This summer has been such a strange one. For all of the Jews around the world, but especially for those of us who live here. This war has been on the front page news for way too long and the anti-semitism that has erupted all over the world as a result has left us all a little shell-shocked.
Summers are the only time of the year that I’m off of work, with pretty much nothing to do, and while I’m generally a person who loves to be busy every minute of the day (I consider myself naturally caffeinated…), I relish the summer months where I have nothing urgent to do but decide whether to sit on the couch and read a book all day, or play Boggle and Settlers with my kids in the middle of the afternoon, something I’m never able to do. I normally sleep in, lazing in bed with my Nook, reading some light, fun beach read, before making my way downstairs for a leisurely breakfast. I usually tackle some summer project, like a mosaic or a particularly difficult piece of music but I have yet to do any of those things.
I haven’t been able to sleep in as much as I want – no, need – to and I wake up bleary-eyed and exhausted before I even lift my head off the pillow. Instead of sleeping deeply and dreamily through the night, my thoughts (which are often depressing) are rushing ADD-like through my brain and I’m tossing and turning most of the night. Instead of dreaming about rainbows, fairies and happy endings, I’ve got images of tunnels and rockets stuck in my head. And forget about reading. Those of you who know me well know that I am a serious book addict. I could read between five and six books a month in addition to keeping to my work schedule and still manage to make a balanced dinner most nights. I never leave the house without my Nook tucked in my purse in the event I can get another chapter under my belt while waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store or at the pharmacy. But since the kidnapping, I can barely bring myself to finish one single book. I’m too unfocused, too shaky and have trouble turning the news off. I have this visceral need to know what’s happening with our soldiers every minute of the day.
While you might think that sounds slightly obsessive, I assure you, I’m not alone.
While I figured that everyone around me is probably feeling somewhat similar, I didn’t realize to what extent. I ran into a friend at the mall a few days ago while doing errands. She told me that she stopped by my house yesterday but I wasn’t home. She said that she couldn’t bear the thought of going home where the television beckoned her with only bad news and that she just needed to clear her head, talk with someone about what she was feeling. Which was untethered and shaky and unfocused. Like me. She has good reason since she has a son fighting in Gaza. Yesterday I ran into another friend, also while doing errands, and the sentiment was the same. She had a bright smile on her face because there, standing next to her, was her son, the same age as my soldier daughter, who had just gotten back from Gaza. While he was heading back there after the weekend, her relief and her gratefulness for this small weekend reprieve was written all over her face. There was still worry mixed in with the relief, worry for her other son and her son-in-law who are still fighting in Gaza. And while standing in the local Makolet just a few minutes ago, I just had a lengthy conversation with yet another friend and all we could talk about is this war and how it’s affecting us. How surreal this summer is and how easily we are moved to tears by what is going on around us.
I feel fragile, on the verge of breaking if I hear of one more soldier dying to keep us safe. Reading about that young widow who gave birth to her fourth child, a girl, just ten days after her husband died in the battle was almost too much to bear. But there are moments in this terrible summer when I feel a surge of strength come over me. It slowly creeps into me when I sit every night in the shul, elbow to elbow with other women who’ve come out to pray for our soldiers, for our wounded, for our army and for our country. I felt it pour through me when I saw a young girl standing at the entrance of the supermarket next to six huge boxes that bore a sign on which was written: “for our chayalim, please give what you can”. And another surge of strength when I handed over four tubes of toothpaste and her face broke out into the biggest beaming smile you can imagine. For toothpaste. It crept into my veins and made me smile when I saw the picture of the IDF armored vehicle decorated with colorful “stay safe!” cards made by children from all over Israel. I felt it when I read about the owner of a Shwarma restaurant that literally emptied out his store and packaged up every last salad and Shwarma for a father who was taking food down to his son’s unit before Shabbat, and then refused to take any money. I feel it when our community continuously collects everything from underwear to flashlights to granola bars so the soldiers could keep focusing on doing what they do best and not worry about the small stuff. I felt it when I saw the picture my husband posted of himself along with four colleagues doing a volunteer ambulance run down south in Be’er Sheva. And I felt it again when I watched a video of a mother who has lost two sons in past wars bring words of comfort and solace to the mother of a slain lone soldier who came all the way from the US to bury her son.
We are getting through this summer moment to moment; from weakness to strength, and from despair to hopefulness. I keep hoping that the moments of strength will overpower the moments of shaky uncertainty and while that hasn’t happened just yet, I’m not just hopeful but certain that they will. Soon.
And I think that’s what we all feel.
That amidst all the shakiness and fragility, there are unbelievably beautiful and powerful moments of strength that feeds our souls and continues to bind us together and makes us the nation we are today.