Dread Again 

Wednesday, Sep 19 2001

I was born into one Middle East war and lived through two others. So the primeval groan that welled deep in my stomach as I watched that second plane slam into the World Trade Center last Tuesday was entirely familiar. The last time I felt diffuse terror and anxiety on this order of magnitude was on a tranquil late afternoon on Yom Kippur, 1973, walking with my husband across a field north of Tel Aviv to break the fast with friends. Into the unbroken silence of a rowdy country that comes to a dead halt once a year to atone, came the wail of an air-raid siren. We ended the fast that night in the shelter beneath our friends’ apartment building, our ears glued to transistor radios. The next morning my husband, like me an immigrant student from England, was called up into the army to fight a war that had taken Israel completely by surprise, for which she was unprepared, and which shattered the myth of invincibility in which Israelis had cloaked themselves since the 1967 Six Day War.

I had lived even more directly through that earlier war, when shells tore across the Galilee kibbutz where I was spending a year between high school and university. But this was different. This was chaos, and untold casualties and nameless dread, not to mention a sense of abject helplessness not only for the soldiers being mowed down at the front, but for those of us who were not in the army, had no crucial jobs to do, and could only huddle at home or in neighbors‘ houses, watching television and listening to radio news that was heavily controlled by the military. Sound familiar? For once Americans have fallen victim to the same paralyzing horrors that people face on a daily basis all over the Middle East. Now the illusion has vaporized for Americans, as it did in recent years for Israel: the illusion of impregnability. Israel, accustomed to fighting its wars along its borders, is now forced to fight them in discotheques and pizzerias, while the Palestinians continue to experience war in their shelled and bulldozed homes. America, accustomed to fighting its wars overseas, is finding that the war has come home and, like Israel, is having to face the fact that there are people who hate us enough to kill themselves in order to kill us. No wonder both Israelis and Palestinians -- and those all over the world who live in daily fear of terrorism -- are asking themselves whether now, at last, Americans get it.

What this new and fundamental sense of unsafety will do to the national psyche, to our foreign policy, to our capacity for introspection over our long-term role in what has happened, won’t become clear until our homing instincts for order have re-asserted themselves. We can‘t live without routine, but I suspect that what happened last week will leave us with an irretrievably altered sense of what it means to live a normal life. I was trapped for four days at the Toronto Film Festival, booking and rebooking flights that were canceled and re-canceled. On the fifth day, I made it home through the kindness of an Air Canada agent who maneuvered me onto one of the few flights leaving for L.A. Since my return, my 3-year-old daughter, who understandably expected to get her mother back in more or less the same guise in which she went away, has by day been good-naturedly swatting away the madwoman who follows her around, pelting her with hugs and kisses at 10-second intervals. By night, she refuses to sleep anywhere but in my bed.

Related Stories

  • We Wish We All Could Be Caprice's Kind of California Girl

    “This is myself with my best friend at the time, frying my skin," says the across-the-pond celebrity Caprice Bourret while looking at old photos, nibbling a scone at high tea at the Culver Hotel. "I used to be such a California girl. I used to fry. Hawaiian Tropic, no sunscreen at all."...
  • Surprise! Americans Drink More Wine Than the French

    Congratulations America! We're officially bigger winos than the French. According to the Organization of Vine and Wine, the U.S. became the biggest internal market in the world, volume-wise, as of 2013. We won this coveted title by consuming 29.1 million hectoliters (mhl) of wine - not including vermouth or special wines,...
  • Milkfarm

    If your idea of the four food groups is cheese, charcuterie, bread and wine, Milkfarm in Eagle Rock is set to become your new grocery shopping central.  Leah Park Fierro, formerly head cheesemonger/manager of the Cheese Store in Silver Lake, opened the cheese-and-charcuterie haven April 7, inspired by the little specialty shops...
  • Petit Trois Opens

    Petit Trois, the long-awaited space next door to Trois Mec, will open tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. Owned and operated by the Trois Mec team — Ludo Lefebvre, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo — Petit Trois aims to offer  Bar a la Carte, described as the traditional French bar experience.  "I...
  • Soccer Streaming

    In perhaps a sign of the growing popularity of soccer in the United States, the L.A. Department of Water and Power recorded a modest spike in water usage at halftime of Thursday's World Cup game between the U.S. and Germany. Water usage then dropped sharply during the second half. It...
Reach the writer at etaylor@laweekly.com

Related Content

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets


  • Street League Skateboarding Super Crown World Championship
    On Sunday, Street League Skateboarding touched down in the Galen Center at USC as part of a four-stop tour for SLS's Super Crown World Championship. The L.A. stop determined the roster for Super Crown, airing August 24th on FOX Sports 1. The final eight are Nyjah Huston, Luan Oliveira, Torey Pudwill, Shane O'Neill, Paul Rodriguez, Chaz Ortiz, Matt Berger and Ishod Wair. All photos by Nanette Gonzales.
  • Comic-Con's "Celebrity" Autograph Area
    A sometimes overlooked (but still incredibly unique) aspect of San Diego Comic-Con are the celebs available to sign autographs, as well as the autograph seekers themselves. If you've ever wanted to meet the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld or the guy who played Michelangelo in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, chances are, as you wander the Autograph Area, you'll be able to connect with someone you didn't even realize you were waiting your whole life to meet! All photos by Rob Inderrieden.
  • Real Madrid Soccer Practice at UCLA
    Fans came out to greet world champion soccer team Real Madrid as they practice at UCLA. This is the first time that soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo has practiced with the team this year. All photos by Jeff Cowan.