The new virus

Tokyo is functioning at 100% as usual.

Except a slight feeling of apocalyptic panic by the shelves in the supermarkets where you can usually find many many types of surgical masks.

The mask: a very common item in Japan throughout the year, used not only for reasons such as the common cold or a new virus. I usually don’t think much of it, except at times when a person who wears it is talking to me, and I find myself wishing I could see the lower part of their face.

The shelves are all empty of masks. Everywhere.

Today, I went around my neighborhood in Chiba on a quest to find masks, thinking it is far enough from central Tokyo, so I should be able to find some. After several konbini (convenience stores) and medical supermarkets, empty of masks, I realized the task might be more challenging than I thought.

At the next place I entered, I asked about the masks right away. The lady looked at me and I could see a sad smile behind her own mask. She apologized and said they run out. I asked about Alcohol-based hand sanitizer bottles instead. Pointing at a small, traveling size one that I have attached to my backpack. She went with me to the area of soaps in the store, where we discovered another empty body of naked shelves. She apologized again and straight bowed her head.

I continued.

It seemed like everyone around me was looking for the masks. Some people were talking about how rude were those who bought more than one package at a time, so nothing left for others.

This made me think that the kind of life I am experiencing is pretty organized and comfortable. In every country I lived in there were systems and laws and expectations from society to behave accordingly in order for everything to keep on going, more or less, the same way as it did yesterday.

In Japan, I feel like this is especially highly valued.

But sometimes, an unknown obstacle slips into the comfortably functioning system, threatening to pull it all into an unknown place of fear and chaos.

I felt it during the couple of earthquake drills I’ve been to (though they were very organized), before the big typhoon a few months ago (no water bottles or flashlights anywhere to be found), and today while listening to an elderly couple standing by the empty masks shelves and wondering aloud where are the masks.

The notion that life, as we know it, might end tomorrow, and we must be ready, is a feeling no one likes very much. Especially the unknown part about it.

I do not know much about the new virus to be honest. But I have some masks left that I started putting on while on the train, and I am washing my hands a bit more often than usual.

I am hoping everyone will be okay, and that winter and its microscopic friends will be over soon.

 

 

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Thoughts on the Holocaust

As I keep exploring new places and occasionally, encounter people who have never heard of the Holocaust, I find myself gripped by emotions that, I am afraid, will never fade away.

In general, I prefer to see the good in the world, in people. I believe we are all limited to our own perspectives, connecting mostly with our own experiences and understandings.

And thus, we have to be open to others, see where they are coming from, and always aspire for a dialogue.

Very few people I met were Holocaust deniers. I could count them on one hand. A denial of the Holocaust usually stems from a very deep misconception of history, or (and I do not think of them much), Antisemitic people. Sometimes I prefer not to engage in someone’s misconception. And the Holocaust is one of those few subjects.

Below is a Facebook post I wrote back in 2017 when I was about to go on a flight from Tel Aviv to Berlin for the first time. A lot of my emotions went into this post. I don’t write or think about this subject much, it’s just in me. And I do not like it being there. 

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Next week I will be visiting Berlin for the first time. I have some days to explore it on my own before my co-workers will arrive for a staff retreat. I was considering avoiding any Jewish related places. Museum, memorial, monument. I was going to focus on art, music, fun places. But this morning, I decided to change this plan, just a little, adding the Holocaust Museum to my to-do list.

Never in my life I visited a Nazi concentration camp.

I moved to the U.S just before my class went to visit them in Poland. But I never felt the need to visit them.

I always thought our world hasn’t evolved much since then, and that the Holocaust hovers around me like a plague all the time to remind me of it.

Sometimes words on the internet tell me that the Holocaust never happened. “Only some thousands died” is another statement. “Stop whining about it for sympathy,” they say in the comment section.

Most of it is ignorance, boredom or racism. However, I also know that Israel is using the tender memory of the Holocaust. Using it well: The teachers at my school used the trauma to unite us, to keep us strong and spirited. But mostly, afraid. Afraid of the outside world, of anyone who isn’t Jewish. Isn’t us.

Israel is Israel. I am enfolded with it whenever I go. People say all sorts of things, I am used to it. I spent a long time abroad. Yet, something deep inside me falls into the hands of the conspirators who say it never took place. Because history is fun to play with, especially on the internet.

And I find myself wishing their scheme was real: I wish the holocaust never happened.

I would be a completely different person. Maybe living in a different place, speaking different languages, or maybe I would not be at all.

I wish the holocaust never happened.

I would have a larger family. I would get to know those communities and cultures that were wiped out. Villages, towns, markets. Gone. Except at times, beyond white school t-shirts, the military attire, and the strong solid images Israel planted in my vision; I can see blurry figures:
Craft people, makers of simple house tools, they are baking warm bread, reading the exact same books every year, lighting candles to pray, using their own language as well as the local one, feeling at home. I am who I am thanks to them, too, and I am grateful. We are still connected. It hasn’t been that long.

I wish the holocaust never happened.

Because millions of women, men, children, and babies would not have perished. Stripped of any dreams or memories of being human. Caged, starved, shot, gassed and burned like cattle in the well documented and organized factories of death.
I wish the holocaust never happened.

Because death is in us today and I always wanted it to leave me. Because we are losing ourselves in fear. Forever feeling like prey. Forever trapped in death. I wish we praised life the way we say we praise it, drink to it, all lives, every life.

I wish we spoke about life more than we speak about death. Much more.

I wish the holocaust never happened.

I wish it for selfish reasons. Because I cannot remember living without the horrors gripping me, stored in the darkest corners of my mind, haunting me at night: abused bodies, piled over each other in a mass grave no one will ever find, I wish I have never seen them. Broken skin, burnt hair, dead flesh, and dim souls. I wish I never met you. Little girls experimented on in Nazi laboratories, I wish I never heard your screams.

I wish the holocaust never happened.

Because we are injured and our wound does not heal.

Let’s look forward, without forgetting. Let’s say goodbye to death, for now.

 

 

Summer is almost here

And I love the summer.

Though it is going to be super hot, everyone here says so.

Five months ago, I got rid of 70% of my “stuff”, sent the rest by boat to my parents and left my apartment in Jerusalem feeling a bit unsure about a lot of things related to the past, the future, and the present.

I am still a bit unsure about things, but I am working on thinking less about the past, not worrying about the future, and most definitely enjoying the present.

Because I made it to Japan, but more importantly, I took off for another adventure.

The postmen here call me “Peregu” and it’s a refreshing identity. I look at the envelope they handed to me, it’s from the bank account I just opened or the phone company I just joined. Everything is in Japanese, it makes me slightly nervous. Then I look at my (hebrew) name written in Katakana; it’s funny and different. And I like it.

Tokyo University of Foreign Studies is where I am studying the Japanese Language until September. Then, I will move on to a totally different part of Tokyo. Everything will be new again: my university, where I will be living, where I will go to get groceries, the people I will meet and encounter.

There are some unknown obstacles ahead. Sometimes my head is full of questions of how things will be like. But I am learning to count on myself. It will be ok.

And more importantly, I am here now. On this part of Tokyo for the time being. And I go to my university every day. Sometimes, I almost forget that around it, there are some very nice places I should indulge in before life goes on.

TUFS is located at the depths of residential Western Tokyo: Neighborhoods, parks, locals who really like to grow cucumbers in their gardens. They are very surprised to see me walking around. I can relate.

It’s quiet. Peaceful. Foreign to me.

Crazy Tokyo itself, The City with no ends, is looming just a short train ride away. But I like being a bit far from it. Close enough to reach, far enough to withdraw.

Some photos from a walk I took after uni today.

 

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