I woke up this morning with a tickle in the back of my throat, and a runny nose. I knew it was coming – it happens every year during this change of seasons. Bracing myself for a busy day while being under the weather, I sat with a hot cup of coffee, my heart sinking into the pit of my stomach while reading this morning’s news. So much violence and so much pain and death. But while this week has been a particularly hard one – and it’s only Tuesday! – it has also been a week filled with so much joy and laughter. It’s hard, this yo-yo-ing of emotions that seem to jut up one against another and often overlapping. While trying to comprehend the escalation of stabbings and shootings, I’m perusing Pinterest at the same time because I’m making desserts for a friend’s Sheva Brachot this weekend and a salad for my neighbors’ daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. A part of my mind is mid-prayer for those who were hurt In this morning’s terror attacks while the other part is thinking of what foods I should prepare for Shabbat, especially since my son, who I haven’t seen in more than two weeks, will be home for the weekend from his army base.
I spent yesterday evening at yet another wedding, dancing and having a wonderful time sitting around a table with good friends. And yet, while we sat and talked, it was inevitable that the conversation turned once again to the tragic events that are currently unfolding every minute of every day here in Israel. Our conversations took some twists and turns and we found ourselves going down memory lane as we reminisced about what life was like here 12 years earlier, during the second Gulf war, when we were required to pick a room in the house, duct-tape all the windows, fill it with emergency equipment – water, first aide, toiletries, flashlights and an abundance of food – and to make doubly sure each and every night that the gas masks were stacked in the corner of the room and not left scattered by the front door. I recalled going grocery shopping with four little kids under the age of 9, loading up the shopping cart with their boxed gas masks while trying to stuff bags of tomatoes and cucumbers, milk, cheese and eggs between the cracks and nooks of the bulky boxes. And all while holding onto 4 kids at the same time. My friend reminded me of the art project the teachers decided to do in kindergarten to relieve some of the nervousness of the little kids regarding these gas masks. The art project was to decorate the boxes holding the masks. So my little girl came home with a bedazzled gas mask box, complete with glitter glue, stickers and colorful sketches covering every inch of that box. Even now, it strikes me as so odd and so crazy that it makes me laugh. Only in Israel would teachers know how to soothe the nerves of four year olds by decorating a gas mask box….
And all this talk reminded me of the game I taught my kids. My husband has family that lives in a small settlement that is literally surrounded by Arab villages. It’s not far from Nablus. I do not relish driving there and am constantly on edge when we do. We don’t go there often, but we had a family event to attend so I spent the week before mentally preparing myself for the drive. There had been a number of attacks on those same roads we were about to take and I was apprehensive to say the least. Our car did not have plastic or bulletproof windows and I was having nightmares about rocks being thrown in and injuring my children. So I came up with a game. I called it goose, goose, duck. And for a few days before we were scheduled to leave, we practiced the game. I would keep saying ‘goose’, ‘goose’, ‘goose’ and the kids would stay put. But then if I said the word ‘duck’, the kids would quickly unbuckle their seatbelt and get down on the floor of the car, their chubby cheeks pressed to the floorboards. I’m sick to my stomach even as I write this, but that’s the only solution I could come up with that would possibly protect my children from injury.
Thank G-d, the game stayed in the hypothetical…
My kids are older and two of them are currently serving in the IDF. They are trained and being trained to know how to handle themselves in this time of war, so the need to play this game has long passed. But here we are, more than a dozen years later and not much else has changed. We are still whipping up batches of decadent brownies for our friends and loved ones while praying for those who have been injured by terrorists who wish to wipe out the joy and zest that we have for life and the living. And I suppose, on that regard, this will never change. Living here, being a part of the thread that holds this country and our people together, we have no choice but to learn how to weave these two aspects of life together. Joy and sorrow. There really is no alternative. It’s the only way we can show that they will never win.