Golda Daphna
Let’s bring Moshiach

A Shabbat in Tel Aviv

With permission from my dear friend in the house where her beautiful and incredible grandmother, Bracha Levinson z'l, perished. May we continue to inspire others with her memory.
With permission from my dear friend in the house where her beautiful and loved grandmother, Bracha Levinson z'l, perished on October 7th.

It was an hour before Shabbat. I sat on the couch finishing up an assignment from my commander. The previous day I had “עבודות רס”ר,” and was permitted to go home and shower. I was given the work from the rest of the day to complete at home. I was researching and cross-referencing and began to feel the first twinges of a headache. My boyfriend burst into my sublet. His arms laden with groceries. Groceries he offered to get, so I could finish the aforementioned assignment. “How emotionally stable are you feeling right now?” I lifted an eyebrow. “Feeling pretty stupid and useless.” He sucked in his teeth. My heart plummeted. “There’s a pretty big chance I’m going in. “95%” I start problem-solving. “Okay, our meal tonight is a thirty minute walk away. So, maybe go in tacti.” I call my lone soldier advisor that personally invited us. She answers immediately. “He just got called in. Can he go in madim?” My voice is high-pitched. “Whatever is best.” She responds soothingly. “I may be too anxious to go.” “Okay.” I hang up the phone. I hear a buzzing in my ears. “Okay. Babe we can still go,” I say to him. “I need my car,” he responds. “We can drive there.” “Golda. I can’t drive you back home.” “I’ll walk home alone.” His eyes are starting to look a bit dazed. He runs a hand over his face. “Can we just stay here.” I grimace. I think of my Friday night after he goes in. Waiting by the phone. Imagining. “I can’t be alone when you go in.” He nods. I put on a dress. Call my parents. FaceTime my grandparents. He’s napping on the couch. I nudge him awake. “We have to leave now.” “Golda, I really want to stay. Can we stay?” I look down at my dress. The handwritten notes to the address. Think about how overwhelmed he must feel. How selfish I am being. I nod. I light candles. We eat challah and hummus. I drink half a bottle of wine. At midnight he nudges me awake, “My mission got postponed.”

The phone rings in the final hours of Shabbat. The entire day I jumped at every notification. He waved them away with a smile. Begged me to play “Exploding Kittens.” To relax. To eat more challah. When he hangs up the call he looks at me and nods. It is almost a relief to stop waiting. It is almost a relief to know your loved one is going to war. When he is gone I try to make myself busy. I eat three cups of cereal. Half a watermelon. Finish a book. I see the text message, “In in 20 minutes.” I put the cup of cereal down. Debate if I should see the sunset. I can’t wait by the phone again I think. I want to keep Shabbat. I throw on his t-shirt, the yellow crocs I purchased to run to the bomb shelter, and a pair of shorts. If he dies an hour of not knowing won’t make a difference. I put my head down and begin to walk in the sand. I run into a friend from college and begin oversharing my state. The last dregs of childhood social anxiety that flare in discomfort.  “My boyfriend just went into Gaza. I’m wearing his shirt. I’m a dork.” He smiles politely and indicates to his companion. “My friend just came out.” I give a thin-lipped smile and feel shame creep up my neck.

Only then do I think- I hope I don’t run into anyone I know. Anyone visiting from America. Friends from high school. College. Here on summer holiday. To pick tomatoes. To paint a Kibbutz. To leave feeling connected to the Jewish people. Excited to tell their children how they contributed. How that summer changed their life. For the better. How inspiring it was. My feelings of helplessness. My embarrassing fashion choice. My racing thoughts. At odds with the picturesque view beside me. How do I explain that I feel the war? When life seems to be going on.

I’m almost home. There are twenty minutes left of Shabbat. I could check if he is still alive soon. The sand sticks to my toes. I look down at my crocs. I’m nearly hit by the men playing Matkot. How do I explain these feelings of helplessness when the war is nowhere to be found?  When Hostage Square and the “Gaza Envelope” are activities on an itinerary. Stops on a busy volunteering trip before a weekend break at the Tel Aviv beach. I see another friend. She asks me how I am. I tell her, “he just got called into Gaza.” She gives me a hug. Her companion immediately exclaims, “GAZA REALLY?” He nudges the girl next to her, “Did she really just say Gaza?”

As if my discomfort. My racing thoughts. My helplessness. My shame. Is another part of the attraction. A tour that could never encapsulate how it feels to imagine the future. To walk and discuss where we’ll live one day. To think we’re beautiful and young we have so much time and then remember the couples at Nova. His friend that was killed a few kilometers away from him in Gaza. The dead smiling at us from each park bench. I always stop and stare and feel his tug on my arm. Pulling me away. Because he hates my look of anguish. Because once he recognized one of them. A friend smiling at him blankly from Dizengoff Square. “Golda, does this mean he is dead?”

I still don’t know when I became that authority. On life or death. On what a memorial means. I still don’t feel as if I can share in those feelings. Still frozen in time from my first Shabbat in Tel Aviv. Gripping my handwritten directions on the empty streets. Feeling something wrong in my bones. Apologizing that night in the shelter as I begin to cry. Rockets on the hour. “I’m not really Israeli. I’m not used to this.” A part of me feels I don’t deserve to share in this helplessness. Afterall, I chose to move to Israel. I chose to stay a week after my Aliyah when a war broke out. I chose to date a soldier in reserves. But do we choose loyalty? Love? Religion? How could I leave? How could I leave my dream when terrorists tried to take it away from me? How could I not choose the strongest man I ever met? When I felt the weakest. When helplessness became the very fabric of my identity. The identity of a nation. Where just one word can make our heart plummet. “In.” “15.” “Out.” “בחוץ.”  “Home.” “.שבת” When there has not been one Shabbat since October 7th. 


About the Author
I grew up as a Bais Yaakov girl in the Five Towns before I transitioned into a modern-orthodox teenager at Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls. Now, at Columbia University, I write as a Jew who wishes to express problems the collective Jewish world should address.
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