Heard the one about the war?

By Benji Lovitt, November 30, 2012

Almost as quickly as it had begun, Operation Pillar of Defence wrapped up last week, leaving Israel's citizens to figure out what had just happened.

While the processing is never easy, it is especially difficult for immigrants who didn't grow up preparing for the army or living the Israeli narrative.

As I had made aliyah at the end of the second Lebanon War in 2006, this was not my first war in Israel - it wasn't even my second.

However, one thing remains constant: there is nothing quite as challenging as trying to "become Israeli" and the conflicts that seem to pop up every few years are only a reminder.

It all goes back to my first Yom Hazikaron (Israel Memorial Day), when I became aware of the chasm that existed between the country in its state of solemnity, and me, and realised that I was totally unable to identify with it, much as I wanted to.

Israelis wish to report attacks while promoting tourism

Though I would be crazy to wish for something bad to happen, I can't help but feel that until I, God forbid, experience one of those "I was supposed to be on that bus" moments (or worse), I'm not going to get it.

Throughout last week, when I wondered what I was supposed to be feeling, I couldn't help noticing how calm I was.

Casually walking from my couch to the stairwell four times when I had absolutely no fear that an errant missile was going to hit anywhere close to central Tel Aviv did nothing to accelerate my heart rate. If I had been in the South? Well, surely it would have been different.

So what did I do? What everybody else did: produce and digest content on Facebook for what seemed like 23 hours out of the day. And what my fellow immigrants and I wrote reveals one of the big paradoxes of life in Israel.

It is a constant struggle to let people outside Israel know when we are under attack as it is letting them know when we are not (that is, how it is safe to come and that the entire nation is not up in flames).

On the one hand, this country and its citizens are in a constant fight to let the world know that we are under attack while simultaneously running tourism campaigns and fighting the image that this place in its entirety is a war zone.

"Hey, world! We are under attack! But Mom! I'm fine!" After the Tel Aviv bus bombing, I sent an email to my family and relatives, letting them know that everything was ok, knowing full well that some of them probably wouldn't believe me (because they haven't been here).

"I'm fine… I promise… It's not like it looks on TV", etc. How to strike a balance between the two? I have no idea. Nobody said life in Israel was easy.

By the way, I'm a comedian. I make people laugh at the hilarious side of life in Israel (because if you can't laugh here, you'll lose your mind). I spent my week on Facebook, trying to cheer up my fellow immigrants and Jews around the world with statuses poking fun at the sirens, the rockets, the whole situation - and of course, myself.

Here's an example:

"Anyone in Southern Israel need refuge this weekend? Let me know if you need a place to crash. Especially if you are female, single, and between the ages of 29 and 37. I am here for you."

That was my most popular status of the past six years. And this was the possibly the biggest paradox of the week for me: How do you reconcile your country being at war with the fact that your creative juices are flowing, your witty comments are getting more laughs and responses than ever before, and people are feeding your ego by telling you that you must continue to distract them from the news?

Maybe I didn't house a refugee or get called up to defend the border but making my fellow Israelis feel better about life felt like my small (maybe very small) way of doing my bit.

Maybe that seems strange. But no more strange than being an immigrant in Israel. Thank goodness things are back to normal. Relatively speaking.

Benji Lovitt is a comedian living in Israel. He blogs on www.benjilovitt.com

Last updated: 12:20pm, November 30 2012