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Cori Shalit
American lone soldier in Israel
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A shattering

I clenched a loaded gun aimed at the door and prayed to get through this. Once rescued, I entered a changed Israel.
Bloody teddy bears around Dizengoff Square representing the kidnapped children
Bloody teddy bears around Dizengoff Square representing the kidnapped children. (courtesy)

On October 7th, I hid from terrorists on my IDF base on the Gaza border for 11 hours. As Hamas members yelled Allahu Akbar and tried breaking into the room in which I was hiding, I clenched a loaded gun aimed at the door and prayed to get through this. Once rescued, I entered a changed Israel. The world we had been living in abruptly ceased to exist, replaced by a gray cloud of what once was. My old home is a war zone, a number of my friends are now dead or hostages in Gaza. The base I saw when leaving the room was full of destruction: dead bodies, bloody survivors, burnt cars and offices, looted rooms, Hamas RPGs and their other weapons, fallen missiles and shrapnel. Writing is one method of processing, but finishing a piece feels harder. This poem is an attempt at both. 

* * *

There are too many thoughts capable of breaking me 

A shattering that’s unfixable 
Because there’s no going back
Bringing them back to life, rewinding
A great undoing
Un-torturing, un-raping, un-kidnapping
My heart yearns for solutions that are impossible

A shattering that leaves behind a deafening silence 
An ear-ringing soundlessness

Infinite pieces of the trust I once had, the security I had believed in, the faith I had held so close
Any potential vision of peace
Is deep under the rubble of what once was

I so badly want to deny reality
Wake up and give in to the little voice that tries so hard to calm the rest of me
That says “everything is okay”
That almost pleads with me 
To be normal, to be happy

But there are too many thoughts
Too many faces that come to mind
Of friends no longer with us
Or of those whose fate is unknown

Stripped of defense, 
I am raw and exposed 
Exterior layers stripped off,
Shell cracked open
I’m just flesh, blood and bones

Other times it’s the opposite  
I’m just a shell
Hollow and empty
Numb, yet in pain

So I cry
Sometimes when I watch the news
As the deaths are announced 
New names to add to the long, long list
Fresh, young faces that should have outlived their parents

Bloody teddy bears around Dizengoff Square representing the kidnapped children

Or when I sit on the bus
My eyes well up, filling with tiny pockets of liquid grief
And then, 
They fall
Once they start, they don’t stop 

They used to need permission
I’d have to be alone, to be home 
To feel safe
And then I’d let them come 

But now- like other awful events- they don’t knock first
They rush in
Unwanted 

Yesterday I didn’t cry on the bus
But the old man that sat across from me did
He struck up a conversation with me 
About life, about war, about small things and big feelings
He’s 73, owns a fruit store in Shuk HaTikva

After 15 minutes
The thoughts came to him too
And he cried like a baby

On the bus, next to me 
He shattered too
His nephew was killed this week

About the Author
After graduating from Tulane University in 2021 with majors in Jewish Studies and Economics, I made Aliyah through Garin Tzabar and currently serve as a lone soldier in the IDF's COGAT unit.
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