I happen to be one of those people who wake up early in the morning full of vim and vigour and ready to tackle anything. Getting up at around six a.m. is no big deal for me and sometimes I wake up even before that and have no option but to get up and start my day.
I have made it part of my morning routine, after having a cup of coffee and scanning the newspaper, to go down into my basement, which contains exercise equipment and a television set. And so, I walk for about half an hour on the treadmill (just under two kilometers), and then have a set routine of exercises, some upright, some on a floormat, some with leg weights, others with hand weights, for another half an hour. I acquired the routines over the course of the last twenty or thirty years, first in the late Uri Michael’s fitness studio in Jerusalem, and subsequently in the fitness centre at my place of employment.
Of course, exercising in a group is very different from exercising alone, but by now my routine has become so fixed that I hardly have to think about it any more, and the exercises seem to follow on naturally from one another. I enjoy exercising on my own. I also enjoyed exercising in a group in the past, but nowadays, as I no longer go in to work, I’m less inclined to drive into town to engage in group activities.
In order not to be bored while exercising I watch the various TV news channels, switching between Sky, BBC, France24 and Fox News. This way I get an overview of what’s happening in the world, and feel that I’m not completely cut off from what’s going on.
But this week I found myself getting more and more depressed and upset with what I was seeing and hearing as terrorist attacks featured almost constantly on the television screen. Terror attacks in Afghanistan. One hundred people killed by suicide bombers in a church in Pakistan. About the same number massacred in a shopping mall in Kenya. I wept real tears as the heartrending stories of brutality and bravery emerged.
The ongoing attacks with innumerable casualties in Iraq and scenes of devastation, terror and grieving people. Mass shootings by disturbed individuals in the US and the dire situation in Syria, with thousands of people being killed or made destitute on a daily bases, have become a matter of routine by now. What is the world coming to?
We Israelis have had more than our fair share of terrorist attacks in the past. Incidents in which crowded buses were destroyed by suicide bombers had become almost commonplace here ten years ago, ending only when stringent security measures were put in place and a wall was built to prevent potential terrorists from reaching their target – the civilian population. And of course, the attack on New York’s Twin Towers has led to the introduction of extensive security checks at airports all over the world. In the course of the last ten years, Israel’s security forces have foiled countless attempts by terrorists to sow murder and mayhem in Israel over the years.
Security personnel check ladies’ handbags and the trunks of cars at the entrances to shopping malls, cinemas, theatres and supermarkets in Israel. Our government is accused of over-reacting, and even paranoia, but these measures seem to be required. And although really determined terrorists will overcome such obstacles, we are well advised to adopt the motto of the microprocessor giant, Intel: ‘only the paranoid survive.’ In addition, anyone who has lived in Israel as long as I have has no option but to be an optimist.
There is no getting away from the fact that the events of the past week have shown that while not all Muslims are terrorists, all terrorists are Muslims. The Prime Minister of Kenya has said that terrorism is an act of cowardice, and England’s Prime Minister claims that those who engage in terror are not acting in the name of religion. Fine phrases that achieve little except, perhaps, to soothe the consciences of those who allow religious extremism to flourish.
I look out of the window and see the sun shining and flowers blooming. The week of the Jewish High Holydays has brought friends and family together. Peace has returned to my soul, but it looks as if it’s time for the whole world to adopt Intel’s motto.