If Sayed Kashua were in Jerusalem.....

He would want to cry out but would make do with silence; he would want to demonstrate but would lock himself in the house. Anyway, what could he possibly do?

By Sayed Kashua Oct. 22, 2015 | 1:13 PM

I have two sources of consolation these days. The first is that I am here, and the second is the clips I’ve been watching on my cell phone that I stumbled across this week when I searched for “good people.” I watch the clips of these good people nonstop; they sometimes appear as “life’s true heroes”: people who stop cars to help old people cross the street; a young man who gives a homeless person a banana and a hug; someone who sees a child shivering with cold at a bus stop and wraps him up in his coat. I watch the clips and cry until I fall asleep.

If I were in Jerusalem, I would undoubtedly be a lot more afraid and a lot more depressed. Probably even in the early days, I would have had an anxiety attack and kept the children from going out. I’d have quarreled with my wife again – she would claim that I wasn’t behaving rationally. And I would retort that nothing good ever came of being rational, and announce that I was taking the children and going to Tira until things calmed down and that she could stay in Jerusalem if she wanted, no one was forcing her to go. I would closet myself in Tira, mourn, weep with pain, see that things were not calming down and that Tira was starting to feel threatening, and go back to the capital.

If I were in Jerusalem I would shave every day and stand opposite the mirror to see how Arab I looked. I would shut the car windows and lock the doors when I took my children to school. I would warn them a million times to keep their eyes peeled, not to get tangled up in words, not to trust anyone and to stay close to friends they rely on, kids whose parents we know. I would drop them off at their Jewish or mixed school and I would feel that I was abandoning them to their fate.

On the way to work, I would listen to the news and make sure that my face expressed national mourning. I would not refrain from looking at the policemen and soldiers deployed in the capital; after all, ignoring them can arouse suspicion. I would turn on a Hebrew radio station and do all I could to project a sense of shared fate. At the entrance to my workplace, I would put my hands openly on the steering wheel with a gentle movement and nod to the armed guard even if he didn’t acknowledge me. With my friends in the office, I would curse our bitter fate; with those I don’t know well I wouldn’t speak at all. If an employee whose opinions I didn’t know said something like “Where will it all end, huh?” in the coffee corner – I would certainly reply: “It’s just insane, it’s just all so tragic.” And if someone came out to the corridor and said he had heard on the news about another terrorist attack, in which the victim was slightly wounded and the terrorist was killed, I wouldn’t yell at him.

My friends would know what I was going through and would know that I couldn’t concentrate or write a single word. That I was just sitting there thinking about my kids, worrying about their safety and hoping that a miracle would occur and this whole nightmare would end already and we could go back to our routine. Meaning, we could go back to a situation in which only Palestinians are killed and in which the Israelis are somehow in good spirits, because from here, at least, it looks like the majority of the nation has joined the “price tag” movement [committed to punishing a Palestinian for every act of violence perpetrated against a Jew].

If I were in Jerusalem, I would probably forgo lunch in the cafeteria, and if I did eat there, I would go up there with the redheaded director, who is well aware of my fears. I would make do with a fork, maybe a spoon, sit a distance away from others and try to keep my movements under control, not make any sharp, sudden, unexpected moves.

I would certainly be exploding inside, feel a need to get drunk, deliberate whether to go to my regular bar or whether it’s safer to stay home – after all, you have knives on one side and the far-right Lehava group on the other side. I would listen to the news in Arabic and then go nuts and curse – in a whisper so the neighbors wouldn’t hear – the broadcasters, the remote and the screen, and try to calculate again the retirement age of commentators Ehud Yaari, Roni Daniel and Moshe Nussbaum from Channel 2 TV, even though I know that the younger people working there don’t offer much basis for hope, either.

We used to be told that our generation would change things, that we would achieve peace, that it’s a generational thing, and situations change. But the young people are becoming more extreme from one generation to the next, more inflamed, more violent and more blind.

If I were in Jerusalem I would have trouble sleeping, I would close the windows and listen to every little noise outside. I would again feel like someone who’s been taken hostage, who could lose his job by uttering one wrong word, who could lose his life by making one wrong move.

If I were in Jerusalem, I would certainly want to cry out, but would make do with silence; I would want to demonstrate but would lock myself in the house; I would want to point to the source of the wrong and would be asked to condemn, and I would condemn, but people would doubt the credibility of what I said. If I were in Jerusalem, I would be afraid of the punishment inflicted by the tough guys, who possess all the power. I would hate myself for my hands being tied, for not succeeding in freeing myself from bondage. I would curse the Palestinian Authority and the Arab world, blaming them for the situation, too. I would feel humiliation that would turn into sadness and anger and a desire to… I don’t know. I wouldn’t do a thing.

In the end I am, after all, a rational human being and am no longer young. Anyway, what could I possibly do, because in the end I wouldn’t be able to change anything. What’s more, I have to say thank you.