Living Out Loud
I stirred awake to the sounds of supply planes, sirens and piercing whistles of the Iron Dome defense system ramming into an errant Hezbollah missile. Hunkering under the blankets, it took a moment for me to realize that I wasn’t in Jerusalem but instead, 8,500 kilometers away in South Africa. Still addled by sleep, what I’d believed were the sights and sounds of war were merely summer storms accompanied by lightning, thunder and typically endless Johannesburg traffic.
The plan to visit Africa came well after the war broke out and, to be candid, I had been torn. “Torn” is an apt description for so many of us with relatives overseas who leave the Holy Land for myriad reasons in our lifetimes. There is no one-size-fits all descriptor for us Israeli-Anglos and while I have many friends/acquaintances who enthusiastically await their next visit to Target and/or Trader Joe’s, for me these visits are difficult. Leaving Israel for a day is hard and if not for my elderly mother in Maryland and child/grandchildren in South Africa, I would be hard-pressed to leave Israeli soil. Ever.
It is particularly agonizing to leave Israel with a son on the front lines. I know too much and don’t know anything. He spoon-feeds accounts of certain missions and this oxygen keeps our home-fires burning with patriotism and Ahavat Yisroel – love for our fellow Jews. Since the 8th of October, Ariel has been on active duty and what he shares has shifted the conflict’s narrative from newsprint into a living, breathing entity. If I didn’t recognize his mannerisms, speech patterns and favorite foods, I wouldn’t know this hardened man who joins us for an occasional weeknight supper or Shabbat morning kiddush during his rare military leaves. His language is peppered with terms that bespeak battle and defense, strategy and costs-versus-benefits. I am glued to the stories, despite not being a fan of war-films. This isn’t Netflix and I can’t turn the channel. That’s okay. I don’t want to.
Visiting with my daughter’s friends, who have become my friends as well, it is apparent that my presence now makes them uncomfortable. They don’t know what to ask and War-Etiquette isn’t covered in the S.A. school system. With the exception of my daughter, there are no other Israeli’s in her social circle. Amara is polite and perkily asks “How is life in Israel these days?” and I make a mistake. Because when I become passionate with accounts of volunteerism, morality of mission, resilience of our citizens, etc., I observe her pasted-on smile, awkward with embarrassment. I’ve done that TMI thing, again.
Enveloped with sadness, once more I am struck by our global isolation in the midst of the brutality and explosion of Jew-hatred. It is ours alone. Undoubtedly, a more convenient storyline might be that we are anxious to shake hands, make nice and stop with all of this fighting silliness. This war makes me a sloppy guest, less pristine and certainly unattractive. I would be remiss to omit that a few of the non-Jewish friends, like Chris, are informed and unwavering in their support, praying that Israel does the job, the whole job, of freeing herself from an odious enemy.
Consequently, I prefer to remain indoors when not in Israel, reading books to young people and counting the days until my return because, when I am not in Israel, I am not anywhere. I don’t know who I am when separated from our God-given homeland. After 3,000 years, rootless is not an option.
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(Reprinted with permission of San Diego Jewish Journal, January, 2024)
About the Author
New York-born Andrea Simantov moved to Jerusalem in 1995. Writer, podcast host (israelnewstalkradio.com), life-coach and image consultant. She is spiritual, funny, cries easily (laughs harder), enjoys caravanning, celebrating her Jewishness and is always up for her next big adventure. With six children, 22 grandchildren and a mostly tolerant husband, life is busy, passionate and always evolving.