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Home > Israel > Aliyah at 60-something

Aliyah at 60-something: Life during an uprising

Special to
October 31, 2000

The second in a series looking at the challenges of making aliyah after 60. (This article was written two days before the bombing took place in Jerusalem.)

JERUSALEM—We always knew that Israel faced threats. Every time we visited here there were constant reminders. Like the closing of part of a street while police sappers examined or blew up an unidentified package. Or the presence of young soldiers everywhere - an accepted part of the Israeli scene.

As American parents of two sons here in 1991 during the Gulf War - one an Israeli oleh (immigrant) and one a student - we worried as Iraq fired Scud missiles on Tel Aviv and our children found safety in sealed rooms not too far away.

And now the tables are turned. As they watch horrifying images on TV of the violence here, our American children worry about their parents and their brother and his family living in Israel. But for us, in the quiet residential Jerusalem neighborhood of Rehavia, life is pretty normal. The same goes for our son and his family on the quiet kibbutz Meirav, on Mt. Gilboa.

The country is tense and people are horrified as peace partners turn out to be no partners. Many on the Left are disillusioned about what happened to the peace process; many on the Right feel vindicated in their long-held belief that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians were never prospective partners for peace, but saddened by the fact that peace is not at hand for Israel.

The recent attack on two security guards in the National Insurance Institute office in East Jerusalem, the abduction and slaying of a resident of Gilo, the abduction and murder of another Israeli outside Ramallah, the lynching of two soldiers in Ramallah, the murder of Rabbi Hillel Lieberman near Nablus, the desecration of Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, the torching of an ancient synagogue in Jericho: These savage incidents and the ongoing acts of violence bear testimony to the hatred that has burst forth from the Palestinians against Israel.

In the southwest corner of Jerusalem, the suburb of Gilo is attacked nightly. Israeli tanks line the streets that form the border between Gilo and the neighboring Palestinian village of Beit Jalla. And in the morning, the daily papers carry photos of windows shattered by bullets. For the residents of Gilo and the settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, violence is a threat to daily life.

But for the residents of Rehavia, it is not. There is no violence here; there are no tanks on our streets, no soldiers on our doorsteps.

We are going about our lives normally - heading to our usual places, doing what we usually do: attending classes, lectures and concerts, shopping, walking in the center of town, riding buses, traveling to visit our children. Our routine is constant; our lives are mostly unchanged - except for a few things.

We make certain to watch and listen to the English news several times a day - both the Israeli stations and CNN and BBC, even with their biases. Since we don't own a car, we ride the buses, even though the U.S. government has issued an advisory to U.S. citizens to avoid public places and transportation. We're not going to any part of Arab East Jerusalem (we never went there anyway), nor will we visit Gilo or settlements in the West Bank or Gaza. But this is our home now, and we're not running away.

Two things stand out in central Jerusalem: tightened security and lack of tourists. In this security-conscious country, security is tighter than ever. The country is on high alert in an effort to prevent terrorist attacks. Hundreds of soldiers and police were at the Kotel (the Western Wall) for the holidays; soldiers and police are everywhere there are crowds. Security checks as you enter public places are more complete than ever before. Every intercity bus is inspected for unclaimed packages before it departs from the Central Bus Station.

In many parts of the country, factories and farms are suffering from lack of workers because the West Bank and Gaza are sealed and Palestinian workers from those areas cannot enter the rest of the country. But in other parts of the country, including Jerusalem, Arab workers who live inside Israel proper show up daily for their jobs. That is a dichotomy: Jews and Arabs living together, but not living together. Jews and Arabs going about their daily lives while violence swirls around them.

And the country is suffering economically from lack of tourism. The fall holidays usually see myriads of Jewish tourists here; this year the majority canceled; only the Christian Zionists were numerous in their presence. The hotels are empty; there are no tourists crowding the shops or restaurants on Ben Yehuda Street; there are no tour buses driving through Rehavia (a direct route between nearby hotels and the Knesset and the Israel Museum).

In 1990 and 1991, we worried about our children. We were worried; they were not. In 2000, our children worry about us. They are worried; we are not. What's that trite American cliché? "What goes around comes around." Even when you're 60-something.

Phyllis Singer, former editor/general manager of The American Israelite in Cincinnati, resides in Jerusalem with her husband, Allen. Email her at

©, 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission.

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