The knock on the door—a knock on the door is usually a joyful sound—beloved guests coming from afar, a surprise visit, a delicious meal delivery, or just close friends who stopped by for a drink. But in the current Israeli reality, “the knock on the door” symbolizes an entrance ticket to the bereaved family club. The saddest, most undesirable club.
The knock that every Israeli fears is the one in David Grossman’s amazing novel, “To the End of the Land.” The heroine tried to escape, but unfortunately, it finds her, eventually. Towards completing his book, Grossman’s tale became self-fulfilling, when he, too, was informed of the death of his beloved son, Uri, who was killed in the Second Lebanon War.
But sometimes the “knock” is not satisfied with a one-time visit and chooses to knock on the same door again and again. Such is the story of Job of Vered Benvenisti. Her father, Yoav, was killed in 1973 in the Yom Kippur War. Her brother, Arnon Vaspi, was killed in the First Lebanon War in the 1980s. And her cousin, Uri Maoz, was also killed in that same war. When her father remarried, his wife’s son, Omri, was killed, and another cousin, Nir, was killed, as well. They all lived in one small community that has now been evacuated due to the fighting in the north. Yesterday, Vered heard the “knock” again. This time, so terribly, her 26-year-old son Arnon, who was named after his late uncle, and who was a captain in the reserves, was killed in Gaza.
How can one woman carry all these titles: orphan, bereaved sister, cousin, and now, a grieving mother, too? Will the battlefield never have enough? Will the sea of tears ever dry?
And while one mother buries her son, other mothers, mothers who were kidnapped with their children from their homes on the black Shabbat of October 7th, embrace their children where they may be hidden. A hug that hasn’t been released in 46 nights. How can anyone comfort a child in captivity? How do you calm them down? How do you protect them from the dark evil and promise again and again that the Israeli army will come to rescue them when they haven’t even seen sunlight for 46 days?
And who has it easier? The mom who was kidnapped with her children, suffering, going through hell with them, or the one waiting for them, unable to sleep, eat, and can’t breathe for 46 days and nights? Who will embrace her children when she can’t? Are the arms of the abducted mothers long enough to wrap other mothers’ children, as well? Can their hearts hold other children’s pain and fears? Will she know the melodies of the lullabies that these motherless children’s parents sang to them at bedtime? Will the sisterhood of mothers, those inside, in captivity, and those outside, waiting, succeed in their resilience?
And what about those children, those who, at the time of their abduction, became orphans, and they don’t even know it yet? They do not know that their mom and dad are not waiting for them outside the tunnels. That their parents won’t be there to hug them when they return home because the hand that cut them from their parents’ arms is the same hand that slit mom and dad’s throats.
In the heart of the Gaza Strip, the humanitarian axis heads south, away from the fighting. And while Israeli soldiers secure the lifeline for hundreds of thousands of people, allowing them to escape Hamas, a surreal call is heard:
“If there is a boy or girl here who understands Hebrew, come to us now. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid”.
These calls are intended to reach the ears of one or more of the 38 kidnapped children. Maybe one or more of these children are among the migration. Maybe they can hear our soldiers.
Time passes, and winter is here. It’s cold and rainy in Gaza, too. How long can children, all 38 children, survive in captivity?
And while the talks for a possible deal to release some of the hostages are progressing, the nerve-racking anticipation is unbearable, and with it, the fears of who will be released and in what condition will they be? If only some are released, will children be separated from their parents again? Will the abductees who are not included in the deal witness the sight of the other captives being released to go home while they are destined to continue waiting in despair? A cruel game of fate, a horrifying selection that reminds us of dark days in history
What crazed reality are we living in, in which for 46 days there are 240 people—babies, children, elderly, men, and women—among them sick and injured who are held in captivity without anyone knowing if they are all alive or God forbid murdered by Hamas while in captivity like the two Israeli women shot to death—their dead bodies found earlier this week by Israeli soldiers.
How can it be that the world has not stopped? How is it that the sun rises every morning, the stars twinkle at night, babies are born, learn to walk, and say their first word, while 240 innocents are held in the hands of barbarian murderers? How can it be that the entire world isn’t marching with us into Gaza to free our children but instead chooses to cheer the terrorists while calling for the destruction of the Jewish people? Listen as Talia Dror, a Jewish student from Cornell, testifies to these sentiments before the US House of Representatives.
Yesterday, the world marked International Children’s Day. Animator Ben Zeadman and a group of Israeli artists within the animation industry, some of whom with abducted family members, created this video:
“When there were sirens and rockets,
I didn’t cry.
When terrorists were in our kibbutz
I didn’t cry.
When my brother put on his uniform,
I didn’t cry.
When demons came at night,
I didn’t cry.
But when I fell and hit my knee, and even though I didn’t bleed,
I cried all the tears at once.”
—Tali Versano Eisman, written after the October 7th massacre
Together, united, we will overcome.