Growing like the land

Half a year into the war, it stops being a temporary terror and becomes a new reality.

On October 7th, my husband hugged us goodbye and left me with our four children, one of them 7 months old, at the synagogue.

For three months, I navigated parenting under war, trying to comprehend the unfolding horrors while constantly worrying over my husband fighting in Gaza. Our only communication was in the form of handwritten letters that I received sporadically but could not respond to, and seeing him twice a month for 36 hour-long spontaneous home leaves. 

During those home leaves, he slept anytime he wasn’t moving. I washed his uniform. It always needed two cycles to remove the stink of destruction.

The next three months since I got the call one Saturday night. “That’s it, we’re out.” I watched as my husband reacquainted himself with home life, rebuilding relationships with our children, learning how they had grown and changed during this time, finding a career path that had been weighing on him even before the war began, and healing from the things he witnessed.

At this point, you might ask where I stood in this story. The truth is, for three months, I disappeared into my duty. Like a soldier on the battlefield who becomes one with the mission, I too was recruited with single-minded determination.

I, who led communities, produced events, wrote and sang, became one with my home. For months, we all slept in one room — me and the littlest two on the bed, the bigger two on mattresses on the floor, and our cat wedged somewhere in between.

I threw myself into home renovation projects with a baby strapped to my back, managing them without even consulting my husband. I opened a group chat called “Kaley’s village” where I added anyone who offered help, and would write when I was in need.

I discovered uncharted strength and resilience within myself. But there were also cracks. Moments where I would break in two. One that stands out is when I was driving home from Jerusalem, I heard the name of a friend’s husband who had fallen in battle on the radio. He was the second dead soldier that I knew personally.

I remember looking over the foggy green hills and asking the land, “How will we heal from this?”

In a week from now, my husband will return to his team in the army, this time to be stationed up north. He will not be with us during Passover. The stability that was just returning to our home will once again be shattered.

I have spent the last month processing my own and collective experience through song and performance. I wrote a song called “Eretz” (the Hebrew word for “land”) that, as I did during that drive from Jerusalem, poses questions to the land and tries to draw comfort from it. I am also building a holistic meditative performance that combines song and prayer with my experiences and the choices I have made and continue to make to grow through the challenges of war.

If there is one thing I have learned so far, and one thing I will take with me into this next chapter, it is the power of choice. Just like the land grows no matter what, living in Israel is choosing every day to grow, even when the odds are stacked against you. 

About the Author
Kaley Halperin is an American born singer songwriter and community activist from Jaffa, Israel. Her activism includes Jewish culture community projects for the Tel Aviv municipality, artistic director for "Jaffa chooses life" an arab Jewish art collective, and creating inclusive spaces for song and prayer. Her music has been fetured on Israeli radio and she has performed with it in venues and community spaces around israel and the USA.
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