Yesterday, good friends, a mother and her teenage son, invited us for dinner. After the meal, the four of us sat around and talked for a while, and then the son excused himself and went to his room. It was the most normal and natural thing to do: he spent some time with the grown-ups, and then it was time for him to leave. Then it hit me. The teenage children who are stuck in hotels with their families have lost, on top of everything else, their privacy. They have nowhere to go when they want to be alone. Actually, it is true for all members of the evacuated families. No one in those families has privacy; it has become a luxury. In normal times, a child could close a door, and mothers, who are there for their family from the moment they return home in the afternoon, at least have their work to go to. I mean it literally: getting there and back, whether it is walking, driving, or taking the bus. It always allows a few minutes of peace and quiet.
People may claim that being a refugee in your own country, and staying in a hotel, is not the worst-case scenario, and perhaps it is true. There are always other refugees who are worse off. Perhaps the big difference is that in Israel, the slaughter of October 7th, the destruction of the kibbutzim, villages, and towns in the south, and the evacuation for the luckier ones came without warning. It was a complete surprise. Thus being a refugee is yet another trauma in addition to everything else that has happened. Similarly to other refugees all over the world, many of our evacuees have no home to return to, or their homes and towns are too dangerous to return to.
Right now, there are more than a 130,000 evacuees in Israel, and that doesn’t even include people from the north. For them, there were no more places to stay.
Privacy is quite a modern concept; in the past, people, especially from working classes, didn’t know what it meant. For them, private moments where you could be by yourself and just reflect were short and rare. In many places around the world, the possibility for privacy is still considered a privilege and even a luxury.
Perhaps in the beginning, it was comforting for families to be cuddled together, a little like a Shiva, which prevents you from being left alone with your grief. But now, as time progresses and there is no end in sight, privacy is essential for everyone, especially for teenagers (and I don’t mean just burying the head in the phone), they must have the opportunity to reflect and process their experiences. I hope that the social workers who work with the families find creative ways to provide them with some alone time.