I am sitting at a cafe in a mall. Nearby, there is a table full of uniformed soldiers, carrying Uzis. They are enjoying iced coffee and having a laugh. They must have the day off. Syria is teetering on the brink, and chemical weapons are moving rapidly from one set of hands to another. The IDF (Israeli Defense Force) is on high alert on the Syrian border with Golan. The lowest floor of this mall contains the biggest bomb shelter in Tel Aviv, which can fit about 10,000 people. I can get my gas mask there.
It is hot here. Very hot and very humid. I am in a bad mood. These summer days have been long and dusty and tension fills the air. The bus bomb in Bulgaria sent shock waves through Israel. I think of an Israeli comedian and his recent quip on Facebook about his "Buck Fulgaria" tee shirt and I laugh just a little.
Nearby, Lametayel, an outdoor store similar to REI is holding some kind of lecture about camping destinations in Israel. Through the glass, I see the room is completely full. The athletic looking man leading the class sips from a BPA-free water bottle and gestures at a map of Israel.
My thoughts turn to the news in Colorado and unwittingly, I return to the source of my bad mood. It was that meme. That picture on Facebook today, of Christian Bale entitled "The Real Batman" touting Bale's recent visit to Colorado as heroic. Comments on the meme are uniformly lump-in-throat patriotic.
Anger fills me but I'm not sure why. How can people view an actor as heroic? Or worse, much worse, how can rational human beings think that the role the actor played (for a multi-million dollar paycheck, no doubt), depicting an imaginary caped avenger is connected to or symbolic of anything at all connected to this grotesque shooting?
Batman is not noble -- Batman is a made up, I want to scream at those facile, groping Facebook sycophants sharing this stupid meme, over and over. What on earth has Batman got to do with the fact that a relatively normal guy had a psychotic break and killed a dozen innocent people?
It's my bad mood, I know it is. I like Facebook. I like cute pictures of kitties as much as the next person. But this -- this adulation of an actor in a rubber suit, this mythologizing of a profit machine/computer generated film franchise worth billions of dollars as if it could possibly give us solace -- this frightens me. It frightens me because it feels somehow apocalyptic. As if we have collectively exhausted our avatars of hope. Camelot cannot save us now.
People often ask me what it's like to live in Israel, with constant, existential threats. I'll tell you what it's like. It's frightening. But at least here, when something happens, Israelis know exactly why it happened. Because they hate us. They hate our buses, planes and Olympic teams. They hate our airports and shopping malls. They hate the very fact that we exist.
But in America, nobody knows why these things happen. They just do. Who hates us? Everyone and no one. The free-floating anxiety of this dreadful truth is almost impossible to bear. And so a nation's lonely eyes turn to a comic book figure in a cape.
The hot Israeli afternoon is waning; the temperature outside cools only slightly and the bats are beginning their nightly patrols. Mothers walk by briskly pushing strollers ahead of them and the cafe staff changes guard. I still haven't gotten my complimentary, government-issue gas mask because somehow, I don't think it will help.