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What it means - Impressions and Expressions of Ijon
July 31st, 2002
04:21 pm

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What it means
I am suddenly consumed by a desire to explain to my foreign readers just exactly what a terror bombing means to me today:

Some time around one o'clock today, there was a terror bombing in a cafeteria in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (HUJI). I was out at lunch at the time. At some point, one of my partners for lunch turned on a nearby television set. He selected a cable channel, where "Whose Line Is It Anyway" was playing. I heard of the bombing because someone next to me was informed by phone, by someone who was watching television. We resumed our lunch. Someone suggested that we switch to the news channel. We did. A schematic map of Jerusalem was on-screen, with a blast icon on the HUJI location. They were relaying a phone call with a reporter who was still on his way to the site. We switched back to the comedy show. The news channel will only feed us with filler for now, anyhow, and no names of casualties or wounded victims are known at that point.

We finished our lunch. I returned to the office, and used instant-messaging and e-mail to catch up on the people I know who go to HUJI. All of them but one are known to be alive and well. I didn't bother to check Ha'aretz or any other online news source. There's nothing interesting to be known about this; what could I possibly be shown or told? Pictures of the wreckage? Interviews with shaken witnesses? Interviews with grim policemen? Stretchers with body-bags? I've been gorged with those.

So I'm moving on. I still hope to hear some news from the one friend I haven't heard from yet, but I'm moving on. Now that I've more or less ascertained that I won't be attending any funerals or hospital beds, this bombing is already history for me. Perhaps there are still wounded victims lying out there on the university curb. But what's the point of watching the stretchers being loaded? What's the point of consuming the statistics of this event? More wounded, more dead. I don't know how many. I could check, it's a click away in all Israeli news sites. But I'm not. Suppose the number of the dead is three. Suppose it is seven. Suppose it is twenty-four. What of that?

And so, unsure of the time, of the exact location, of the number of people genuinely hurt in this event, the number of people whose lives are dreadfully altered today, unsure of the status of at least one friend of mine (wait! This instant, as I write this, I'm reminded of another friend in HUJI -- make that two friends whose status is unknown, then), I resume my work on some software packaging problem. Most likely, I won't bother to watch the evening news when I get home. The news won't tell me anything important, anything new.

It is not that I am utterly indifferent to the death of innocent people. I'm not. I do hurt for them, and I hurt for my country, and my society. But hey, how is this terror bombing different from the two (or were there more? I'm not sure!) other ones that were perpetrated this week? And the ones before it? How can I live in a constant state of shock? I can't. I am now immune. I move on.

So it has come to this. I wanted you to know.

Current Mood: black
Current Music: none

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Comments
 
From:(Anonymous)
Date:July 31st, 2002 02:49 am (UTC)

News that make me think of a friend in Israel

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Ijon,

I just thought to drop you a line as I read your journal note for today, and the second time I got to read your journal ever (I haven't had an access to the internet for over two months).

You came _first_ in my mind while hearing these bombing news this morning in a radio as I was driving car at work. I sometimes wish there would be some good news for variety to bring you to my mind. None of the news coming from Israel does sound like that. One of my Finnish friends said that she is totally numbed and stopped caring about any happenings in Israel and Palestinia, because it's _all_the_same_. It's easy to understand her.

Wishing you better mood & "hirvi"...

Your friend in Finland - Jenni :)

Email: jenni.meriluoto@lepaa.hamk.fi
Web: http://www.geocities.com/jenmeri/english.html (English page under construction)

o
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From:ling_tso
Date:July 31st, 2002 04:07 pm (UTC)

I hope this is helpful and not just naive

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When they flew airplanes into New York City, everybody at my school was shocked that such a thing could happen to Americans. The outpouring of sorrow and sympathy for victims was startling, and I just felt nothing. None of my my people were hurt so it wasn't my tragedy, and the fact that the victims were American made no difference as far as I was concerned. All terrorism is tragic and stupid and miserable. Why should this act be special? But other people in the same subjective situation as myself managed great shows of emotion.

My friend Eleanor wrote from Ireland. She was worried about my emotional health. "I know things like that happen here," she said, "but they don't happen in America. You must be devestated." I found this inference comical and a little sad.

My drama teacher said, "One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a number." Maybe that's it. If one of those killed or wounded people was one of mine, it would have been different. But maybe people aren't wired to feel huge and terrible things. Maybe we should be thankful for that.
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From:ijon
Date:August 1st, 2002 05:39 am (UTC)

Re: I hope this is helpful and not just naive

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I was quite shocked and much moved at the WTC disaster. Even I, an Israeli who's lived with terrorism as a fact of life since childhood, felt that this was more than senseless killing.

But as you can see from other replies to my entry, Israelis are mostly numb. We have to be, or we couldn't keep our jobs and our lives, we'd have to spend all our time screaming and clawing at the gates of the Prime Minister's office. Had 200,000 Israelis done that, perhaps things would have changed for the better. But if a few dozen Israelis were to lose their job and put their lives on hold in favor of banging away on "some mad bugger's wall", to borrow a phrase from Waters, those Israelis would just join the unemployed ten percent of the population, and will be ignored as heartlessly as the Palestinian and Israeli suffering is ignored.

Books will be written of the evil men who have kidnapped my generation's peace of mind and raped my generation's national pride and moral dignity. But today, they seem unstoppable.

Your drama teacher, incidentally, was quoting Stalin. Books were written about him, too.
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From:ling_tso
Date:August 1st, 2002 01:16 pm (UTC)

Re: I hope this is helpful and not just naive

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I want to extend my empathies but don't really know what sort of response is even appropriate. I suppose everybody in the universe must be sheltered, numb, or insane. What a stupid stupid world.
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From:fishberg
Date:July 31st, 2002 08:22 pm (UTC)
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Hi Assaf.
It strange that you came to this state only now, I'm in this strange and numb-like mood for a long time now. Got this starnge feeling that nothing we do makes a diffrence.

I guess that all we can do is hope. (I can't believe I wrote this cliche).
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From:steelight
Date:July 31st, 2002 11:55 pm (UTC)

Just the thing

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Assaf called it "Immune".
I'm not immune. I... have become comfortably numb. (yes, it is playing in the winamp right now)

I no longer hurt. I no longer care. and what's worse - I'm comfortable with it. I don't ask why. that's the way it is. I have my life to worry about.
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From:ijon
Date:August 1st, 2002 05:44 am (UTC)

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I didn't come to this state only now. I've been numb for many months now. Yesterday I was just filled with the urge to tell people how it feels. I keep feeling I'm a character in a classic study a-la The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, or The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I keep seeing the predictable analyses the books on TODAY will offer. And I'm living this present, but feel powerless to change it.
From:freedomrider
Date:August 1st, 2002 07:45 am (UTC)
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hattie pointed me to here, after I pointed her to what shari wrote about the very same subject. numbness is the only way we can cope with this, I guess, hoping all this chaoss will not pass too close to you.
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