This past week, Israel's security threat escalated as its borders became "heated." News channels constantly report on attempted terror attacks and missiles being fired; at the same time, searches for three kidnapped Israeli youths continues. And added to these physical threats were the various UN announcements, mocking the abduction and the three boys' mothers' grief.
As our private little Israeli world is being shaken, the outside world follows intensively another set of events: the World Cup. This might be a different type of "war," but it managed to get more attention than any of the recent attacks on Israel. Honestly, it makes perfect sense. I know I would also center all or most of my attention on the games also, if this series of unfortunate events would have taken place somewhere else.
But since these events all take place here, a truly fascinating anthropological phenomenon is going on, in which we try and divide our attention between our local worries and our global hopes for our preferred team to win. And so, every night, our eyes wander from the television screen — where you can cut the tension with a knife when it is still 0-0 and there are only 10 minutes left — to our smartphones, where the fourth push notification in an hour tells us that another rocket fired from Gaza was intercepted by the Iron Dome.
Experts would presumably call it a some sort of denial: People's hopes for victory in a sports match are a projection of their search for hope in real life. Others may see our preoccupation with the World Cup as a failed attempt to escape our troubles.
I see it as a longing for normalization. From the day Israel was declared an independent state, we have lived under threat. A few decades ago, it came from our neighboring countries; now, it comes from the terror organizations that operate there. Our grandparent' spent their youth defending our country, as did our parents — and now it is our turn. For three generations now, children grow with the understanding that a war can break at any time. Should a third Intifada break, children will learn to avoid public places and bus rides, just like I learned as a child during the second Intifada.
Living under a constant threat will lead us nowhere unless we learn to push it to the back of our minds and live normally. That is how Israel became a leading beach-party country, and how Tel Aviv became one of the gay capitals of the world. That is why we enjoy our country’s beautifully diverse scenery every Saturday morning. It is also why we try and focus our attention to the screen when Leo Messi scores another goal.
This is life in Israel: World Cup and missiles. This is the way it's been for decades and it is probably how it will be for decades to come. This is not an ideal way of life, but this is what we got. We are lucky to have our brave soldiers defending us, providing us with the safety that helps us sleep quietly at night and enjoy World Cup matches. We all wish it will change someday, but we all know it probably won't, so we teach our children about this special Israeli way of life, and they will probably pass is on to their children. This is the Israeli mentality, and it’s what makes us so special.
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