Gettin’ hitched, part 2

As I settled into our new home, there was of course the war being fought.  I got constant updates from my coworkers on the rockets being fired in our general direction, which did not help quell my anxiety at moving, settling, and the eventual hitching.  While I don’t claim I was greatly affected by the war–as of yet, Haifa has remained unscathed–it gave me a taste of the grinding stress of living in a country constantly threatened with violence, and a greater appreciation for my life in the United States, where the majority of our citizens, perhaps unjustly, live untouched by whatever conflict we’re embroiled in.

Actually, one colleague told me that war marriages turn out the best, as she and her husband courted and wed during the conflict of 1991, also in Israel.  (Since her husband was in Sergey’s department, maybe it’s the interdepartmental alliance that does the trick.)

A few days before we were scheduled to leave for the States, a rocket that landed near the Tel Aviv airport prompted first American and then European airlines to stop flying into Israel.

Of the various obstacles we had to overcome to get married, this was not one I had expected.  Would we have to take a transatlantic canoe voyage to attend our own wedding? It seemed like the perfect misalignment of international events, with the rocket hit occurring a week after the Malaysian Airline tragedy, while most airlines were feeling understandable panicky about getting close to war zones.

“Maybe God is trying to save you from me,” mused Sergey.

But I’d rather think of it as God giving us plenty of opportunities to re-examine our choice, asking repeatedly, “Are you sure you want to go through with this?”  And of course we did, answering yes to each question.

Our flight was indeed cancelled.  While this was annoying, it was fair–how could we expect to remain aloof from the conflict roiling to our south?  Plus, on the positive side, it gave us some extra time to unpack our things…and then pack for the trip.


…is something I wish I had these days.

One month until the wedding, and two weeks until Sergey and I hop on a plane to the U.S. of A.  Honestly, I’m not nervous about getting hitched.  Wedding planning is a bit stressful, but I know everything will come together.  It’s the physical trip home that concerns me most right now.  I think my cortisol levels will drop off as soon as I step into the Madison airport with Sergey.

I can’t help noticing that the country where I’m living seems to be at war.  Now, I’ve been a little paranoid about living in Israel since I arrived.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget my friend Seyy’s farewell to me in the common room of MacGregor res hall at Mount Holyoke: “I’m so scared for you.”  After coming, like many new arrivals, I was initially freaked out by the multiple explosions I heard at sunset, which turned out to be fireworks.  On our “Haifa Walk” during orientation, the guide made a point of showing us the pockmarks in a building damaged by shrapnel from the attacks in 2006.   Since then, I’ve been on the alert for sirens, my anxiety not helped by the fact that synagogues use ceremonial sirens to commemorate various events.  Or that the sounds of my downstairs neighbor vacuuming remind me of the blare of tornado sirens back home.  One Saturday morning I was so alarmed by this “air raid siren” that I bolted out of bed into the safe space of the hallway and called Sergey, who inquired what threat vacuum cleaning posed to national security.

Well, my over-consciousness of Israel’s tense position in the Middle East seems to be reaching fruition.  This morning at 3:30 A.M. I heard the real siren for the first time, and, following my vacuum cleaner emergency training, bolted out of bed suddenly wide awake, adrenaline coursing through my veins.  The siren’s mournful wail didn’t last long, and by the time it ended I still hadn’t made up my mind about where exactly to hide.  Fortunately, I’ll probably get more practice with this in the next few weeks.

This all makes me appreciative of the peaceful life I lived back in the States.  Back there, war was always fought across oceans and seas.  The closest I got to experiencing war was through historical novels.  It’s not that life in the U.S. is perfectly safe.  In fact, I bet statistics would show that I am in greater danger of getting shot by a homegrown terrorist from the suburbs with a legally-purchased submachine gun there than I am of getting hit by a Hamas or Hezbollah launched missile here.  And I should note that life in Haifa is actually still quite tranquil.  Long-time residents are, I’m sure, used to situations like this, and people just go on with their lives with a few demonstrations here and there.

Anyway, I’ve asked President Netanyahu and Hamas to hold off on getting too intense until we’re out of here…