From the space between the rockets, there is this roaring silence, but no stillness. We crouch low, my children pulled against me, we are curled as one as we were once curled inside our mothers. We are alone in a room full of others who do the same.
And we wait for the next rocket to fall.
Oh, God, how this war pulls us to extremes: The kindness I see, a softening around the edges: bus fares paid for by total strangers, food drives for soldiers, homes opened for the rocket ravaged. Even a free refill without having to ask. This is Israel in a golden glow.
And then, Oh God, there is the evil — I say evil with no reservation, no qualification, because celebrating death tears a hole in the fabric that binds us together.
Oh God, how this war tears into us: Old men weeping alongside babies, awake throughout the night we wait for the sirens. It won’t be long now and BOOM. Daylight, and the haze doesn’t lift, we sleepwalk through the cities and through the fields, a police siren sounds and our heart thuds.
Oh God, how they sound like thunder, these rockets slamming headfirst into the scorched earth. And just over the hill, there’s a flash across the sky. The sizzle of a missile — lightening strikes more than twice around here. How hot it is, this summer, smoked and smudged. How our tempers flair through the fatigue, little bursts of fire on fire from this edge widening between us. Maybe I can shut my mind and pretend that these are clouds, not smoke shifting across the sky. And maybe, if I pretend really, really hard, maybe it’ll even rain.
I look for hope – it isn’t easy. I leave the safety of my shelter and I look for others who are looking for me – like a man in Gaza who messages me every night:
“Are you ok?”
“Yes, for now. Are you?”
“For now as well.”
One day I hope we’ll look one another in the eye.
I know what many think about this:
“How can you ignore the fact they want to kill us?”
And this is what I think about that:
“How can YOU ignore the fact that there are people there who don’t want to kill us.”
Oh God, we have to visit one another.
We have to make that trek, through unfamiliar streets and ask strangers for directions, and knock on their doors, bearing something simple like a loaf of bread or a bouquet of flowers.
And when they offer us tea or coffee black, or something sweet we must say yes.
Smile with our eyes. Ignore the obvious at first, if we need to – but after a while, let our eyes adjust to the differences, and see through the layers and the colors and the language barriers to that exquisite human spark.
And their eyes will do the same.
But Oh God, the extremes, I’m ripped between them all the time.
My daughter’s tooth hurts. She pokes it with her tongue and it wiggles.
“Sweet Girl, the tooth fairy will come soon,” I tell her when she cries out in pain.
“No Mama, there’s no such thing as the tooth fairy. How can I believe in fairies when there are rockets falling everywhere?”
Not even gone, that first tooth, and so much lost already for my little girl.
“How are you?” he asks from Gaza.
And I can’t reply.
Because, Oh God, if I take a step further and smell the smoke from where a rocket landed right behind where I lay sleeping just the night before, I know that if too many had their way, my babies and I would be torn to pieces. And oh God, I know that if its a question between my babies and them, then there is no question.
That extreme in me, this mother lion roaring, springs to life. My teeth are bared.
And yet, I see the kindness everywhere, hands reaching out for one another, I see it because I chose to see it — I hope you see it, too.
And oh God, please God, let that speak louder than the snarls, than the slurs. Let that speak louder than the rockets, than the screams of frightened children, than the cries of anguished parents. Please, let us band together on one side, loudly, where our voices may reach those willing to speak to us from the other.