It has got to be pure, sheer coincidence that I received a notice from the post office today urging me to renew my gas mask/defense kit. It must be coincidence. Even with a Palestinian state declaration looming, which is terribly frightening, nobody would cynically misuse such a serious issue as protecting every Israeli citizen from SCUD missiles…Oh wait, that was 20 years ago. There’s also that minor point that Saddam died five years ago. But maybe since then the kits were supposed to protect us against the stuff Syria was cooking up in that secret site…which was, er, bombed in a secret strike in 2007. OK, Chemical Ali will never find me – but the Israeli Home Command will.
The bright red official notice with the Home Command insignia looks very urgent, poking sternly out of my mailbox like a sentinel. The message printed above is stern and reveals detailed information about my life: “According to the records of the Home Command, you have not yet equipped yourself with a defense kit!” (OK, exclamation point is mine, to reflect the red-hot panic I felt while reading this.) The rest of the text provides me with an exact location, conveniently close to home, with product placement telling me that the distribution site is right near Greg’s coffee shop. The notice goes on to list the dates and times when I will have the privilege of standing on line (any amount of time is too long), to pick up a box that I am never to open unless it’s an emergency.
I close my eyes and envision myself in an air attacks, fumbling with the mask I’ve never learned to use, and throwing out the useless anthrax antidote while buildings are collapsing around me. Closer to home, I imagine three million people (plus one, if I collect mine) clutching their lunch-box sized cardboard boxes containing rubber masks and syringes for safety while the Palestinians submit their statehood bid to the UN General Assembly this coming Friday.
But even though Haaretz columnist Roy Chicky Arad challenged his Facebook friends to guess how many times Prime Minister Netanyahu will insert the Holocaust, Auschwitz, or “our people were nearly exterminated” into his speech at the UN General Assembly, I just don’t believe anyone would take fear-mongering this far. The defense kit notice is a vital reminder of the basic facts, the eternal reality of living in the Jewish, democratic state of Israel, shelter for the Jewish people. It just happened to arrive this week.
Since I hate standing on line, I did note that the post office kindly offers a number to call for delivery.* (*For a fee to be determined according to your geographic location.)
Finally, with enormous relief, I realized that I have been saved from having to decide whether to actually go pick up the kit or not. To get a new defense kit, you must bring in your old one to trade up. So I have a built-in exemption – I haven’t the slightest idea where the old one may be. Wish me luck surviving Friday.