Fragile / Not Fragile

Not a good coincidence.  Two days after I wrote about the history of Hill of Evil Counsel/Armon HaNatziv another awful event was added to the disasters on that hill and I’m writing about it on Friday the 13th (which actually has no meaning in Israel – you can take the girl out of the US, but you can’t take the US out of the girl).

On Sunday four soldiers, three girls and a boy, were killed by a terrorist using a truck as a weapon.

Groups of IDF soldiers come to Jerusalem on Sundays for cultural education days during their service.  You’ll see them at museums, visiting historical sites, and also at overlooks like this one.  In Israel, men and women between the ages of 18 to 22 serve in the military.  Men serve around 3 years and women serve nearly 2 years.  You can intellectually understand the numbers reflecting their ages, but you don’t realize how young they are until you see them.

My office job is at a museum and I took time to notice the soldiers who came in this week.  Their eyes are clear and innocent.  They haven’t seen serious difficulties yet.  They still have their whole futures ahead of them.  They are full of idealism and hope.  They are not yet cynical and jaded about life.

The American part of my brain still notices that every one of them carries a weapon slung across their shoulders and the Israeli part of my brain knows that this is perfectly safe. When they go into a tour of the museum they lay their weapons in a square built up like Lincoln Logs and leave one or two people to guard them.  It’s a weird feeling to pass a gun tower made up of 50 or so rifles guarded by another young person with a rifle at the ready.  This is not out of the ordinary.

Yet, these soldiers are still kids.  They are kids with targets on their backs.

In the days after the attack, I find my senses heightened.  I’m listening a lot harder. Is that a helicopter? How many ambulance sirens were there? Are those footsteps behind me?  And I’m tuned to my surroundings.  Is that a shadow? Have I seen that person before? What are they doing?

I went to the shuk the next day and ran my errands as usual, all the while keeping vigilant watch on everything around me.

The illusion of calm had been fragile.  Our will and courage to go on is not fragile.