How Lisa Came To Israel
A friend of Michael Totten's wrote a one, two, three, four, five, six-part series of entries about her experience in Israel 2000-2002. She arrived in September 2000 and describes an Israel full of hope and vigor. The intifada started in October. Her description of the war's effect on society is interesting:
People reacted differently to the daily violence of 2002. Some, like my friend Diana, hibernated. She coined the term GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) for her emotional state. When I sent her an SMS inquiring, "Meet me for coffee?" she sent a cryptic reply: "Nope. GAD." Others insisted on living their lives as usual, and there was actually an amazing flurry of creativity that winter: new bars opened all the time; there were tons of new art exhibitions and many theatre and music performances. I could hardly keep up with it all. A lot of people were in a constant state of anxiety, and feared crowded places like shopping malls. Some became violent: there was a marked upswing in physical altercations between strangers over things like parking spaces and jumping what passes for a queue in Israel. Most of all, people were depressed.
Nearly all my diary entries for December 2001-May 2002, when I left for Tokyo, contain some reference to depression. I was depressed, and so was practically everyone I knew. I remember someone joking during that time that what Israel needed was a crop duster to fly over the country and spray liquid Prozac on the population.
The thing is, it wasn't a black existential depression. I didn't know anybody who was wondering about the point of being alive; in fact, there was a pervasive atmosphere of living life to its fullest. I cannot remember a single evening spent alone against my will during that entire half year. Either friends dropped over to hang out, talk desultorily and listen to music, or we went out - to lounge bars, music clubs, gallery openings and house parties. Every place and event I attended was packed with people, even at 3:00 AM on a weekday, even though hardly anyone had any money, and even though the inevitable presence of tough-looking, armed security guards was a constant reminder of the danger all around us.
And that buzz of sexual energy that is one of Tel Aviv's characteristics became a full-fledged roar. The Tel Aviv singleton's standard joke at the beginning of each winter is that it's time to find someone to help keep the bed warm during the cold, damp rainy season. But that winter finding a partner was about more than just keeping the bed warm; it was about pulling the duvet high over our heads and creating a warm little tent of safety and comfort. Nobody defined the quest for intimacy in those terms; that kind of self-awareness comes only in retrospect. But reading over my diaries and talking recently with friends has made it pretty clear that the natural human desire for intimacy was fulfilled with unusual intensity that year.