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Erica Kimmel Haffetz

להיות אמא ישראלית כרגע

להיות אמא ישראלית כרגע

להיות אמא ישראלית
כרגע
is to peel carrot skin while your skin
peels, thinking of charred
skin of babies burned alive and babies alive
in the next room, crying
and babies
alive?

להיות אמא ישראלית
כרגע
is to pick up
your crying baby, soothe her with soft shushing
the warmth between shoulder and neck, wondering
“Are they
crying too?”
Are we all
crying? We are
all crying
aren’t we?

להיות אמא ישראלית
כרגע
is to want
to be held
like a baby

להיות אמא ישראלית
כרגע
is to try to conceive
Jewish life
and find blood
in your underwear
and find blood
everywhere

להיות אמא ישראלית
כרגע
is to
ache

להיות אמא ישראלית
כרגע
is to stir up a חביתה with with one hand, the other
hand pressed over your heart as if to say
“You are safe here, not to worry, you are safe, here, not to worry, you are safe
here

להיות אמא ישראלית
כרגע
is to say the word “safe” to your children
again and again,
over and over,
throughout the day
as in “The siren keeps us safe”
“We go to the safe room where we are safe”
“The soldiers
[with their body sash m16s]
keep us safe” as if
to believe again in the magic of a wish
we sprinkle our incantation so they won’t ask
“But אמא why
do we have to work so hard
to be safe?”

להיות אמא ישראלית
כרגע
is to ask yourself again and again,
over and over,
throughout the day,
“How can I be a mother
and not be able
to keep my children
safe?”

להיות אמא ישראלית
כרגע
is to scrub the counter tops
so clean
the enamel peels
and not notice
the skin on your hands
chafing
raw

להיות אמא ישראלית
כרגע
is to give birth to 240 more children
feel the afterpains
and notice
months later
there is no relief
no returning
no before

להיות אמא ישראלית
כרגע
is to know
your body
is the battlefield

להיות אמא ישראלית
כרגע
is to hold your writhing child
as they scream in a nightmare
“No! חילזון! No!”
and cry for them
and cry for the חילזון
that looks too much like a spiral
that looks too much like a tunnel

להיות אמא ישראלית
כרגע
is not to be afraid
so you can help them
when they are afraid

להיות אמא ישראלית
כרגע
is to be afraid
so you can help them
when they are afraid

להיות אמא ישראלית
כרגע
is to be ready
at any moment
to run

להיות אמא ישראלית
כרגע
is to hear the distant
sound of an ambulance
and feel all the children
flinch

להיות אמא ישראלית
כרגע
is to press playdough between your fingers
rolling thin snakes into a family of snails
with your children
“Stand them up אמא
they’re falling אמא”
watching the first rain of winter
wondering
“How can you
pass the time
without windows?”

להיות אמא ישראלית
כרגע
is to double bolt your doors and try
somehow
to leave your heart
open

About the Author
Erica is a mother, writer, and educator living in Jerusalem.
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