Our children are in danger. It’s been that way for a while now. Rockets have been catapulted in to my neighborhood for years, mortar bombs and now tunnels are being dug under my feet. In order to protect my children I need to provide them with a ‘safe place’. I chose to live in the south of Israel when I got married, 23 years ago though at that time, these threats didn’t exist.

So what should I do?

People ask me all the time…’how do you stay? Why do you stay? Or they simply tell me ‘you’re crazy for living there!’

I don’t expect them to understand and truthfully maybe I’d say the same to my friends living in such circumstances. I would want my friends and family to be safe too. We all deserve that, it’s our basic right and certainly a basic requirement for bringing up emotionally balanced children.

Are my children emotionally balanced? Am I, in the words of Donald Woods Winnecott, English pediatrician and psychoanalyst, ‘a good enough mother?’

From an objective point of view I would have to admit that no, I cannot promise one hundred percent that my children are safe. By choosing to live in Israel I have forced them into a world of national service by law. They don’t have a choice regarding military recruitment (I refer to my boys, naturally my daughters could choose to do sherut leumi). They have to serve in the army, they have to train and defend our country and that, as we witness today could mean sending them into battle, placing them in harm’s way.

I live on the border. It’s very noisy and very traumatic right now. During World War Two, children (my mother included) were evacuated out of London to keep them safe. Today there are reports arguing as to whether that was the correct path to take, claiming that separating them from their families proved to be harmful.

Even today prior to my boys joining the army they are exposed to continuous rocket attacks and a state of bewilderment regarding the potential terrorist attacks. None of us know the outcome of this operation (I write operation but have to admit that ‘it’ feels like a ‘war to me!) and none of us know in the long run how all of his will affect our children.

My 18-year-old son has a few friends serving already. His best friend is in Gaza and he hasn’t seen or heard from him much. I can see just how worried he is and I want to be able to hold and comfort him and tell him that everything is going to be OK and that he need not worry.

As mothers, we are faced with numerous dilemmas and as Jewish mothers we know that no matter what, we will feel guilty. It simply goes with the territory! So we have to look at the bigger picture.

Yes my children are in danger but they are also in an extremely loving and supportive environment. They belong, to a family, to a community, to a people. They know that they have a role to play today. They are busy taking care of troops nearby. They are busy helping out in the kibbutz. They have a purpose and they are fulfilled though they will tell you that they are simply doing what needs to be done.

Recently foreign reporters visited and asked to meet and interview English speaking children in the Kibbutz. One reporter asked the children if they were pleased that rockets had also hit Tel Aviv and other places in the center of the country and not just the south.

Eden Kay, an 11-year-old, replied immediately that she was not happy about this, saying, “Why should other children have to suffer what we have suffered? At least we are used to it. At least we know what to do. No, I would rather that they didn’t know and I’m sure that they understand me anyway and don’t need to experience an alarm in order to understand.”

Our ability to be ‘good enough mothers’ stems from our ability to listen to our children. To really hear their needs, their pain and their desires. My children rejected any notion of leaving even though they are tired and annoyed that their ‘normal’ summer holiday has been interfered with. They find the ‘lighter’ side of life here and are keeping themselves active and are attempting to enjoy themselves!

To be a mother of a soldier fighting in Gaza is so painful and I am constantly in awe of these mothers who are somehow able to function. We are all containing our emotions right now so I don’t expect anyone to judge me, though I’m sure some do, but that’s OK. I know that I’m doing the best I can and that I’ve made my choices and will accept responsibility…. And like many other mothers I pray and hope that Yihiye Tov — It will be Ok.

Esther Marcus
Kibbutz Alumim, married to Stevie and mother of Eynav (21), Amit (18), Eden (16) and Tamir (14)