By Lola Katz
Some friends and family send messages to ask if we’re OK. They’ve heard we’re at war.
Some even call. Lots don’t.
Could that be because almost all international media reports focus on the daily rising death toll and devastation in Gaza? Do they feel so badly, even ashamed, as if making contact would taint them with the blood and tears of the dead and dying Palestinian civilians?
Yet were they to be in touch, I’d tell them we too are shocked and horrified by what we see;that we care deeply about the civilians in Gaza whose suffering has been brought upon them as a result of what Hamas has done to them and to us.
I know it doesn’t salve to mention the knock-on-the-roof warning rockets, the cautionary leaflets calling for evacuation, the SMS messages sent about impending airstrikes, the pilots who cease and desist when they spot innocent civilians in their target range.
Why even mention Dresden, Darfur, Homs? The Jewish state wasn’t involved,
Over 1000 Palestinians dead in 21 days! Why complain about rockets? They aren’t doing any damage! Just two Israeli civilians killed (and don’t forget one was a foreign worker). Only just over 40 soldiers killed. Inequivalence! Disproportion! Could it be that the disproportion lies not in the number of civilian deaths but in the discrepancy between the protection provided to the people of Gaza and Israel?
But for those who do dare to care, let me tell you, we are doing OK.
We are OK in spite of the 30 well lit air conditioned tunnels discovered to date, dug by Hamas ‘freedom fighters’, deep out of sight, their entry shafts from the homes of Gazan civilians, their exit points in the fields and nursery schools of kibbutzim in the south; concrete passageways to launch multiple commando attacks; heinous escape routes for infiltrators, dressed as Israeli soldiers, to drag drugged hostages from their homes into captivity.
We are OK in spite of the call up of 60,000 reservists who are sons and fathers, husbands and boyfriends, uncles, cousins, friends of someone, of everyone.
We are OK in spite of the 2500 rockets fired at all cities in 21 days of conflict with the sirens that disrupt our daily lives and sleepless nights, forcing us to scamper to a safe cover. Better make it in…….15 seconds…30 seconds… and for lucky some, all of 90 seconds, before impact. Waiting for the BOOM to know there’s no direct hit.
We are OK in spite of the 10 minute wait to know whether the debris fallout from another deadly rocket intercepted by the miraculous Iron Dome won’t land near where you are and to learn thankfully from TV reports: no fatalities.
We are OK in spite of the life ending death of 40 something young people in military fatigues, each tragedy having first been broken to heart- in- mouth families, opening a door to that dreaded harbinger.
We are OK in spite of the rising number of soldiers, wounded lightly or moderately or badly or severely, pouring into hospitals.
We are OK in spite of the frightened children whose nights and days are spent in bomb shelters instead of in summer camps and the old and infirm who can’t move fast enough to a safe place.
We are OK in spite of the financial drain on services and small businesses and the national economy, dragged into a war we tried so hard to avert.
Yup. In spite of all this and more, we are OK. And the reason is XOSEN! (The X is pronounced like “ch” in Chutzpah)
I‘d never heard this Hebrew word until 21 days ago. But now it’s everywhere: Every commentator, every politician, every interviewee (and there are 100s of those) refers to XOSEN:
the national XOSEN, the political XOSEN, the interpersonal XOSEN, the economic XOSEN, society’s XOSEN, the individual’s XOSEN. It’s a noun that takes kindly to any compounded pre-word.
And its meaning? Well it’s one of those words whose essence is impossible to capture in translation.
It’s a strength. It’s a fortitude. It’s a resilience. It’s a unity. It’s the proud uncle of Xutspah.
It’s palpable in the parting words from loved ones and friends and even from shopkeepers, clerks, neighbors you’ve never before spoken to before: “Keep safe”. “Have a quiet day”. “Soon peace”. “Soon a return to normalcy”.
And more than often, the response is “Amen” from some who’ve seldom prayed before.
It’s evidenced when there’s a call for people to attend the funeral of a soldier who’d come to join the IDF and’ whose family had had to travel here from the States to bury their son, a call made to ensure there would be the 10 people required for a Jewish burial and 20,000 people turn up for the funeral in Haifa at 11 pm, busloads of people from everywhere to say: Shaun, you were a lone soldier but you died as the son of a nation.
It’s seen in the blue lettering on white billboards and banners, posted in the streets by municipalities and banks and private companies sending ‘Hugs” and ‘Support” and “Love” to our soldiers and prayers and wishes and blessings for a safe return home.
It’s found in the notes small children write to soldiers: “Please be careful and come home soon”, notes not discarded but pasted on tanks – the new Israeli camouflage and protective covering. Childlike hopes echoed by everyone.
It’s noticeable in the volumes of donated underpants and shirts and other stuff for soldiers on the front, in the flowers and cookies and fluffy toys brought by strangers to the hospitals, in the meals prepared by famous chefs who set up kitchen down south, in the gestures of people who travel from the north to the south just to eat in a restaurant on a day there’s a ceasefire.
It’s observed in the unexpected, untraditional obedience of the public who follow instructions of the home front command by actually seeking a place of shelter and stopping to get out of their cars when a siren goes off.
It’s heard in the unbelievable demands of wounded soldiers to return to their units ASAP over the protests of their family and doctors.
XOSEN is everywhere. It’s a badge of honor, and courage and togetherness.
It’s Israel’s secret weapon.