Death at Our Doorstep

(Written Friday morning)

There is a current teenage saying that many adults don’t get: “I can’t even.” You can’t even what? But not only does this say it all, it exactly sums up how I feel right now. I can’t even move, think, cook for shabbos, sleep or get up, stop crying. I can’t even believe that the horrors keep happening, that we have more funerals to go to here, in Tel Aviv, and now probably America (I don’t know where the 18-year old yeshiva student is being buried). As one friend put it — Ad matai? Until when?

Yesterday, I popped into the Gush Rami Levy, happy that instead of sitting in the line of cars waiting for their turn to get past the aptly named traffic circle, I could take the right hand lane and zip into the parking lot, where I passed the soldiers who are still manning their concrete boxes after the last most recent attack, just last week. Or was it this week — it all starts to blur together, the horrendous monotony of yet another and another until we are sick from hearing about it, but can’t stop listening. We just need to know where, when, how many dead, how many wounded, how many more lives shattered?

As I left, I was happy I managed to do my shopping so quickly and get home. I wouldn’t know how much this changed my life until later. Within half an hour of getting home, the plumber came over to work on our interesting hot water problems. While he was working, his walkie-talkie started squawking, and although I had made it the short distance home from that annoying traffic jam, I felt like I was in the middle of what was happening. “shots fired at Tzomet Hagush…people hurt, maybe dead…” The plumber stopped work on the heating system and started making calls to order ambulances. It turned out that he is part of the security/medic group in Alon Shvut.

At one point his mother called, frantic that she couldn’t get ahold of his brother, and he told her not to worry because he had heard over the system that his brother was working on the wounded, and his mother shouldn’t continue calling right now. I also stopped making dinner, standing and holding my breath, waiting to hear the number of dead and wounded. After he did what he could to help from such a distance, he finished up and left, although not before he stopped to daven mincha on our mirpeset.

Then came more waiting, names of the dead, numbers of wounded. I froze everything that I was doing, unable for a long while to put my phone down long enough to start cooking. Finally, information came in, and it was not good. An eighteen-year-old yeshiva student, here for the year, at the Gush junction only because he was distributing treats for our soldiers, killed just for being part of our people. Then, the name of one of my sons’ teachers. I asked my son if he knew the teacher, not saying what had happened. He smiled and said sure, he’s great, he just came with them on a tiyul. He asked why and I looked at my husband, questioning whether I should tell our son. He said we have to tell him. I turned to my son and said that the teacher was killed this afternoon, and I can’t stop seeing the heartbreaking confusion in his eyes as he said, “What? But I just saw him…” and then his face fell as I said it just happened, and he processed the information. Last night he said he wanted to go to the funeral, but this morning he said he just can’t, while tears rolled down his face.

Now I am at my school, a five-minute drive from the cemetery, waiting for the funeral to start. I don’t know why some things affect us more than others, except maybe this one did because it was so close to home. It’s hard to want to do anything except read what everyone else is posting, because this is the only thing I find comforting right now. It helps clarify my extremely confused feelings. So I Like when someone posts that we should be strong and we are not leaving no matter what they do, and I Like when someone else says we should stop posting messages to be strong because it’s okay to be angry and let ourselves mourn. I also like the one where we say screw the world for not caring, and we need to stop waiting for them to care — even though this is also written in a way that shows we are angry at the world for not caring when Jewish blood is spilled.

Sometimes the world feels like a dangerous place, a place where the ground is literally waiting to open up and swallow us whole. This is true. However, there is still life above-ground: sunlight and friends and family, and Shabbat is coming whether we feel it is or not. All I can do is hope for comfort for the families, and take comfort knowing we are a people who are only made stronger and more cohesive by adversity, whether we like it or not. The Litman family, rather than choosing to have a quiet wedding ceremony after all, is doing the opposite. They have invited their family — all of Am Yisrael — to join them. I will try to be there, and bring some light into a dark world. Wishing all of us a Shabbat filled with Shalom.

About the Author
Mori Sokal is a TWELVE year veteran of Aliyah, mother of three wonderful children (with her wonderful husband) and is an English teacher in both elementary and high school in the Gush Etzion-Jerusalem area. She has a Masters’ degree in teaching, and has published articles in Building Blocks, the Jewish Press magazine.
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