“Would you like your drinks before or after we go to the bomb shelter?” With unwavering calm, a waitress coolly inquired after our drink orders as incoming rocket fire compelled us to flee our oceanside table for the local Tel Aviv bar’s shelter. To quote the 2003 cinematic classic “Bad Boys 2,” shit just got real.
After growing up in the Midwest and spending two years of college in the Georgetown bubble (where the greatest threat to my survival was Tuscany’s closing), I have found the gravity of the conflict in Israel difficult to fully fathom. While rockets have sporadically threatened Jerusalem, warning sirens echoed through Tel Aviv at least five times a day in the past week. Even in the relative safety of Jerusalem, I still consider the blaring of the alarm bells terrifying. I am not alone: Fearing an escalation in conflict, many universities have evacuated their students from Israel.
Unaccustomed to such a threatening environment, many students in my group have turned to humor in order to cope. From setting a picture of the Iron Dome demolishing a rocket as a Facebook cover photo to complaining that the bomb shelter doesn’t have Wi-Fi, humor provides the best medicine. By jokingly thanking Hamas for timing their missile firing during class time, we conceal our greater fear that the classroom — our supposedly sheltered cocoon of learning — cannot escape the looming menace of the outside conflict.
Yet, I wonder if this treatment of the crisis unfairly diminishes the suffering and fear both sides have experienced. Since I am a foreigner staying in Israel for only a short period of time, I can brush off the frightening moments I have confronted as an adventure, which will impress the SFS hotshots when I get back on campus. For most people, however, this is their home: Innocent civilians in Gaza have been killed and displaced, while various Israeli cities experience continued rocket attacks. We must remember this is no laughing matter. In order to reduce hostilities and begin to mend the widespread mistrust, it’s going to take more than a few one-liners: Both sides need to express a commitment for peace.