Firstly, your nation deserves a country, but you belong in jail.
I’ve been thinking about our encounter since it happened and I realized that I don’t even know if the right words exist.
At 9:37 p.m. last Thursday night, I was driving along a road that winds through a forest. No street lights, not close to any towns or villages. Your group stood in the dark, in an area with no cell service and a speed limit of 80km/hr (50mph). My passenger – a young colleague who had been in Israel only two weeks at the time, was dozing. We were on our way back to Jerusalem after a meeting in Natzrat-Illit. My navigation app was set to avoid risky areas. There weren’t many other cars around, and the ones we saw all overtook us. We were on road 458.
I heard an impossibly loud boom, then felt a shower of sand (which was actually glass) on my face. For the next few minutes, I saw patterns of green flashing lights, as if we were passing a nightclub with a light-show.
I thought a tire had burst or something in the engine had exploded, so I slowed the car down and began to pull over. Seeing that my windshield had smashed (directly in front of the steering wheel) and realizing it may not have been an accident, I decided to keep moving, leaning over to see through the glass that wasn’t too fractured. Later, a policeman told me that you threw a cinder block at me. Another officer said that you and your colleagues shine lasers at your targets to disorient and confuse them. That explains the green lights.
My questions start here. I don’t know how to describe your actions. I’ve seen media outlets refer to what you did as, “throwing rocks at cars.” That definition conjures up images of teenagers causing a harmless ruckus, as if you were just breaking into abandoned factories or something. What you did kills people, so that phrase doesn’t suit. My family has called you a terrorist. And an attempted murderer. But I don’t think those labels fit either. You attacked me in a reckless and dangerous way, but you didn’t shoot at me or throw a bomb at me. Is there a term between ‘troubled teen who vandalizes property’ and ‘person who flies a plane into a building’? It feels like your goal was to cause me to die in a car crash, rather than to kill me yourself. Then again, you threw a cinder block at me, so maybe you were trying to kill me yourself… What would you have done if I had stopped? Would you have run up to me and tried to fight? Would you have tried to cut my head off? What are you? A terrorist-delinquent? A second-degree terrorist?? All of this is to say that I don’t even have the words to articulate this attack.
If you see me (an Israeli) as an enemy of the Palestinian people, know that I don’t see myself like that. There are more sides to this conflict than there are armed forces fighting it, but there’s nothing I can say to convince you of that. Check out Combatants for Peace for more.
If you’re trying to have an impact on the situation, you should know that you aren’t. You are strengthening the status quo. You are keeping things the way they are. I’m sure that’s infuriating to hear. Especially from an Israeli. But I’m also the person you almost killed so, deal with it.
If you’re just an angry kid, no argument can reach you. Attacking me was an idiotic thing to do.
While driving, I called the police and, once we had cell service again, they asked the questions you’d expect: where you hit us, if we saw any people or vehicles, license plates, landmarks and so on. For the next 30 or 40 minutes, my phone was constantly ringing; different representatives from the army and police force called with the exact same questions.
As we drove on, my legs were tickled by the glass particles falling from the windshield and dashboard. Later, I saw that some had made small cuts that were already starting to heal. We pulled over at a checkpoint and the soldiers let us use their facilities to wash the glass off our skin and wipe down the glass-powder from the car surfaces.
We headed to the nearest police station to file a report. They had a water cooler but were out of cups. While sitting in the investigator’s starkly lit office, looking at the water damage on the roof and the framed pictures of his children on his desk, I realized that every time I moved my legs, I was dropping fine pieces of glass on his floor. I was more perturbed by the tiny shards stuck in my chest-hair; they turned every scratched itch into a glass splinter.
By the time I got home at 12:30 a.m., my life was already back to normal; regardless of what happened between you and me, I still had to find my wife’s shoes when she lost them, and pass her her phone when she was too tired to get up.
Which brings me to how I feel about you. My wife is angry at you, but I’m not. You didn’t want to attack me, you wanted to attack an Israeli. Any Israeli. But you’re not ‘out to get me.’ You don’t know where I live. Or who I am. Once I drove away, our relationship was essentially over. To me, you’re as nameless and faceless as I was to you when you took your aim.
Regarding my political beliefs, nothing has changed. Before our incident, I knew that attacks like this happened. Now, I’m just part of those statistics. My experience doesn’t influence my opinion. Nor should it. Only argument should, and you didn’t make an argument. You just made … noise. By random chance, I was on that road when you were there. By random chance, I was in the car you targeted. Attacks like yours have killed good, loving, selfless people and, by random chance, yours left me alive. You could say I was lucky to have survived or unlucky to have been hit, but it’s hard to feel lucky or unlucky; it’s all just random. I am, however, frustrated to have come into contact with yet another person keeping this conflict deadlocked. Your decision gives the Right (who are in power) another reason to fight Palestinian self-determination, and the Left another reason to see you as an infant – a strong yet ineffectual resister of occupation; brainwashed by the lesser of two evils to attack civilians.
On a personal level, if you thought attacking me would impact my life somehow – make my perfect life difficult – know that I also live in the Middle East. The morning of your attack, I got a parking fine for saying ‘OK’ the wrong way to a guard; the next day, I had to drive the damaged car to four different police stations, as each one told me they wouldn’t help me but the next one would. I already live in a country of George Costanzas – people who feel so wronged by the universe that they feel entitled to make life difficult for strangers. You’re just more of the same.
A few minutes after you hit us, I realized what the nightmare scenario would have been. It would have been if you took me out and my passenger, the young tourist, found himself stranded with my body behind the wheel and you in the area. Before we got home, he said he was confronted by how Israel is full of racist stereotypes that keep being validated. That’s on you.
So where to from here? Next week, I’ll get the car fixed. I’m borrowing my sister’s until then. In terms of the police, the case is already officially closed – they can’t identify you. But I imagine this is not the type of thing you do only once. And it’ll catch up with you eventually. Until then, I don’t imagine you’ll regret it. I imagine you’ll be proud. I imagine my kids will be the conscripted soldiers your kids see/fear/hate/attack. I’m going to try raise my kids to be the type of soldiers who won’t make life difficult for innocent people, but I have no idea if I’ll succeed.
I don’t expect anything to change in my lifetime but I’m definitely going to keep voting the way I do in the hope that something does. I’m still going to support policies that pursue equality, and you still deserve to be prosecuted for your actions.
I’m not sure if or how you’re thinking about your attack, but I get to react however I need to, and this is how I’m dealing with it at the moment:
Lastly, to any Israeli readers, I want to say that I think we should always be investing in Palestinian self-determination. I understand that past attempts have failed, but our current approach – collective punishment as we wait for Palestinians to self-organize in a way that we’re OK with – is both failing and immoral. And bloody. And unnecessary. I understand that we’d be paying to improve the infrastructure of a nation that has representatives who do abhorrent things to us. But they’re not going anywhere, and we are going to be affected by what they do in the future. We can either keep being available to improve the situation until we find what works, or we can let things deteriorate. If we want this situation to change, we should keep being around to change it; work with whoever will work with us to make it happen. As the stronger power, different rules apply to us. As Israel, different rules apply to us. We need to accept that.
Zev Levi is an Australian oleh cataloging how his opinions on local issues change and why. If you think he’s wrong or missing something, let him know.
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