Monday, March 05, 2007

My First Purim

RenReb's re-posting of Things I Always Think About During the Megillah Reading brought back a memory I had completely forgotten - my first Purim, in Israel. She writes:

"The first suicide bombings in Israel. Remember back when suicide bombings, and the murder of civilians for so-called "political" purposes, was still, you know, something unusual? I often have trouble remembering such a time (rachmana l'tzlan), but I do know that such a time once existed. And it so happens, if I'm not mistaken, that some of the first bus bombings - again, back when the whole world was paralyzed with shock and grief and blind incomprehension that such a thing could happen - were clustered around Purim. I think it was the #18 bus. Well, I remember that Purim being quite a difficult time for many of us. "

Wow. I can't believe I forgot this. I was a young 20-something goy on a semester abroad, and had chosen to learn some Hebrew and go to Israel (Jerusalem, to be particular - Rehavia, in fact). From January to August of 1996. You know, right after Rabin got shot. When the #18 bus in Jerusalem, the bus I rode frequently, the bus my friends rode to get around town, got bombed - twice. Remembered my friend calling his dorm buddies after one 5am attack to reassure them he had spent the night with our gang, that he wasn't on the bus that morning. A Sunday morning - it was always on Sundays, to catch the 18-year-olds going back to their army bases after spending Shabbos with their families.

The Purim attack, IIRC, happened in a shopping mall in Tel Aviv, and targeted a bunch of children, in costume.

Not having any experience with Purim (remember, I was still a good pluralist Unitarian-Universalist, then), I thought - what the heck?!? Kids in costumes? Parents drinking?

And then I heard about the bombing and thought - what the f-k?!!? Why would they target CHILDREN?

And then I heard they were canceling the children's school parties, and Purim spiels, and so on, and I thought WHAT THE H-L??!? What's wrong with these people, punishing the children for the acts of the terrorists??

That night, we went to the home of our study-abroad advisor, with her sexy, gun-toting doctor husband (they were both reserve Intelligence officers and he had been our *guard* on an excursion in the desert), and her two little children, dressed in costume. We were American college kids. We sat in their house and ate pizza, drank beer, played with their kids, and sang some songs. All except 2 of us were Jewish- liberal Jews, obviously. (It only now occurs to me to wonder whether any of them went to hear the Megillah anywhere that year - probably not. And also, that the clever woman was probably using up her chametz on us...)

I wonder what was going through the heads of our hosts, thinking about the attack, how to explain to their children that this year they could wear their costumes at home, but not to school the next day. About what kind of country they were living in, had chosen to live in (they had both made aliyah, separately), where they'd wonder if their children were safe going to school. (Though of course I wonder the same thing about my child, worrying about drugs instead of shrapnel.)

I wonder how I might have felt about the attack if I had already converted, feeling part of the Jewish people, and not just an observer.

I wonder how I would have felt if I were 25, instead of 21, and really had a grasp what it meant that the bombings were killing actual people. Not just providing an exciting element of risk to my exotic tour abroad.

And I wonder how I could forget this for so long. Wow. What a difference a decade makes.


Blogger The back of the hill said...

I spent a large part of Purim day in an upstairs room of one of the local synagogues listening to a new attendee at our "Zionist Conspiracy" meeting tell us in excruciating detail what she thought about our associates, our agenda, our lack of a comprehensive manifesto, the apathy of Bay Area Jews, the coming holocaust, what we should be doing instead of planning a counter-demonstration on the eighteenth, and so forth.

It was a megillah. Gonzer than that it just don't come.

She will not be invited back.

Fellow conpirator "Alef" said afterwards that it was as if someone squooze a lemon in his brain.

Fellow conspirator "beis" speculated that the person in question may have had over a dozen cups of joe.

Fellow conspirator "gimmel" muttered something about tranquilizer darts.

After the first ten minutes of this person's rant, I kept thinking "Haman" everytime I saw her lips move. Like having a living breathing gregger sitting across the table from one.

We have found the megillah and it is us.

3/05/2007 9:15 PM  
Blogger Tzipporah said...

That poor woman clearly needs a project.

Perhaps you could turn her into a living, breathing, drinking game? (Drink every time she says the word, "should" ...) ;)

3/06/2007 2:19 PM  

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