Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Another day, another Hag (and then we’re finished till Hannuka)

I can’t tell you how upset I am about that thirteen-year-old girl killed in Rafiah on her way to school. My Eldest is thirteen.

The Palestinians are saying that twenty bullets ripped through her body after she threw her school satchel, and the soldiers suspected it was rigged with explosives. Twenty bullets. Talk about overkill, literally.

Can we begin to imagine how terrified she must have been at the moment of death?

How could they do such a thing, I ask myself. How could they make such a terrible mistake? Twenty bullet holes. Horrible.

I suddenly think of a scene in a film I once saw. I didn’t see the rest of the film, I was just zapping. The scene didn’t make me want to stick around for more. I’m a bit vague about the details. It was Bosnia or Serbia, or somewhere round there. British soldiers (I think they were British or maybe American) were in control of a bridge. A young girl comes along (with a baby? I’m not sure. Maybe I’m mixing it up with something else) and wants to cross. I think they’re not meant to let anyone cross. She looks at them, they look at her, and then they nod her across. She walks along and when she gets near to them she blows up, or throws a grenade, or opens fire, or something. Can’t remember exactly, only that it was ‘och and vey’, as Mum used to say.

So how can I judge those soldiers? I understand that the circumstances were such that it could well have been like on that bridge in that film, which I didn’t really see and can’t remember very well. Not much consolation for her family though, is it?

I remember a time, not so very long ago, when I used to be really, really afraid to let the girls go out of the apartment. I used to sit at work all day, tense and fearful, until they rang to tell me they had arrived safely home from school. I used to ride the number five bus home from work with clenched teeth, listening to the guy at the back mumbling the prayer for traveling, over and over again. There always seemed to be a guy at the back.

During that period, a friend said that every day she would wait for the terrorist attack, for it was a daily event at that time, and, awful as this may sound, she would be relieved when it happened. She’d survived the game of Russian roulette they were playing with us, for another day.

Am I happy that tables are turned and now it is other mothers who are afraid? No, I am not. My heart goes out to the tearful mothers and fearful children we see every night on the TV (Do they show our tearful mothers and fearful children on their TV, as well?). I have no vengeful satisfaction. I’m just grateful it’s not so much me and mine at the moment. I’m only human.

A week or two ago, I heard a song on the car radio. I don’t hear much radio these days. I ride my bike to work and I’m too busy to listen to the radio there. I often only hear about important events of the day, when I get home in the afternoon. Anyway, this was one of those quiet, wistful songs, woman and guitar. The refrain included the words - ‘A bit of compassion never killed anyone’. And I thought, God, what a daft song. Compassion could very well turn out to be one of the big killers of our time.