Daphna Small

A nation united in anguish….

I Have Become Comfortably Numb plays on the radio and it pains me every time I hear this beloved classic, as I’m acutely aware its creator is vehemently antisemitic. I imagine it was how my mother felt hearing Wagner. I take it as confirmation that the devil, always gives his followers marvelous gifts like great talent. This classic song has taken on a new personal meaning for me as it expresses how I feel most of the time. At first, I kept thinking that it couldn’t get worse, yet the week of the hostage return was excruciatingly painful, with all the joy that it brought. The three hostages who were shot by “friendly” fire, called Du”tz in Hebrew, short for Du Tzdudi, two sided, was the tipping point. The endless list of the fallen heroes since then have constantly added fuel to the burning pain and loss. I have found that each time that my son comes home and then returns to the front, I’m more anaesthetized by the ongoing trauma. I appreciate that the recent diversion provided for me by the Cosmos: my sister staying with me in hospice care in the final stage of lung cancer, is proving very distracting, thank you Cosmos. This and the constant stream of displaced guests in my basement is keeping me busy but it’s all a bit too real.

I am constantly reminded that there is no coincidence and that everything is connected. The current displaced family from the north staying downstairs, includes a mother who is a psychotherapist specializing in PTSD. The last time my son came home, he went down to exchange their dining table and received an unsolicited hug from her five-year-old boy when he first entered the apartment. She wrote to thank him and told him that after he had left, she had asked her son why he had hugged him even though he does not know him. Her boy had said: He looked really nice, but he also looked like he needed a big hug. You can’t fool children. She also offered my boy an ear if he wanted to talk. Israel has become one big grieving family.

The first night of Hanukkah marked two months of war, now we are at three. Miracles have occurred throughout this time in which we have all been the riveted audience of the most visually documented war in history. The marvels of technology were revealed when a wounded soldier in a coma heard the voice message from his two-year-old daughter and woke up. The chain of an armored vehicle got stuck and 36 soldiers got to safety a moment before all three of their vehicles were bombed. I have almost completely avoided seeing the horrific Go-Pro bodycam videos, but the one or two still images have been enough to feed my imagination, along with the written and oral testimonies. The NYT article on the sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas on Oct. 7th is all I’ll ever need to know.

My sense of time has been split into when my son is home and when he is back in the army. When he is back in what I imagine to be hell on earth, I rely on my belief in miracles. The underlying fear which permeates every moment of the day and night colors the rest of mundane reality with points of vivid joyful color. My daughter’s 17th birthday, a belated Turkey dinner with all the trimmings or my oldest daughter singing Dylan’s “Its Alright Ma (I’m only bleeding)” on my balcony which brings me to tears. One morning she sent me an Insta video of Rep. Stefanik questioning the representatives of Harvard, Penn and MIT about whether calling for the genocide of the Jews constitutes bullying or harassment on their campuses. None could give a straight yes. The next day there was a meme of a book by Adolf Hitler entitled: Mein Context. The surge in global open antisemitism actually gives me hope. I feel it is important for world Jewry to rise up in support and stand by Israel because there really is no separation between the Jews and the Israelis in the eyes of the enemies.

The week in which the hostages were released was the most devastating. The joy and relief of seeing the children and elderly women was marred by the disappointment of not seeing all the others, especially the Gingim or by now the Bibas family. The stories and the reality that emerged from the testimonies have made no visual images necessary. From the apparently drug induced moments of brave insubordination displayed by the elderly released hostages , to the primal scream of the injured beauty Mia Schem when she was finally able to hug her mother.

The barrage of endless horror has scarred and had an irreversible effect on all of us. Mia Schem recently described her experience as a Holocaust and confirmed what David Friedman the former US ambassador to Israel said: That the majority of the “innocent civilians” in Gaza and the West Bank support Hamas even more since the October 7th massacre. He said that Americans do not realize just how radicalized the Palestinians have become. I sometimes wish they could all be absorbed by Europe, Canada and the Saudis, as they did manage to take in eight million Syrian refugees when it was deemed necessary. I’m aware that I am in fantasy land when I dare to hope, I know they will remain our problem to solve.

