I’m not a religious man but tonight I prayed. I sat at home and found nothing holier than a piece of paper to place on my head while I recited the Shema.
Lord knows I’m not a religious man and I’m not given to bouts of suddenly turning to G-d, but tonight I prayed nonetheless. I prayed not because I desperately wanted or needed something, I prayed as an act of instinct. I prayed because my daughter is due to be born any minute now. I prayed because my country is descending into chaos. I prayed because I don’t know what else to do.
I made aliyah during the second intifada, I was married during last year’s war with Gaza, and now it appears my firstborn will be brought into the world during the current terror wave. I prayed because despite the fact that I was of fighting age the last time there was an Intifada, we’re on the cusp of another. I prayed because despite all the countless thoughts spilled onto the blogging page, there’s nothing I can do about the descent into madness.
Tonight, I experienced the first terrors of a father. I experienced the fear that comes from a Jewish father-to-be who knows that despite the fact his daughter isn’t even born, there are people out there in the dark who wish to kill her. I experienced the terror of knowing that, among those going out with knives into the night, a heavily pregnant woman is the ultimate prize, the opportunity to kill two Jews with one blow. Those two Jews are the entirety of my life and I would give my all to make sure nothing happened to them.
Walking down the street in the big outside I was too distracted to feel the life of Tel Aviv around me. The people in the bars and restaurants and my wife beside me. I was preoccupied during the first part of our walk, down King George Street and then along Allenby, too preoccupied to speak. All I could think about was what would happen if I lost my wife and child to some murderer. Someone waiting out there in the night with nothing more than a screwdriver and the intent to kill.
I kept imagining the 23-year-old me sneering at his 36-year-old elder. That paratrooper went out looking for trouble, that 23-year-old insisted that the enemy be scared of him, rather than vice versa. But that 23-year-old is gone and this man is left. And unlike that 23-year-old, this older man has something precious to lose. But in a way that 23-year-old could never have understood, his 36-year-old self has something to protect. A family more important than himself.
As we continued on our way and turned from Allenby onto Mikvey Yisrael, I pushed the fears to the back of my mind. It’s been far worse than this before and I came through it. There will no doubt be worse than this yet to come. To be Israeli is to take what is thrown at you, to endure it and to thrive anyway. And so I will. I will take it all, including the fear and the worry, and I’ll take my cue from the resilient people all around me, and I won’t let the enemy determine my reality.
Older, heavier, more cynical for sure and finally with an understanding of what it means to love someone more than he loves himself, the 36-year-old me has nothing left to offer but prayers for the future and the Hope of our people to live forever more as a free people in our own land.
Tonight I prayed.