I don’t want to leave my house today. I know that no matter where I go and who I meet, I will see excruciating pain etched upon the faces of my fellow Israelis, and it will be the salt on the huge gaping wound that will make me hurt even more than I am hurting right now. Everywhere I go today I will see bloodshot eyes, both from crying and from lack of sleep over the past eighteen nights; but especially last night when I think that sleep eluded us all.
I don’t think that it is possible to ever be prepared for a tragedy of this magnitude. We had eighteen days to expect the worst, but it is human nature to hold onto tiny shreds of hope until the worst is confirmed.
I was at a family wedding last night when the discovery of Naftali, Gil-ad, and Eyal’s bodies became official. Over five hundred wedding guests were simultaneously notified that our nation was in mourning through phone calls, text messages, and news alerts. Everyone had their phones out; some people were calling their children while others were checking news sources. Pretty much each and every guest at that wedding had received the heartbreaking news within minutes of each other. Some were crying while others were staring into space trying to absorb the shock of a national tragedy of this magnitude. Losing one boy would have ripped our hearts out, losing three is unbearable. It’s too much. And yet, when the bride and groom entered the hall and the band began to play, we all got up to dance. It was as if the 500+ guests at the wedding made an unspoken pact to take a collective deep breath and put on our game faces. We did not want the bride and groom and their families to feel this intense sorrow on what should, by all rights, be a most joyous occasion.
The deaths of those three precious boys were weighing on us so heavily that it was hard to breathe much less to dance, but we Israelis are the masters of pulling ourselves together in the face of tragedy. Don’t ever bet against us. Even when we are down for the count, bruised and battered, and it looks like we cannot possibly pick ourselves up off of the floor, we do. We use each other for support and we reach out to help the people around us. We bleed together and we heal together.
After eighteen years in Israel, I have learned that we honor our dead by living. No one that I know wanted to go to work today, but everyone that I know went anyway. It’s what we do in the face of tragedy. We function. We may take a break to cry every once in a while, but we do what we need to do. Our thoughts are never far from those three boys and their families; there are no distractions great enough to dull our pain.
To the thousands of IDF soldiers who have served in this operation with a deep sense of purpose and boundless love for our country, you are my heroes. I know that you are exhausted. I know that your hearts must be filled with intense sadness just as mine is. I know that you are tired of being attached to your weapon 24/7. I know that you want to go home to hug your parents/spouses/children, eat food cooked in your own kitchen, take a long shower, and sleep in your own bed but you cannot do that quite yet because there is still more for you to do for our country. To me, you are a bright light shining through this period of darkness. You embody the spirit, the passion, and the values of Gil-ad, Eyal, and Naftali. May G-d keep you safe and give you strength.
So today I am going to leave my house. If I start to cry in the middle of the produce aisle, no one will look at me as if I have lost my mind. Chances are that a total stranger will offer me a tissue to wipe my tears and then take out a tissue to wipe her own.