Mori Sokal

Feeling Blue (and White)

Last night we blessed the new moon that shines over this month, even though it was about a week after it appeared, so I guess it’s okay to write about days recently passed as well. It’s been a few days since the high of Independence Day followed the low of Yom Hazikaron, but I can’t seem to get a small amount of sadness out of my heart. Maybe because I was closer this year to those who were more in tune with Yom Hazikaron than with Yom Haatzmaut, or maybe because I couldn’t go to a celebration because of being in my year of mourning (although we saw the fireworks from our house, due to the lovely shape of Efrat)…on Thursday, we proudly brought the soldiers stationed here in the Gush brownies and then investigated the activities on Oz V’gaon, the hilltop we are claiming as payment for Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, then had friends for a low key barbeque…but I am having a hard time saying goodbye to Independence Day this year.

Maybe it’s that this is my first Yom Haaztmaut without my mom, or that I’m thinking of articles I read last week how even though it’s been 8 years for Rivkah, and 15 for Sherri, there isn’t an amount time that will pass where it will be okay to have lost your child, and these mothers are just two among so many parents here who need comfort.

Some sadness is for me, and that’s okay. We used to have this book for kids about how all sorts of things are okay, to teach them acceptance of others’ differences (it’s apparently okay to have a fish in your hair- that was my favorite). So I’m going to get up and keep going but let myself be sad, and I hope that Rivkah and Sherri, Bat-Galim, Racheli and many others who need to can let themselves be sad even during the fireworks of our happiness if that’s what they want.

I read a short while ago about an old man who compared losing someone you love to drowning, where you feel overwhelmed and then you slowly start to right yourself. It’s not like that for me. It’s been unreal, a lot…maybe it’s that I was just sick for a few weeks, and now that I’m getting better I went back to trying to make it to as many minyanim a day as I can to say kaddesh, so part of me feels as though this year is just dragging on and on, as at the same time part of me is holding on tightly as if to say this year can’t end, I’m not ready for it to be a full year yet. Well, haha, G-d gave me an extra month to help. For me, the unreality also stems from at one and the same time, knowing that it’s real, that she’s gone- of course, but then out of the blue, like a punch to the stomach, I’ll have a stray thought, “Oh, I haven’t spoken to my mom in so long- I should call,” on a random erev shabbos or a day when I would love to share what happened at work (we are/were both teachers) and get her advice. When these things happen, I am left breathless for a moment. I have to stop, catch my breath, and then go on as if it’s all okay—because that is life, it keeps flowing whether you are with it or not. And if you let these moments overwhelm you, it is that much harder to keep swimming.

I imagine that all these parents are not the same, at all. One sad and yet beautiful show we watched on Yom Hazikaron was music interspersed with interviews of parents of soldiers. One interview in particular hit me, where the mother talked about how the knock at the door changed her life (who knocks? We have an intercom), and how she cried and pleaded for her son to just be wounded, please let him just be wounded. Her husband then spoke about how he used to take pictures with the children, with him in the middle and his sons on either side of him. Now, when they take a picture, one arm is just empty.

I imagine this (the change) easily because I know that I am not the same. I have had to become a person who can speak up for rights of women to say kaddesh, to have a proper place in shul. I have been blessed to be there for friends who ask which minyan I’ll be at when they say their own kaddesh, or to be able to meet someone new who came for a yahrzeit. I am not the same because although I have faith that things happen for a reason, and I have been given the merit to become involved with people who are doing what they can to make this a world better place, starting with themselves, I still feel a part of me angry at having been cheated out of my mother’s later years. She was always healthy, and suddenly she is gone. My birthday passed and then hers, big holidays and small, and there is no change. The world spins on, an emptier place. Sometimes I feel God sends some things to comfort me, like a book at just the right time about the absolute confusion loosing someone brings, or a wonderful mother-in-law who, for the first time in twenty years, did what my mother used to do and sent me a funny e-card on my birthday (and how does she know to call just when I’m writing this?).

I see signs in things, and those of you who don’t can go read something else now. No, it’s fine- the world is made up of many kinds of people. So when my new groups asked me to say tehillim, I noticed how amazing it was that here, shortly before Pesach, I was assigned pasukim (paragraphs) that talk about just that holiday. Later, when my pasukim changed, I saw that many tehillim mention Pesach, but I guess that is because that’s the holiday that cemented us as a people. One new thing I noticed was in the chapter about Babylon, how they asked us to sing and we couldn’t on shores not our own. It’s sad at first, but it ends off angrily, praising those who take revenge the way we were treated. That’s also why, at this time of our celebration of statehood, I think part of my sadness stems from reading Tuvia Tenenbom’s book “Catch the Jew”. I’m only in the middle of the book, desperately (optimistically?) hoping it gets better…but seeing the way others view us, are taught to view us, both breaks my heart and angers me. And when I read about how much we hate ourselves (and I am not sharing those disgusting articles here)—there are no words in my heart to say to these people. This is my land, I belong here. I would like to have peace in it, but I am not leaving, and not apologizing.

This has wandered, much like the Jew, but in the end I want to say that it’s okay to be proud of ourselves for having a country to live in, and if we want fish in it that’s okay too. I will wear both blue and white and say that although I am far from my parents, I am home, and that is all the comfort I need now. Eema, this tune’s for you:

About the Author
Mori Sokal is a SIXTEEN 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, is a copy editor, and has published articles in Building Blocks, the Jewish Press magazine.
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