Opinion / The War for a Moment's Peace

It's our coffeehouse. We come here in the morning for an espresso and a croissant. We come here in the evening for a Kilkenny. To grasp what is left of normalcy, of our secular sanity. To grasp at what is left of our way of life. But now, ten minutes after the muffled roar of the explosion, the coffeehouse is quiet.

Outside, the televised scenes of ambulances and police have begun. But inside, it is deathly still. Only the smell of burning. Of charred human flesh. A young man at the counter, burned. A young girl wearing black, blasted to the ground. Human hands, human thighs, a human skull. A handsome young man in a t-shirt sprawled backwards on a high barstool. Absolutely still.

Outside, the screams of the people being evacuated. A girl's boot in the road, shards of glass, bloodstains. Ultra-Orthodox rescue workers from the other section of the city carrying away people with limbs torn from them to the ambulances.

It's here, right amongst us. In the middle of Rehavia, near Terra Sancta monastery, just opposite the prime minister's residence. The heart of old Jerusalem. The heart of the last attempt to preserve a semblance of sanity in Jerusalem, a hint of sophisticated European joie de vivre. And when the surviving young people start desperately seeking their friends, when the last of the wounded have been evacuated, lips trembling, when the police try to impose some sort of order on the chaos wrought in the heart of the city, this latest incomprehensible event joins all the other incomprehensible things that have happened over the past few months.

Will the painters and glaziers indeed come tomorrow? Will we indeed come back to sit here, on high barstools? Will it indeed be possible to continue the morning routine at the place where the bodies are now strewn?

Exactly one week ago, a peace demonstration was held outside. The War of the Settlements' Peace, they chanted. But when the police sapper walks amongst the dead youths, searching for another explosive device, it does not seem so. It seems very, very different. Maybe the War for the Moment? Maybe the War for the chance of a Western society to survive in the Middle East?

True, it is not a particularly sublime war. It is not war over exalted ideas. And we are still there, in the territories that prevent us from returning to ourselves. But we can no longer keep fooling ourselves. This war is about the morning's coffee and croissant. About the beer in the evening. About our lives.