The distance between Tel Aviv and Copenhagen is 3.200 kilometers.
On the door are three red circles with a red line crossing over. One circle contains a drawing of a cigarette, the other a dog, and the third a machine gun. I traveled to Israel and started questioning what normality is.
Two men in pastel-colored speedos are lying close to each other in the sand, their bodies glistening in the sun. A moment before, they stood embracing in the waves. I am lying horizontally in the sand, the hangover is banging away somewhere in my forehead. I close my eyes, and hear the sound of wet kisses.
“I am from Russia,” he says.
“I am from here,” says the other man.
“Lucky you! I wish I could stay here in Tel Aviv forever.”
The sound of several kisses, followed by a quiet moan.
“You are so bad!” The bearded, bald man whispers.
After a while, they pack their towels. I make eye contact with one man before they leave and send him a smile. He smiles back happily. Tel Aviv organizes one of the worlds largest Pride festivals. The colorful liberation of the city was one of the things that attracted me to it.
I walk along the coast, turning at one of the smaller streets where people are crowded into café corners, busy talking to each other and dipping pita bread into hummus. I keep walking. I notice two young women dressed in military green from head to toe, one of them is wearing a pink backpack, a fluffy keychain is dangling from one of the pockets. They are waiting patiently in the ice cream queue. Two massive black machine guns are hanging from their sides.
Among fashionable queers, pierced bohemians, oiled beach lions, LGBT flags waving from balconies, ultra-orthodox black-clad med with tall hats, long curls dangling in front of each ear on the way out of the synagogue, backpackers with hangovers, sunscreen and falafel, there are more machine guns at the same place than I’ve ever seen before.
Tel Avis is a bubble that is easy to get absorbed in. The machine guns remind me of what is happening outside this bubble.
I just shook her hand, and I sit down next to her on the couch, we’re sitting quite close, with each our beer in our hands. She has long reddish hair, pale skin covered in freckles. She moves uneasy around in the couch next to me, like she never feels completely comfortable with her body’s placement in the room. She tells me that is from The US and has Jewish ancestry, and therefore she can receive military training in Israel, which is something that is offered to all Israeli women and men under the age of 24. She has been in the military for a few months now, but for this weekend she is partying in Tel Aviv.
“Oh, you will find this funny!” she exlaims, eagerly pulling out her iPhone from her pocket. She shows me a picture on her Instagram. She is posing in military green with a machine gun that almost looks bigger that her.
“Isn’t it cool?” She laughs. I try to smile, but I can feel the muscles in my chin tighening.
“Do you ever think about how you are taking part in actually killing people?” I ask.
Her grin fades. She become quiet, her eyes is looking at the couch between us. I immediately feel guilty. Here, at a hostel roof filled with backpackers drinking beer, putting on 90’s hits, I am asking her to think about whether she has been a part of killing another human being.
“Sorry!” I say quickly. “I can be pretty blunt about things. I really want to understand why you are in the army. I am a pacifist, you see.”
She answers, uneasily. “I am just in the air force, but not in the olanes. I am just helping with communication…”
She starts explaining that the walls sorrounding Israel are so fragile that is it important to fitght to protect it. She tells me that it gives her a sense of meaning in her life to be among those who fights for it. She says she does something good for others. Her gaze starts flickering when she tells me about the officers in the corps, she calls them Emotional Robots. The stories she tells sounds similar to the few military movies I’ve seen. Officers portrayed as emotionless men whose missions are to break down their soldiers, so they can be rebuilt, now hardened and invulnerable, ready to kill.
I tell her, that I like the fact that the Israeli military doesn’t make any difference on being a man or a women doing military service. That women in this context is not considered as “the weak sex”. But what does it mean in this case to be strong? “Strenght” measured in the capacity to practice physical violence?
I take another sip of my beer and think about why she showed exactly that picture on Instagram. I understand why she considers it to be a cool picture. A skinny long-haired girl can take on a classic masculine role as any man. A tomb boy is cooler than being a girly girl, right? Tomb boys are equally bad ass as the guys. She can also smoke two packs of cigarretes a day. She can also drink herself to death. She can also punch someones teeth out. She can kill, too. Why is it cool to take on that part of toxic masculinity: the destructive, the self-destructive?
The bottle of beer in my hand is empty now, but I can still taste the guilt from asking her about killing. But still, I want her to be aware that it’s not just white dots on the screen that the pilots in the fighter jets are watching. I imagine the pilots in the clouds, how easily they erradicate with a single push of a button. Are they aware of that each of the single white dots on the screen has a mother, a father, a best friend? Maybe the white dot has dimples, or gets freckles in the summer. Would the pilots really push the button, if they knew these things?
“What do you want to do after military training?” I ask, after getting two new beers, handing one to her.
“I don’t really know what my dream is. I just really want to adopt a puppy.”
Tel Aviv as a bubble, it feels necessary to stay inside it, it is easy to stay inside it, it is much more enjoyable to stay inside it and forget about what happens outside. The bubble as normality for those who are priviliged enough to choose to be in it.