I got off the bus shaking and distanced myself from it. I instinctively put the metal bus stop between me and the bus. If it blows up maybe I won’t die.
I let myself breath when it finally pulled away.
Legitimate fears? Or trauma-induced panic?
I got on the bus two stops earlier. It was crowded, but I saw an open seat in the back next to a Middle Eastern looking man. He was sitting on the outside seat with his bag on the inside seat. His hand was on the bag protectively. He was bleeding from a cut on his left temple.
“Can I sit?” I asked. “No”.
I laughed unsure how to take that unexpected answer. Who says “no”? I stared at him for two seconds to see if he was serious. He was. He kept staring straight ahead not making eye contact with me.
I wasn’t going to make a scene, so I headed towards the last seat further back, still laughing at the odd response.
“Hey! Let him sit!” an onlooker yelled. I put my hand on his shoulder, told him it’s fine, and I sat further down.
Then I realized how odd that was.
My mind started racing and my heart pumping. What’s in the bag? Why was he bleeding? Why was he so serious? Why didn’t he make eye contact?
Was he going to blow up the bus?
What’s my responsibility in that situation?
If I took my fears as fact, I would immediately tell the driver, tell the armed soldier, and call the police
If I took my fears as intifada-generation trauma, should I make a scene because of that? God knows what would happen to this man if I cry wolf. Was I willing to take that responsibility because he has a bag he was unwilling to move?
Do I want to give in to the fear of Arabs so prevalent in this country?
But if I was right… If I was right, do I want to be responsible for the lives of tens of innocent people because of my fear of racism?
I don’t have answers and I’m now sitting on the next bus praying I don’t see a Haaretz notification on my phone saying I will forever live with the feeling of blood on my hands.