3 days ago, one of our baseball players was killed in Gaza. His name was Shon Mondshine. He was 19 years old. I did not know him. He played for the Tel Aviv Juniors in 2011. This blog post is for Shon and his family.
It started like any good story starts, I did not realize it was starting, there was no announcement, no one said, “Please take your seats, and cover your heads, the war is going to begin now,” it just began.
3 Jewish boys got kidnapped and killed in the West Bank, in “the Gush”. We have teams there, I am there often, but it didn’t feel close. We have a proximity meter with tragedy. When is it real? How close do we have to be? 7,000 miles away? Someone from the same religion? Same country? A family member? A stranger? An enemy? Then an Arab boy got killed in Jerusalem. Narratives form. Things escalate. A couple of sirens in southern Israel, and Tel Aviv, no big deal, still not close enough, it’s Israel, it happens, the Iron Dome, the rockets don’t get through, life goes on. More rockets. Every day. A lot of them. Sirens 2 or 3 times a day some places. Taking shelter on the side of the road, at the field, in random apartment buildings, with the kids at camp. It’s getting tiresome. Things escalate again. Air strikes in Gaza. Then Israel goes into Gaza. 13 Israeli soldiers killed in one day, and 7 more the next, a total of 28 so far, and far more Gazans. And then Shon. My meter goes off. A baseball player. A kid. In the same uniform I see the kids in every week.
Through all of this, we are trying to get ready to play. We go out to practice, forget about it, maybe hear some booms in the distance, then, after, check our phones for updates, Red Alerts, rockets in Ashdod, on the ride home, “Yuli, What’s he saying on the radio?” 3 more soldiers killed, and everyone is quiet for a moment. It’s not like in the States. Everyone knows each other here, or knows someone who knew them. It’s like everyone went to the same high school. If you couldn’t tell from the tone of this post, there is a seriousness to things right now. You can feel it. This has made me more Israeli than a passport. Stores are being burned in France. Maccabi Haifa’s soccer team was attacked on the field during a game in Vienna yesterday. What is happening?
For the Americans, the only thing I can compare it to is 9/11. People don’t leave their houses, they just sit and watch news. People are sad. People are mad. People are jumpy. When a motorcycle starts, or a dumpster lid slams closed too fast, or a song with a siren in the background comes on the radio, everyone perks up. Liberals become conservatives. Flags come out. There are demonstrations in the street.
We leave in 3 days for Slovenia. And the airport is closed, sort of, some flights are getting out, some are cancelled, I can’t keep up. It feels like Michael Corleone trying to get the last flight out of Cuba on New Years Eve.
We will be fine. Mostly, we’ll just be playing ball, like we always do. But, every once in a while, maybe at the hotel, privately, maybe in the 3rd inning of a close game, we will think about what is going on, about the people who are fighting, and the people who are dying, and about Shon.