It's been hard to watch the news and wait for whatever comes next. Seeing the death and destruction play out on live TV, I feel powerless. Hearing personal accounts from the friends I've made, I feel worried and guilty for not being there...and perhaps for the relief that I'm not.
Mazen Naim, my translator in Gaza and former Fulbright Scholar, barely missed death when it came and took other journalists in the Central Gaza media building. He was outside on the street doing a live feed. Even still, his cameraman took some shrapnel and Mazen suffered eye trauma.
I've heard from mothers in both Gaza and Ashkelon that their children are physically ok, but having an extremely difficult time dealing with the constant fear. One told me about her three year old being just old enough to comprehend some of what's happening. She wishes that her son was able to stay innocent.
I continue to work with my Israeli contacts, but while the fighting continues, there isn't much that can be done. We all wait for a truce that will hopefully come soon.
I've been spending my days in meetings, phone calls, and emails. But today, I had enough. To get a sanity break, I decided to explore some of West Jerusalem, specifically the toy stores where Israeli children go and where I'll be buying some of my props, eventually.
I took a meandering bus ride through various Jerusalem neighborhoods. My destination was the Malha Shopping Center, AKA the Jerusalem Mall. I hopped off the bus from time-to-time to check out stores that passed by the window. Above is a screen grab I shot to remind myself to revisit one inside the Central Bus Station.
I eventually ended up at the mall and instantly felt like I had been teleported to a New Jersey suburb. Well, that is after I got through the bag check and metal detectors.
It was crowded for a Monday afternoon, full of families and prerequisite gaggles of young, overly made up women. I was happy to find not one, but two large toy stores, including a Toys R Us. Inside was what I had been told to expect - no military or war toys. However, the same cannot be said for its local competitor.
The other store was full of many of the exact same playsets that I found in East Jerusalem and Gaza. I now instantly recognize the artwork on the polybags. As relieved as I am to know that I'll have toys able to convey the children's accounts, it kinda screws up my plans for showing some cultural and socioeconomic differences through the toys.