeks. The whole mental image of death just smashing into you from the sky, while you are rendered completely powerless, shook me to the core. There must have been other tragic accidents while I lived in the DC area, but that is the only one I remember. To this day, I cannot think of it without twisting up inside.

I understand you. I am doing to you what this accident did to me. I am forcing you to confront how powerless you are. Unlike that couple in Virginia, I was lucky, and I lived. But I could have been not lucky too. Even if you attribute my luck to G-d, you have to acknowledge that He could have decided differently. Next time, He might. This is what I think about when I sit on a bus. I have no chance. I cannot protect myself. I cannot fight. If a terrorist blows himself up next to me, there will be no warning, and there will be nothing I can do. I will live or die, but I will have no chance to influence the outcome either way. It will just be, and if I die, I will never know it.

Helpless. I am helpless.

Now accept it, relax, and keep on going.

Posted by Gila at 9:28 PM

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