The Grace of the Mothers

I’ve written a dozen posts and erased them. Anger has flowed through me this week and though I know I’ve been angry before, I can’t remember it ever being this bad. It had to have been and yet at this moment, all else is blocked out.

I was angry…what an entirely inadequate word…at what was done to the three Israeli boys (and yes, there is anger for what was done to the Arab boy…but that anger is on a slow boil until I know the perpetrators because unlike several Times of Israel bloggers, I refuse to assume I know more than the investigating authorities).

I was angry at the media – for every time they referred to the boys as settlers. For the record, only one was a settler. The other two lived in places just like most of you – and they ended up beside Gilad anyway. And the guard that was almost stabbed outside my office this week – he’s not a settler. And the people on the bus that was stoned – also not settlers. But yes, good chance most of the people on the there buses that were on their way to Maale Adumim were settlers…does that change anything? Yes, I’m angry.

I was angry at the media for the insensitive way they behaved at the funerals of the boys. For them, it was mostly about the pictures they’d get as they frantically made notes to themselves so they would know what to say for their next 1 minute of air time; for the fact that they scanned the crowd not to be inspired by the sheer numbers, but for the faces of the youngest, most devastated mourner there…better to present on screen. I was angry when the media woman asked if I would be interviewed for Channel 2 because I happened to be standing, one of the mourning sardines, while she stood in her spacious cordoned off area as if God Himself had erected the barriers. “I didn’t come here to speak to the news,” I told her. She looked surprised and a little annoyed – how dare I take up the place of a potential interviewee…before she moved to the next person and the next. And yes, she made me angry.

I was angry at all the articles I have read in the last few days admitting guilt for murdering a child on my behalf and all of Israel, and I was angry that some small minded man with thousands of followers had the nerve to criticize the mothers and fathers of these boys. So angry, I could barely write.

Such anger takes a toll on the body – I’m exhausted. I’m tired. I’m sad. I want to cry and then when I start crying, I am amazed that I still have tears left. I’m so angry. I believed, I had to believe, they would find them alive. I’m angry that their bodies were found, when I wanted their smiles. I wanted that hug between the mothers and their sons. God, I wanted those hugs.

I’m working on putting the anger away. I was never angry with God. I can’t explain why, but I wasn’t. There are blessings to be found in everything, I told a group of people last week at a special Seudat Hodaya (a meal of thanksgiving) that I made on Shabbat after walking out alive and well from a horrendous crash caused by an Arab who sped through a red light and totaled my beautiful, brand new car.

The blessing was life…and so even in the seconds after the accident, I felt no anger, only incredibly blessed. I stood in front of my friends and said to them – there are blessings in everything and prayed the boys would come home…

They came home…but not alive. Where is the blessing in that? I’m working on that,  but I will tell you that in all of this, at a time when I wish I could have done something to help the mothers, it was they that helped me. The grace of these women will never be forgotten.

As I start making Shabbat this week, kneading the dough for the challah that will be baked later this afternoon, cutting the vegetables for the soup just beginning to boil on the stovetop, making a sauce for the chicken that I need to put in the oven, peeling the potatoes for the kugel that my mother-in-law taught me how to make, that she learned from her mother – all regular things I do each week, it seems a little bit different. My mind is on these mothers.

Maybe this whole thing isn’t about the boys – maybe it is about the mothers. Theirs and ours.

Ours showed grace this week and unlike me, they kept their anger to themselves. They were the definition of strength and dignity while the rest of us wanted to smash and scream and cry.

Theirs showed pride in the agonies that others were caused; pride in the evil that their sons had done. There was no dignity, no grace.

Our mothers should, by all that is right, be doing exactly what I am doing now – preparing to welcome the Shabbat with a cleaned home, fragrant foods cooking in the kitchen and the knowledge that so very soon, we will pull into ourselves and rest. The kind of rest that much of the world never feels. It is an acceptance that Sunday and next week and next month and next year will come, but right now, I don’t have to deal with it.

Later, I’ll hear the men and boys walking past my home to the synagogue nearby and by the time they return, the table will be set, the candles sparkling against the windows. Tomorrow, I’ll hear cars only in the distance because I live in a small figure-eight style block designated as the religious area of the city – where a small sign kindly requests that people refrain from driving into or in the neighborhood.

And so the only sounds I’ll hear are of children laughing and playing, of women and men talking as they stroll past my home. Sleep – I’ll sleep a lot this Shabbat to try to make up for all the lost sleep and to let my still-bruised body take a break.

Right now, I only have to focus on the special peace that Shabbat brings…or should bring. And then, my mind wonders yet again, for the hundredth time, or perhaps the thousandth time. This Friday, instead of shopping and cooking, instead of inviting guests or being invited, instead of setting the table and smiling at how beautiful the house looks…they are sitting with a constant flow of visitors. Some they know well, some not at all.

Each wants to say so much; every one of them knows there are no words. They will speak of Naftali, of Eyal, of Gilad. Of how special they were and of how much they were loved. And each time they speak in the past tense, a small part of their heart will scream and they’ll wonder how it is possible that the whole world doesn’t hear such a scream, such pain. But as they did for 18 long days, they will show the strength and the dignity and the grace that touched our nation and our people.

And in the southern part of our country, where women are preparing for Shabbat, once again, they don’t have the confidence that it will be a peaceful one. The men will gather for prayer – a dangerous target, a tragedy waiting to happen. The children will want to play outside and that too is every mother’s nightmare right now. How far can a child run in 15 seconds, in 30 seconds? They’ve been told to stay close to fortified buildings, but can you trust a child to listen?

Their mothers and ours…yes, I’m sure many of their mothers mourn the deaths of their sons but too many celebrate the deaths of ours.

And our mothers…blessed be Iris T’shura and blessed be Rachel Devorah and blessed be Bat Galim – they gave a nation comfort and strength and dignity this week, when we should have been giving this and more to them.

About the Author
Paula R. Stern is CEO of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company in Israel. Her personal blog, A Soldier's Mother, has been running for more than 5 years. She lives in Maale Adumim with her husband and children, a dog, too many birds, and a desire to write her thoughts and dream of a trip to Italy, Scotland, and beyond.