“Rubbernecking” is a term primarily used to refer to bystanders staring at accidents. More generally, it can refer to anyone staring at something of everyday interest from a safe distance. The term derives from the neck’s bending while trying to get a better view.
With a flip of a remote control or finger, we have the ability to change the channel or turn the page away from events in the news that sickens and shocks us. And that’s what we do. But that’s easier said than done if you’ve not been personally impacted by the event or know someone who has. Which brings us to the current conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, and relatedly to a recent email I got from “Ed,” a Jewish friend who lives with his wife in Florida.
You see, Ed’s daughter and her family live in Israel. Thankfully, they escaped with their lives when the recent horrific attack on Israel occurred. But unlike the convenience afforded to most of us, Ed was unable to “rubber neck” his away from the horror because the matter was personal for him. Very personal.
Now given the intrinsic value of his experience, Ed thought it more meaningful to hear the perspective from someone who lives in Israel and, thus, gave me the OKto share a recent message he received from his daughter:
“You have asked me about my safety. Israel is the size of New Jersey, and everyone is within range of rockets. There is, in fact, nowhere that is safe. I would best describe the current situation in my specific area as being less targeted than others, but everyone has friends or family all over the country, making every security situation personal.
There is also no one in the country who is unaffected by the war. No one is “okay.” The emotions run from shock to palpable anger at the perpetrators. Additionally, many are suffering from PTSD from the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
In practical terms the general call-up means that there are fewer workers available than normal to keep everything going. Even mundane day-to-day concerns, like needing a plumber, become difficult to address. Not sure everyone knows, but many in Israel’s minority ethnic groups also serve in the IDF, not just Jews.
Everyone’s routine has been upended and I don’t know anyone who sleeps well. The wonderful public transportation system was severely affected. Most routine appointments of all types were cancelled, schools, nursery schools and day cares were all closed. Supermarkets were not well stocked for a while, especially those outside of the center of the country. There is food readily available, but it might not be what you want, or you find that specialty items are unavailable, an important detail for those with allergies or sensitivities. While a small bump in the road in the grand scheme of things, it adds to the general anxiety.
Today is market day here and it was very apparent that fresh vegetables are getting hard to come by. Some fields are currently not accessible to the farm workers due to the situation. My local post office is not delivering mail nor receiving customers for the time being. Country-wide, all local elections scheduled for the end of this month have been postponed.
I finally got some sleep over these last two days and feel better. Two soldiers from our town fell during the first hours of the war, both sons of staff members at the school where I volunteer teaching English. After the funerals we attend the silva
(seven days of mourning) as many times as possible, at their homes. Both families live in my immediate neighborhood. The local burial society provides a mourner’s tent, tables and chairs to accommodate the multitude of visitors.
There is an app which tells us when and where rockets are/will be hitting and how much time one must get to a shelter. Lots of information is available, including WhatsApp groups, to tell us what is happening in real time. Surreal doesn’t begin to describe it.
There was a false alarm last week in the evening, which plunged the entire north of the country into their shelters for a couple of hours. In addition to the huge dose of anxiety, it provided us with a practice drill of sorts, for those who needed a refresher course.
Whole communities around Gaza in the south and the Lebanese border in the north have been evacuated to hotels and resorts in other areas of thecountry. They generally left home with nothing, so other communities are providing for them as best they can.
It is very sobering to personally provide meals and essentials to soldiers who will be responsible for one’s personal safety. A homemade meal is infinitely better than battle rations and they appreciate the effort that went into providing that meal. On a practical level, you don’t want soldiers to be distracted in any way or to have to make do while in a tense situation.
Similar to Ed’s experience, I’ll end with this what could’ve been my “near miss.” My sister, a minister, is a member of a contingent that had purchased tickets and made reservations for a weeklong mission trip to Israel. Worried silly, I called her hoping that her trip had been cancelled and was relieved to hear that it was.
So for the sake of balance, and because I don’t know anyone there, hopefully someone will connect me with a person who currently lives in that part of the world who could tell me about the new realities for the people in Gaza – millions of them children – whose lives, too, were similarly upended.
In the end, and for a broader context, Ed pointed me to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria who offers an important historical backdrop that undergirds this conflict.
So, dial him up.
Terry Howard is an award-winning trainer, writer, and storyteller. He is a contributing writer with the Chattanooga News Chronicle, The American Diversity Report, The Douglas County Sentinel, Blackmarket.com, co-founder of the “26 Tiny Paint Brushes” writers guild, recipient of the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award, and third place winner of the 2022 Georgia Press Award.