Time to Get Over Fear


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“Before the war, when I would leave for work, I had to choose: to go via Re’im – a trip that takes 24 minutes – or to go via the Gilat Junction – a drive that takes 29 minutes. Before the war, the drive via Re’im gave me 8 minutes of safety, because the Qassams didn’t fall on the Tal Or road, the first part of the drive. Before the war, the longer route, via Gilat, lengthened the safety zone to 18 minutes, because the threat of the rockets only began at Netivot. According to the daily Qassam forecast, I would calculate whether it was better to drive via Re’im, that gave me 17 minutes of fear, but has no traffic lights, or to go via Gilat, which gave me only 10 minutes of fear, but has 6 traffic lights….”

Author: Julia Chaitin, an Israeli, is a Senior Lecturer at the Sapir College and Program Director with the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development
Published in: Havre Daily News in Havre, Montana, in the Las Vegas Tribune in Las Vegas, Nevada, and in Huntington News Network (home page: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/) West Virginia
Date: January 19, 2009

For the full article:
Time to Get Over Fear
(1,300 words)
by Julia Chaitin
The trip from my home in Kibbutz Urim to the Sapir College takes either 24 or 29 minutes. Before the war, when I would leave for work, I had to choose: to go via Re’im – a trip that takes 24 minutes – or to go via the Gilat Junction – a drive that takes 29 minutes. Before the war, the drive via Re’im gave me 8 minutes of safety, because the Qassams didn’t fall on the Tal Or road, the first part of the drive. Before the war, the longer route, via Gilat, lengthened the safety zone to 18 minutes, because the threat of the rockets only began at Netivot. According to the daily Qassam forecast, I would calculate whether it was better to drive via Re’im, that gave me 17 minutes of fear, but has no traffic lights, or to go via Gilat, which gave me only 10 minutes of fear, but has 6 traffic lights.

A number of months ago, I understood that it was irrelevant to calculate the route; after all the rockets were falling both here and there. Therefore, I went back to driving via Re’im. I decided that if a Qassam were to fall on me, I preferred that it get me when I was driving by kibbutz fields, without traffic lights.

The scariest moments are when I get close to the Gevim junction, and have to make the left turn into Sapir. It is hard to describe the anxiety that grips me when I need to wait for the cars coming from the other direction, until I can make the turn without causing an accident. During those moments, I repeat a mantra: “Don’t fall now. Let me get to the parking lot. Let me park the car. Let me get into a building. Don’t fall yet.”

I am happy to say, that the mantra has worked, so far.

The fear and anxiety do not end in the parking lot; they accompany us during the breaks and on the sidewalks of the green campus, in spite of the fact that “all of the classrooms have been approved for use by the Home Front” as an announcement on Sapir’s webpage tells us.

The Sapir College, one of the Negev’s jewels, is prepared for Qassam attacks. In every classroom, there is a sign explaining what to do in the case of a tzeve adom (Qassam rocket alert). “When a tzeve adom is sounded, stay in the classroom.” Or “When a tzeve adom is sounded, go out to corridor.” And it is impossible to forget the signs in the “bee hive” classrooms that announce: “When a tzeve adom is sounded, run to the shelter across the way.”

Sapir is indeed prepared for rocket attacks, but the deep fear remains.

Tzeve adom, tzeve adom – such a well known sound in our area. I can’t recall how many tzeve adoms and rockets I have experienced over the years, because I have not kept count. But there have been many. I count the rockets that barely missed me. There was the Qassam that fell next to my office, and blew out the windows in the building, fifteen minutes after I had left the school for Beer Sheva. There was the Qassam that fell near the Psychological Services when I was on the other side of the campus, comforting a student who had seen a student, Roni Yehia, killed by a rocket the day before in the parking lot, where I usually park my car. And there was the Qassam that missed me by ten minutes, because I had left for home, when it fell next to a bus that brought back Social Work students, who had been out for a study trip. There was the Qassam that exploded about a hundred meters away from me a week ago, in Sderot, when I was visiting an elderly woman for the city welfare services. There were other rockets that missed me, but it is too wearisome to recall them all.

I am tired of counting the rockets that missed me, that are going to miss me, or that, perhaps, won’t miss me or others, who dare to live in Sderot, the surrounding Gaza region, or study or work at Sapir.

We began this war because of the unbearable rocket fire, and the killing and destruction they cause. We entered this war because hundreds of thousands of people live in fear that a rocket will fall on them. We went into this war because we could no longer stand the ever-so familiar tzeve adom, tzeve adom. We entered this war in order to stop the terror. We went to war because we wanted to bring back sanity and normalcy to the residents of the Negev.

But as we could prophesize, based on psycho-social studies that have been done in Israel and in other areas of the world that have suffered from war, and based on our experiences here, in the long run, this war is incapable of giving us back our sanity, and cannot make life normal. This war has succeeded in perpetuating the fear, the anxieties and the hatred that has existed for too many years between Israelis and the Palestinians. The unbearable violence that we Israelis and Palestinians have been exposed to is the result of psychological and social factors that have created a bleak reality. This unbearable violence that we experienced has its roots in the Holocaust, which ended 63 years ago, and in the Occupation, which began 41 years ago.

During the last few weeks, the violence reached new heights, and each time we had the feeling that these heights (depths?) could never be surpassed. But if we continue to believe that the military option is the option, and if we continue to believe that we have no partner for peace, we will reach new depths.

Violence only leads to more violence. Violence is the result of fear, the most basic human emotion. The root of our Israeli existential fear is, of course, the Shoah. This fear has controlled us, and continues to paralyze us, 63 years after the tragedy ended. It causes us to have a one-dimensional perspective of the Palestinians, who are perceived only as a despised enemy. Because of the fear and anxiety, we forgot that they are people, just like us.

It is time to let go of the tzeve adoms, not only of the rockets, but also those in our hearts and perceptions. It is time to look into the other’s eyes, and to see a person, perhaps an “other,” but a person nonetheless. It is time to trust our humane and cognitive strengths that have been buried deep within us, in order to create a different reality of true co-existence with our neighbors in Gaza and in the West Bank.

It is time to understand that if we do not enter into dialogue with one another, the conflict will never end. It is time to understand that without justice, as long as the Occupation and siege continue, as long as there is a negation of human rights, the violence will never end, and we will continue to be prisoners of one another. It is time to be brave and begin the only operation that can help us regain sanity and normalcy – the “Peace and dialogue operation”.

Both Israel and the Hamas have agreed to a temporary ceasefire. If both sides really hold to it, then there is a chance – indeed a very small one, but a chance nonetheless – that we will be able to begin to move away from the perception that violence is the only way to acknowledge the other’s presence. The amount of re-building that now lies ahead of us in almost inconceivable, but if we have the courage to take that first step, the next ones will be a little less difficult.

Julia Chaitin, an Israeli, is a Senior Lecturer at the Sapir College and Program Director with the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development.