As I was walking into our synagogue parking lot yesterday in order to enter the building, I saw a group of boys (I was going to write pre-teen, but I think that mostly describes girls, for some reason), jumping up and down, over-animated (how apt that would turn out to be) next to one of the tens of minvans in the lot.
They were scurrying around as I approached them, shrieking with delighted horror: “There’s a squirrel on the driving wheel!”
I couldn’t even get close enough to the van to verify their story, but I asked them what they were going to do about it.
Delight turned into blank.
“Seriously, what are you going to do?”
Nothing, clearly. They were on their way home, having gone to the earlier service.
“You found it. You have to do something. That squirrel is in trouble. Tza’ar ba’alei chayim. You have to worry about the pain of this animal. What are you going to do?”
Nothing. No reaction.
“Someone has to go get the janitor (not Jewish) to see if he can open the car to let him out.”
One boy volunteered and ran into the building. The others fled home.
I followed to make sure it happened. I will shorten the story from here. It took a long time to find the owner, get the keys, and open the car. In the meantime, it was definitely a curious break to the heaviness we adults were all feeling.
I had not even found out what happened with the second suspect, since it was still unfolding as we went into our blessed Shabbat media silence. Of course, I was quickly updated by those who have access to newspapers in the morning. So squirrels? Helping helpless creatures? Blessed respite.
When ISHI and I walked back to shul that afternoon, however, we peaked into the van and, you guessed it. The squirrel was sitting on top of the steering wheel!
Yes, another missed photo op.
So, did he like being there? Had he brought in friends for reinforcement? Was he taking over the van? Would our car be next?
And, who would clean up the mess he was leaving behind?
And would it be safe now to open the door?
This squirrel was not cute. It was, after all, a rodent.
Was it humorous at all?
And now, was the squirrel standing in for something else going on?
Sorry, this squirrel could not be just a cigar.
So now the title.
Reflecting on the past week’s events, seeing how people are so eager to put it all behind them, get back to normal, I am not so quick. I wondered about how Israelis made the shift from being so very depressed from the incessant random bombings from the second intifada. I found a very thorough discussion of this topic, Living with terror, not Living in Terror, in the journal Perspectives on Terrorism:
One of the key objectives of terrorism, then, is to demoralize the targeted society—to induce a widespread sense of helplessness and hopelessness and feeling of despair among members of the society. If the targeted society does not become demoralized, terrorism fails in this respect.
By this criterion, Palestinian terrorism during the second Intifada was ineffective because it did not succeed in demoralizing the Israeli-Jewish public. While Israelis were certainly fearful of terrorist attacks, they did become despondent and dispirited. Rather, Israelis demonstrated resolve and steadfastness in the face of relentless terrorism. Indeed, any visitor to Israel during the second Intifada could not help but be struck by the seemingly nonchalant manner with which Israelis lived with the constant threat of terrorism. Instead of panic and public hysteria, there was stoicism and fortitude. Israelis did not allow the threat of terrorism to dominate their lives. Although they experienced high levels of stress and fear, they went on with their lives.
So we in Boston/USA want to say that this loathsome attack will not affect how we act. But won’t you be more ADD about checking all around you in public? Won’t you be paying more attention to stray items? Don’t you think you should be changing your behavior in some way?
Oh, I guess you want to know what happened to the squirrel. At the end of Shabbat, the owner was trying to figure out how to get into his car. The squirrel had never left, even when they had opened the car earlier. And now, the squirrel was dying in his glove compartment.