War and terror affect the psyche in such profound ways that it’s hard to describe to others and even to ourselves. Terrorism’s aim is to terrorize on psychological and emotional levels, and it affects everyone who is connected to this country, I believe often on such deep levels that we can’t even begin to comprehend the impact. It’s impossible to know what any individual other than yourself really feels or thinks about, no matter how close we are and how much people share with each other.. it’s hard to know what other peoples’ dream life, or, in the case of terror and war, what peoples’ nightmare lives, are like. When war starts, for many people sleeplessness kicks in, and a sort of existential anxiety does too. When you know that people are actively trying to kill you, just that knowledge does something to your psyche and soul.
I think Israelis are the most resilient people on the planet. No nation or people has ever had to deal with so much war and terror, especially coming from neighborhoods, territories, and countries within and right on its borders. I am in awe of Israelis’ resilience, the way people maintain a sense of positivity and balance even in times of war and increased violence, like now. I think about children and how they must feel and respond, and I’m so moved by the ways in which people, like kindergarten teachers, try to make it easier for them, using different tactics like songs and games to ease their stress and fear.
But I think that this summer’s war was different and that it created a shift in Israelis’ response to the constant terror we’ve been forced to deal with. I think that we’ve had enough. We’ve been resilient, we’ve been positive and have plowed through, throughout Israel’s history and long before, and really by now, we’ve had enough. We saw anti-semitism rear its ugly head as we haven’t seen since the 1930’s, and I think that also scared us on a deep level.
At the same time, there is a growing wave of support and love for Israel that we saw from some world leaders, (ok maybe all from Canada, but still) and on an individual level throughout the world. These two waves are happening simultaneously and have become very clearly revealed: the strong and destructive wave of hate towards Jews and Israel, which may have become one and the same, and the wave of love and support for Israel, which may come with a recent better understanding of radical Islam and this region, with its rioting and civil wars, and seeing that Israel truly is a beacon of light within that darkness.
I think one of the most difficult things on a psychological level about war and terrorism is the sense of losing control. Like there is now a negative external force that is affecting your life and everyone else’s lives, and on the most essential level, taking away lives of people that you may or may not know but whose loss you feel deeply because no matter who they are, they’re your family and you love them. That a rocket, or a random person wielding a knife, can so quickly and easily snatch a life of someone who you love by default, because you’re inexplicably and intrinsically connected, can make a person crazy with sadness or anger, and these emotions spiral as events unfold until it feels like it’s just too much, it’s just enough already. I think we got to that point. We’ve had enough and we’ve had more than enough.
How can we regain that control that we may feel we’re losing? I learned something beautiful which really stuck with me and helped me a lot. It’s a concept in Kabbalah that says that though the violence or hate or negativity aimed towards Jews comes at us from the outside, its source is actually within us. This is not to say that we are responsible, and that Hamas isn’t, for their actions. Hamas is actually written about in the Torah, as the definition of violence, and there are also clear instructions on how to deal with our enemies.
The spiritual concept is that if we as individuals truly loved ourselves and each other, and completely eradicated our own enemy from within – those parts of ourselves or habits that are self-destructive, then so too would the external enemy be eradicated, because their power comes from our own self-destruction and lack of love for ourselves and for each other. On a physical level, we still need to fight our enemy, but our spiritual work that we do, the work of tikkun, of fixing ourselves and helping others fix themselves, and tikkun olam, fixing the world, is what we can always control, and what can have the greatest impact in creating a world we truly seek.
We can grow the wave of love and support by loving and supporting ourselves and each other, fixing ourselves and increasing our own light and love. For ourselves, our families, our communities, our people and nation, including people who are on opposite sides of political or religious spectrums as we are, and, ultimately, our entire world. We must first and foremost care for and protect ourselves and our own security in this land, and continue to be a positive light in the world, on an individual and national level, and at the same time, expose the darkness and negativity and true nature of our enemies.
May we always find a way to keep balance and positivity even within darkness and continue working to create an eventually peaceful world.