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Fear and Flip-Flops in the Holy City

I don't let my daughter wear flip flops anymore – I'm afraid she won't be able to run if she needs to. I look every driver in the eye before I cross the street – I want to see if I can read their intentions before my daughter and I walk in front of their cars. Sitting at a café feels like an act of defiance, though I check the news obsessively as I sit outside, vulnerable and jumpy. These are trying times in Israel. Even towns that once felt immune have now experienced violence and bloodshed. It feels like we've set the clock back at least ten years on progress we made towards coexistence and understanding, and of course, there are the political and economic ramifications. But all I care about is protecting my little girl. So I find myself looking around my apartment for something that I could use for self-defense. Some Israelis have fought off attackers with an umbrella and a selfie stick, other have taken to carrying rolling pins, frying pans, and oven cleaner spray. I have a dog, but unless my attacker were a cat, she wouldn't be of much use – she's more interested in cuddling than in guarding. So where does that leave me? At 6:00 p.m., as we were walking back from the supermarket, my daughter Carmel was singing to her doll, both my hands were filled with shopping bags, and our overly affectionate dog was pulling on her leash. Then, a military helicopter flew over our heads, and I panicked. Was there intelligence warning of an impending attack in my Jerusalem neighborhood? The helicopter circled back over us. Was a terrorist sighted on my block? Where could I hide? What would I do if faced with an attacker? Would I freeze or would I run? Could I get to my daughter in time if she were skipping ahead? Am I brave enough to intervene if someone else is being attacked? Fortunately, I didn’t have to answer any of those questions. The helicopter flew eastward, and Carmel remained blissfully unaware of the terrifying scenarios I had played in my head. We made it home and locked the door to settle in for a quiet evening. She's asleep, but every ambulance that goes screaming by outside my window makes me run to the news sites to read about the latest attack. I don’t know how much longer this situation will continue, or what the end result will be, but I do know that each day that goes by our nerves are becoming more frayed, and the fear in the pit of our stomachs becomes harder to ignore. - Davida Kutscher lives in Jerusalem with her daughter (and dog) and works for the AJJDC.

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