Yoni Zierler

A Cry From Afar

Morning is beginning to peek out over the skies in the United States, casting a blue hue over everything as the sun begins to rise. I am awake, after yet another night of less than peaceful sleep.

This is the first time since 2006, during the Second Lebanese War, that I find myself far from home during troubled times. My sister’s wedding and the surrounding familial events called me away from Israel right as Operation Protective Edge was beginning.

Over the past few weeks, my wife and I have been glued to the news. Mainlining live-blogs and headlines like a drug. Searching for updates on the various news sites, and for answers from friends and feeds on Facebook.

I have refrained from making public comments. No blogs. No statuses other than an appeal to organize a pizza night for the friends I left behind in the reserves. Torn between time with my biological family and my extended family in Israel, I have felt that I have no right to make comments on the situation back home, and no desire to write anything of little consequence during such a difficult time.

“How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” The question of the exiled Israelites in Babylon bounces through my brain.

A silent scream has been trapped inside of me since I set foot on American soil. A cry caught in my chest, choked back to make room for the happy occasion that brought me here.

I cannot sleep properly. Trapped in the back of my consciousness is the fear that I will awake in the morning, turn on the news, and see pictures of friends. My dreams are all fractured bits and pieces combining together for restless nights.

And when I  wake up and check the news, I am greeted by the awful sight of a growing list of casualties. Soldiers younger than me who seem so familiar. Boys just like we were a few years ago, dressed in green, decked out in gear. I know none of them, but know all of them at the same time.

The blue of dawn is beginning to melt, and I have yet to fall back asleep, knowing that evening is slowly creeping towards Israel. My heart is in the east, even though I am so thoroughly tucked away in the west right now. Out of harms way, and yet feeling more helpless than ever.

Strangely, as the sun finally breaks through, my eyes grow heavy, and the words of the Jerusalem Talmud (Berachot, 1:1) lull me back to sleep:

“Rabbi Hiyah Rabbah and Rabbi Shimon Ben Halafta were walking in the Arbel Valley at the break of morning before the light of day. They watched the dawn as the light began to shine. Rabbi Hiyah, the great one in wisdom, said to Rabbi Halafta, ‘Rabbi, so too unfolds the Redemption of Israel – in the beginning, little by little. And the more it progresses, it increases and grows.”

About the Author
Yoni Zierler is the chief tour guide and Director of “Discover," the tourism department of StandWithUs – an international, non-profit and non-partisan Israel education organization that works to inspire and educate people of all ages about Israel, as well as challenge misinformation and fight against antisemitism. Raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Yoni immigrated to Israel for his last year of high-school, and subsequently served (with excellence) in the IDF. A lover of history, books, and music, Yoni is happily married to Yochi and the proud father of Golan Noam and Klil Eden.