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Meeting two worlds

Editor’s note: Lexi Poindexter, a senior at the Institute of Notre Dame in Baltimore and parishioner of New All Saints in Liberty Heights, visited Israel this summer. She wrote the following in early September for the Back to School edition of wINDows, the online student newspaper. In light of the Oct. 27 shooting that killed 11 at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Review wanted to share the reflection.

Members of the Elijah Cummings Youth Program show the Mediterranean Sea some “love” during a summer visit. (Courtesy Lexi Poindexter)

“If a missile comes anywhere near the car, this is what I need you guys to do. Get out of the car immediately and get as low as you can. Hands over your heads.”

At the time, I was in Tel Aviv with the mother of my host family, Imma, and two friends from the Elijah Cummings Youth Program, a program committed to fostering relationships between the African-American and Jewish communities. We decided to spend the day in Tel Aviv to appreciate the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, roaring to the west, and to see one of the many gems of Israel. This all came to a screeching halt when we got the news: a siren went off back home in Ashkelon.

Sirens are used to send warning signals to alert Israelis about missile attacks in an area and to give them time to get to safety. Despite their obvious benefits, sirens are not something you want to hear on a nice Saturday.

Once the news arrived, Imma immediately rushed my friends and me back to the car, giving us safety instructions all along the way. As we piled into the car, she turned on the radio, blaring the news as she exited the mall parking lot. On the road, she multitasked as she answered our questions and focused on nearby drivers.

“Why was there a signal again?”

“Wasn’t there a signal last night?”

“What will happen to you guys?”

Imma fought for the right words. “Last night, there was a signal because Hamas sent rockets into Ashkelon. The Iron Dome struck some of them, but it didn’t catch all of them. The missiles that it missed hit people — one hit a person coming out of a synagogue. And Hamas just sent rockets into Ashkelon again today.”

Imma paused, looking at us in her rearview mirror. The anger and annoyance written on our faces must have appeared to her as worry, for she said, “Everything will be okay. This is our normal.”

The statement startled me, but looking back, I have begun to understand why. Though I failed to realize it at the time, my trip to Israel was marked by different definitions of normal — normals foreign to me. I recall listening to our tour guide Elon, as he pointed across the Golan Heights to Syria and said, “Sometimes if you watch closely, you can see bombs dropping in Syria.” I recall feeling confused about how horrific it must be for the citizens of Syria to experience frequent bombings.

It slowly dawned on me that bombings in Syria are normal to the people constantly affected by them, just as missiles in Ashkelon are normal to the people constantly affected by them. I started to understand that one person’s normal may be avoiding school for months due to missiles, while another person’s normal is never dreaming of the devasting impact of missiles. I realized that my normal is not a universal normal. My trip to Israel this summer made me aware that everyone’s world is a world dependent upon a single perspective — formed by a single definition of “normal.”