A few weeks ago, the entire Zichron Yaakov graveyard was filled to overflow to honor the 19-year-old Benjamin Needham, a British citizen who was in my daughter’s high school until last year. The entire school went to the funeral, and she told me that in school on the day before all the teachers could not stop crying.

The humor floating about is very dark, but still out there, and because the ultimate horror we are witnessing is related to the violent abuse of the women and children, it makes sense that women are providing the best material. Eretz Nehederet, Israel’s SNL, has become pure satirical genius, yet far more sad than funny.

A young woman named Meirav Tal on Facebook actually presented a timely ultra-feminist solution to the Middle East conflict and a way to end the war in a couple of days. She suggested that instead of the male dominated state cabinet, which in Hebrew is a Mitbachon– or kitchenette, there should be a Mitbachon made up of four women, but stipulates that because it is women, it would not be a kitchenette but a large kitchen with an island center piece instead. She held up a picture of a board with four stick figure women and pointed to them saying these four women would include: One in her first trimester, one ovulating, one on the second day of her menses and one who has two toddlers to pick up from kindergarten at four p.m. She explains that the last one simply does not have the time and would therefore just: Shtayim Shalosh Shagger – Bomb the hell out of them, innocent civilians. Yeah right.

Though humorous I could not help remembering that the week before my Druze housekeeper told me that after the female hostages returned and the reports of the rapes had emerged, her elderly mother had said to her, that if she was the prime minster she would kill everyone in Gaza. I answered that we don’t have the heart to do it. I did not say this to her, but I am happy we don’t. God forbid we should ever become as ruthless as our enemies. I do agree with Meirav Tal though that there are no “innocent civilians” in Gaza today. Those civilians who are there actually know that their loved ones are going to fight to the death and want to die with them. I can even relate to this as if I thought all my loved ones were going to die, I’d probably stay with them too.

I am disappointed but not surprised by the global rise in antisemitism, the failure of the woke feminists to respond and the hypocrisy of human rights organizations, yet I have never been as proud to be an Israeli as I am now. My greatest disappointment was when I read Thomas Friedman’s piece in the NYT where he urged the US to show Israel some “tough love” and to stop giving us aid, I found this to be just despicable. Truly an all-time low for the Jewish people in America.

It is extremely rare that I remember my dreams, but on the first night of Hanukkah I had such a vivid one that I remembered it. Vince, my eldest son’s dog was sitting by the back door, talking with a female voice that I recognized, she said: “don’t worry it will all be alright Duffy.” In the dream I thought I must tell my son, that Vince can talk now. Vince is staying with us to keep my sister company. She loves dogs more than people. As further reassurance that there really is no apartheid here in Israel, the doctor who comes to treat my sister from the hospice service is called Mohammad. He is warm and kind and speaks English, Italian, Hebrew and Arabic of course. At least Vince missed the midnight barrage of bombs on New Year’s Eve in Tel Aviv.

At this point we are at war on seven fronts and have responded in six, it appears that we are not about to stop according to Gallant, our defense minister. This suggests that historians may perhaps one day call this war, World War III. It will have started when Putin invaded the Ukraine and continued when the Middle East flared up, and the Iran backed Houthis messed with the global economy. The more spiritual or religious types may call it Armageddon or Gog and Magog. It would be absolutely fine with me if this was actually the last war ever.

The pain that is the unifying factor in Israel today is sadly also being weaponized by the media and the politicians, but fortunately on the ground the people are more integrated than ever before. More aware that there is no one we can count on, except for God. We must  depend on ourselves rather than our leadership or the Saudis and the Americans, who seem more occupied with themselves than with us. Thank God people are staying busy doing good for others, and loving each other, while waiting for the hostages to be freed, our love is our true power.

Happy New year and BRING THEM HOME!

About the Author
Daphna Small- An Israeli writer born in Austria who has lived half her life in England and the USA , as well as in Zichron Yaakov .
Related Topics
Related Posts