I’ve been fortunate to be raised in peace and security in Canada. But I can relate to the terrors of the current Mideast crisis and greatly empathize with those caught in the crossfire from either side.
I’ve lived in a city where buses were burned nearby; in an area where the most important information was the location of the bomb shelter; and in a town where the sound of Katusha rockets at night mixed with the chirping of crickets and the cadence of Middle Eastern music.
All of those locations were, not surprisingly, in Israel. During the Intifada in Jerusalem in 1987, as a student miles from home, I’d call my parents weekly.
One day as I stood in the telephone room — an empty concrete edifice created as a bomb shelter — my mother’s first words were: “Are you okay? The news is bad. The media says there are bombs everywhere and it’s unsafe to take public transport.”
“I’m fine,” I replied — just as a bus, with flames leaping out of the windows, careened past driverless. “Mom, I’ve gotta go. I’ve got to get myself somewhere safe.”
Years later, things were hot again in the Middle East.
I was there as head counsellor to a group of kids, mainly young boys aged eight to 17, including Israelis, some newly arrived from Russia, and North Americans. We were stationed at the Canada Centre, at the northern outpost of Metulla on the Lebanese border, to participate in Canadian coach Roger Neilson’s Hockey Camp in Israel.
One evening, while the kids were having dinner, the adults were called out. The Katusha rockets, which we were getting used to hearing nightly, were coming closer. We had to be prepared.
We were told where the bomb shelter was, where the emergency kits were kept, where the water rations were stashed.
I was scared, of course, but I was an independent young woman with a job to do and children to care for. Their safety was my concern and the adrenaline kicked in.
The politics of who was right, who was shooting at whom and why, didn’t matter at all. I wanted to see morning and I wanted my campers to live through their summer experience.
I feel for those living in both Israel and Lebanon at this time, regardless of race or religion, because I know from personal experience that it’s scary as hell.
When bombs are going off all around you, it doesn’t matter whose name is on the label.
It’s not about politics to those on the ground. It’s about trying to stay alive.