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I am here, but my soul is there

(Image courtesy of author)

אין לי מילים
I have no words. 

As I sit in front of my computer, opening and closing this document for the hundredth time, staring at my blank screen, all I can think is that I feel like I must say something, but I have no words. 

How can I even begin to encapsulate what these past two weeks have been like?

I am torn between not knowing what I am supposed to say, not knowing what I want to say, and not knowing how to say anything at all.

There is a part of me that wants to recount the gruesome facts, make sure that everyone on the face of this earth understands the magnitude of what has happened. I want people to know the extent of the cruelty that we continue to face.

Yet another part of me wants to dedicate all my words to saying their names: the names of hundreds of women, men, children, elderly, and soldiers who can no longer say their own. I want to say their names to give back a piece of life to the souls we have lost.

And still, there is a small part of me that thinks the only thing I can really speak to, the only thing I have any real authority to talk about, is myself and how I feel. But how can I talk about my own feelings when so many people have so many feelings that seem so much more important than mine right now? I have felt like I don’t have a right to grieve when so many have lost so much more than I have. And yet, I do. It has been too easy to let myself get lost in the destruction and death and sink into a deep despair.

I am hurting. My soul bleeds for my brothers and sisters who will never again get to celebrate another birthday. My soul aches for my home that has gone up in flames. My soul yearns for what used to be. But don’t we all?

When I close my eyes I can still see the sun setting over the Mediterranean as I sit on the beaches of Tel Aviv, only a few blocks from where I used to live while on Young Judaea’s Year Course in Israel. But here, on campus, all I can hear are the protesters who storm my new home, as my fellow students celebrate the slaughter of my people.

My heart breaks to think that I may never get to exist in my home, in Israel, the way I did this past year. Israel is a home to my family, to my friends, and to me.

Still, Israel was more than just a home to me this past year. Israel was my adventure, it was the new places I visited each weekend, road tripping with my friends. Israel was my joy, it was the laughter I shared with my family over Shabbat dinners and picnics with cousins to the third degree four times removed. Israel was my curiosity, it was the way my mind shifted and grew getting to experience new perspectives and challenging ideas. Israel was my hope, it was the light at the end of the tunnel, the proof that even through suffering and pain and persecution my people will always prevail.

But this is not a eulogy. Israel is not gone. We are not gone.

My soul is still there. I am there in the spirit of the soldiers who are fighting. I am there in the spirit of the volunteers who are helping. I am there in the spirit of the doctors who are saving lives.

And I am here. I am here wearing my Magen David proudly. I am here raising my voice to defend Israel loudly. I am here standing up for my people to those around me.

I know, in my soul, that there will be a time when I get to go back. I will hug my friends again, I will hold my family once more, I will go home eventually.

But, I am still grieving. We are still grieving.

And still, we are fighting.

About the Author
Talia Bodner is a student from the Bay Area who is studying in the Joint Program between Columbia University and The Jewish Theological Seminary. She is focusing in Jewish Gender and Women’s Studies at JTS and Political Science at Columbia. In the spring of 2023, Talia returned from a gap year on Young Judaea Year Course in Israel where she interned in the Knesset and volunteered teaching English to Israeli-Arab students in Tel Aviv. In her free time, Talia enjoys writing and has performed spoken word poems at the November 14th, 2023 March for Israel at the National Mall in DC and at the World Zionist Organization’s 2023 Conference on Informal Education and Leadership in Jerusalem.
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