I sit at the bus stop next to a religious woman who is covered from head to toe in thick black clothing. It is hot, maybe 90 F and it's 10a.m. We glance at each other without interest and I shade my eyes looking for the number 61. Nearby, a mother settles her infant down in its stroller and lights a cigarette gratefully. She looks bored. Workmen shout in Arabic as they move cranes and supplies up and down the tall apartment buildings going up all around us, accompanied by the sound of hammer blows and drills.
The fruit and vegetable kiosk across the street gets a delivery of melons, which the Ethiopian boys immediately start hacking up with great thunks of machete. Three Russian women power walk to join the bus stop crowd, unapologetically dressed in an array of clashing patterns and colors. The Russians always stick together. Shuruk arrives and we greet each other. She is a young Arab girl in a hijab and she is studying at the local miklelet. She wants to be a nurse.
The alte zachen man walks by, shouting in Yiddish. Nobody pays any attention. A few feral cats skulk around a nearby dumpster, looking for food. An elderly man arrives in his wheelchair, pushed by his Filipino caregiver, Shirley. I have seen them before. Everybody rearranges themselves so the old man can get some shade.
It's creeping up toward 100 F when the bus finally comes. It is very crowded. Schedule is off again. The bus has come from a religious neighborhood and has many orthodox and ultra-orthodox passengers already aboard. They squeeze over to make room for the Russians, Arab girls, old guy with his caretaker, the mother, her baby and the American lady listening to Green Day on her iPod. As the bus doors close, the Ethiopian boys start their day-long chanting and selling litany, proclaiming how sweet and delicious the watermelon is today.
A few minutes later, two young men get on the bus and move with determination toward the packed center. They each have huge backpacks. Briefly, I wonder what is in the backpacks, if we are safe. Nobody else seems to notice or care. The boys joke and laugh and I realize it is okay. No bombs on this bus today, although later in the day, there will be three rocket attacks from Gaza. There are one or two each week. It's not really news.
At the doctor's office, there is a big argument about who is next in line but a Moroccan man settles it with finality, in vehement Hebrew. Later I sit in Kikar Rambam, a crowded square ringed by falafel joints and kiosks selling fruit, vegetables, cigarettes, olive oil and coffee. A table full of teenaged boys sit nearby. I watch them talk and laugh and I wonder how the three teenaged boys are who were kidnapped by Hamas three days ago. I wonder if they have eaten. I wonder if they have been hit or hurt. I wonder how they are managing, what they are thinking. I wonder how their parents are coping. I wonder if they are alive.
When these things happen, when the situation has an uptick, I try to be informed and logical. Over and over again, I try to understand it from a humanist point of view. Over and over I feel I must justify to myself why I live here instead of the by comparison, vastly peaceful and ordered Los Angeles. Most of the time I know exactly why I live here. Other times, I feel I have gone through the looking glass.
I read about ISIS/ISIL, about Sunnis and Shiites and demagoguery and settlements and I know that 90 minutes from where I live, the IDF is furiously kicking in doors and terrifying villages as they look for the abducted boys. I read about Abu Mazen and see pictures of Palestinians handing out candy in Gaza to celebrate the kidnapping. I try to make sense of it. Any of it. And it makes me so very tired. It makes all of us so tired.
It is quieter than usual in Israel today. I watch as Israelis, of which I am now one, go about our business as usual. But we are more subdued. Our thoughts are with the boys, with "ha matsav" -- the situation. The roller coaster ratchets up the incline again. Everybody can see the drop that is coming. Helplessly, we wait.
When darkness falls tonight, and windows are flung open, the sound of the World Cup games in Brazil will permeate the humid night.