Hila Bar
Writer, translator, editor

Getting Israel Back on Track – A Personal Perspective

Negev Desert, October 2023
Negev Desert, October 2023

When a representative of Kibbutz Alumim, a small kibbutz in the Negev, approached me for assistance before the first week of the war was up, I was filled with respect: An entire kibbutz had been devastated. I don’t believe any kibbutz members were killed, however it was reported that 16 of their foreign workers had been butchered, every one of their cows, numbering in the hundreds, had been killed with the barn and hay loft going up in flames, along with trucks, homes, and institutional buildings. The first week was not over, yet they had already begun campaigning for funds to rebuild their home. The video below was swiftly created in the late hours of an evening. Indeed, one might not have a choice but to begin such a venture immediately; the world and the life it sustains stops for no one. On the other hand, they had been traumatized by the acts of violence and horror and hardly took the space and time to recuperate.

I, on the other hand, with my home, business, and family intact, have been walking around light-headed, shaky at times, anxious, and unable to concentrate fully on my work. Times such as these tend to magnify our personal issues. Add to that the sadness and shock that continues to pervade the country and slowly seeps into our pores and seems to consume us. I am addressing these issues as best I can, with the realization that at the same time, I need to regain a sense of normalcy and routine as soon as possible. So I intersperse my work with my family and my career, with time devoted to healing, mainly personal healing from matters that are not related to what is transpiring on a national level, but all is nevertheless connected. Only once I transform within, will I be able to cope better with what our country is facing.

The above stands true for each and every one of us. For those plagued with anxiety and stress, lack of sleep and concentration, fear and uncertainty, I ask that you consider your bodily and mental reactions as a product of deeper issues that reflect a personal nature, and which have been triggered by our national tragedy.

Something that plagues me is the immense loneliness I feel, despite being fortunate enough to have people to talk to and lean on. Loneliness invades my heart and threatens to ravage my whole being relentlessly and ruthlessly. I long for sanctuary. I seek the comfort and belonging of home. By home, I refer to being a little girl in my parents’ home, surrounded by love and imbued with a sense of contentment and security – but don’t we all have such yearnings, even during the best of times? Yet it is keenly felt now, and perhaps this is the first time I am open to admitting it – moreover in public, which is why I make sure to mention it in this post. And loneliness is also a symptom of deeper issues, so this, too, requires addressing.

Yesterday I spent a short time at a stand in the shopping mall in Mevaseret Tzion. An organization was rallying for the return of the hostages. They were selling paraphernalia and handing out free bread rolls in plastic packaging, on which was printed blue writing that read of our promise to bring the hostages home safely. I felt excited and uplifted. I felt belonging. Being with these people felt like home. And then a thought crossed my mind: The whole country is my home, and when I return to my quiet apartment, it will be as though I have retreated to my bedroom. My apartment is my bedroom, and beyond the front the door is my security and belonging: The whole country is my home. This thought was healing, and I endeavour to apply it when I feel lonely.

Little Ariel hands out bread rolls to shoppers. You could not find a cuter mascot! (Photo taken with permission.)

And as I address my personal pain and shortcomings that threaten my mental well-being, I see a country hard at work. I see people returning to the work force and to school, despite hearts that are heavy or limp as deflated balloons. Because we cannot remain in a rut. There are traffic jams on the roads again, social meetups, parties, and a general convergence towards the normal – but changed in that as a society we are more connected than ever. So we return to work, dance, and debate; we can even argue over who gets the parking spot, and then continue giving and loving each other afterwards. We may personally view certain activities as inappropriate amid the mourning and pain. Yet we cannot prevent others from rebuilding themselves. We each function on different timelines. We cannot wait to recover first; we act and get back into routine in order to recover. That is rule of healing and recovery once we have taken enough time out. Otherwise we will be waiting for a long time.

I appeal to everyone to make the effort to return to normal inasmuch as is possible for them. Spend time wallowing in your pain, but know when it’s time to stand up and stretch, inhale deeply, heal, and return to life – so that we can work and contribute to society as people who are changed for the better.

To donate funds for the restoration of Kibbutz Alumim, please click on the following link:                                                                                            (Donations are being collected via the Gush Etzion Foundation)

About the Author
Hila Bar is known for her penetrating commentary on people and society, as well as her deep, insightful poetry and prose. She studied English and Hebrew language and literature at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and works as a translator and editor. Hila made Aliyah in 1996 and currently resides in Srigim, in the Ela Valley region of Israel. Hila can be reached through Facebook or via email -
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