My eyes are widening and I feel confused. It’s 6 pm on Yom Yerushalayim and I’m in the middle of a Zoom session with a client. “What’s wrong?” she asks.
I’m hearing a siren. I take a moment to wonder, is there supposed to be a siren on Yom Yerushalayim? Is that a thing? No, it’s not a thing. “I think I should check this out” I tell her. I’ll be back”
Downstairs, I find my family gathered in our tiny bomb shelter. My sons, daughter in law, grandchildren and husband are chattering away as I enter. I catch a glimpse of my 4-year-old grandson who is sporting a worried grin, not understanding what’s happening and wondering if he should be crying. The adults are smiling, joking around, riding the wave of adrenaline, excitement, and bewilderment.
This was completely unexpected. Within moments my shock begins to wear off, and I realize that my nonagenarian parents are asleep in their rooms. There is no way to get them to the safe room on time. My mom’s caregiver is with her. As I am saying, “We should go get them,” we hear the BOOMS.
ONE, TWO, THREE…quiet…FOUR, FIVE.
The siren stops and it’s over. We’re all safe.
My hands are shaking.
I go back to my client, the kids go back to their Playmobile. The caretaker is debriefed, and life goes on.
It’s been more than a week, and that was the only siren in Beit Shemesh. My head wants me to believe that because the rockets aren’t being lobbed in my direction, it’s business as usual.
My head sees a lot of evidence to support this theory. Sitting in my garden the scene is pastoral. Through the trees and the birds flittering around, I look out on a gentle view of the city. The sky is clear. The weather is stunning. My grandchildren giggle as they pump their little legs trying to make the swing go higher. Although in the distance I hear constant rumblings and BOOMS which shake the ground, my mind tells me “you are safe, nothing here to worry about”
My head is loud. It’s telling me to function, keep up with the schedule. It says, “You have no excuse to be scared, anxious, worried. You need to be grateful, keep going. We’re Jews. That’s what we do”. I agree. I’m listening. Part of me is doing what I’m supposed to do.
But then there is another part of me that feels threatened. I live in a miniscule country where I can hear the planes flying overhead on their way to Gaza. I can hear the iron dome (thank G-d) knocking rockets out of the air, and I can hear the artillery fire, as I fall asleep every night. The country is so small that I pretty much am within 6 degrees of separation from everyone, including people who are living in bomb shelters and whose lives are truly threatened now every day.
This part of me has shut me down like an animal facing a predator. The animal freezes, and plays dead until the threat has passed. Like the animal, I feel numb, frozen. “The lights are on, but nobody’s home”. Even though I’m getting things done, I’m in a fog, and what I really want to do is escape into the world of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills where the homes are grandiose, the clothing is gorgeous, and I get to lose myself in the mindless chatter of women whose only problem is that they can’t get along with each other.
This part of me is also impulsively following newsfeeds, and Facebook posts. It’s seeing waves of anti-Semitic hate crimes occurring in other countries as well. I am creating images in my head of pogroms, lynchings and angry mobs, and that just shuts me down even more. I am feeling guilty about all the things I’m not doing to help others.
Today I have decided to stop the impulsive checking of the news and Facebook. Today I’m going to be quiet, be present, and acknowledge the nervous, worried, sad part of me. I’m going to dismiss the taskmaster in my head, and honor the part of me that feels vulnerable, by giving it a platform and a voice. Writing about the surreal experience of living in a country under attack is a start.
Hours after this was written, Israel signed a cease fire agreement, and now it’s back to “business as usual, or so they tell me.”
How are you feeling?