Are You Ready For the Summer?
The sun is already blazing in mid-June - and the streets in Israel are buzzing with everyone talking about their plans for the next two months.
Long conversations among the locals out here in Israeli suburbia revolve around which camps their kids are going to once school lets out - which ones are better, which ones last longer and which kids are refusing to go. Once the conversations about camp are over, the subject turns to travel. Camp, after all, only covers half the summer, taking vacation from work is a must in August, and anyone with disposable income try to buy themselves some kind of relief from the Middle East pressure-cooker.
Are you going to Holland or Greece? Staying in Israel or hopping a charter to one of the popular all-inclusive clubs on the Turkish Mediterranean coast?
When talk turns to current events, the biggest story is a Russian billionaire Arkady Gaydamak's bid to buy a chain of supermarkets, the only brash chain that dares to sell pork and seafood and remain open on the Sabbath - very handy for last-minute spontaneous weekend picnics. The very secular Russian community, which likes its sausages, thank you very much, are branding him a traitor for stating that he's going to close it on Saturdays. Everyone's got a strong opinion for or against sausage on Saturday.
Wherever you seem to go, in the street, in the cafes, and in people's living rooms, the conversations involve everything but the items that are getting Israel in the news. Yes, there's the mention of what is going on in Sderot, with the headshake and clucking noise, the same as when the average American talks about Katrina victims.
And there is NO mention whatsoever of the headlines regarding threats of a Hamas-Hezbollah-Syrian front building for a summer attack. It's not out of ignorance. Everyone sees in the newspapers and on the evening news, but no one wants to talk about who will be the next leader of the Labor Party, or whether Bashar Assad is serious about peace talks -- much less how the preparations for possible war are going.
Typically, in these conversations, I'm the one who brings the subject up - largely because I can't believe no one else is mentioning it. Usually, I'm the one saying, "Who cares whether the kids' camp is good or if I visit a more or less interesting European destination this summer? As long as there's no war, I'll be happy."
And so, after giving me dirty looks for spoiling the mood, the topic is grudgingly addressed.
"Well," respended Dana, a friend who spent last summer with nine people living in her tiny house as she hosting her family from Tiberias fleeing Katuysha rockets. "This is what I figure. Last year, no one thought there would be a war in the summer. No one. And boom, it happened. It was such a surprise, it came out of the blue. This year - you hear about how it's going to happen, how it's expected. So I'm figuring it won't happen."
My friend is clearly a firm believer in Murphy's Law.
While believing it's perfectly possible that there will be a rerun of the war, most of my acquaintances have decided that worrying about it does them little good. They will deal with it when it happens. We've gotten through terrorism, Kassams, Katyushas, and British academic boycotts. We'll handle whatever happens next. There's no other choice.
And at that, the conversation goes back to summer camp and whether Paris Hilton is currently in jail or under house arrest.
Often it's hard for me to figure out if we are a brave and resilient people, or if we're all in massive denial. Time will tell.
I've decided it's a good sign that as grim as the situation is painted by the media, no one is panicking or talking about leaving the country.
We're not hearing much about Israelis emigrating these days. Palestinians, meanwhile, are voting with their feet. The Jerusalem Post reports that the Palestinian Authority's mufti has issued a fatwa forbidding Muslims to emigrate from their country.
The Hamas-dominated PA is "alarmed" that this is going to be a summer of exodus for Palestinians -- 10,000 Palestinians have filed requests to emigrate from the West Bank and Gaza since the beginning of the year and their statistics show that at least 45,000 emigration applications being reviewed by different countries.
That's on top of the 50,000 to 80,000 people who have emigrated since the outbreak of the second intifada - ironically showing that self-rule, particularly Hamas rule is driving more Palestinians away than Israeli occupation did.
Meanwhile, the average Israeli is hanging on.
As another friend of mine put it, "It's just become part of the fabric of our lives. You have no idea what is going to happen. It could be a long drawn out summer of war, or nothing could happen and life will continue as normal. It's fate. Isn't it better just not to talk about it?" Besides, she added, "I think we're all optimists at heart."
Especially at the beginning of the summer.