In the midst of all of this, hot, swirling hell I lie awake at night, eyes shot open and pray for my children. It’s funny what I remember, too… Like the summer of 2014, when the when the we through a long slog of a summer war with Gaza during Operation Protective Edge.
It was the first time sirens had ever sounded in our area, and for a moment we were baffled — but , there was a shelter down the road, and so we ran.
They were little enough where when the sirens howled, I could pick them up, one on each arm and run over the sun baked earth to the public shelter 50 meters away.
We had this little backpack filed with Pringles and water and flakey mekupelet chocolate— a deck of cards, his stuffed camel, her Ariel the Little Mermaid doll.
We met our neighbors and their kids. We sang songs to keep the children calm. We could protect them from the onslaught or News, the horrific images of houses burned, a little boy named Daniel Tragerman murdered by a Hamas rocket… we could at least do that with our silly songs and Pringles and stuffed animals and game after game of Go Fish, keep their little hearts safe from the hungry darkness.
But then, this one afternoon, we didn’t make it in time — and we hurdled to the earth and I covered their bodies with mine in the dust.
I’ll never forget the smell of smoke, the stink of feral fear.
But I was there, and I protected them – and they got up and dusted themselves off, and we went to the shelter anyway to play Go Fish.
This time, they’re teenagers – just a few short years from army draft notices – from combat boots and uniforms and dog tags, and creating a second family of brother and sisters in arms.
And this time is different. They can read the news. They understand the words, even if the situation is incomprehensible. They use social media – it’s a necessity at their age.
I can’t scoop them up and carry them to the shelter like I did then— and I can’t throw my body over theirs to protect their hearts and souls from the onslaught of headlines and images they’re seeing. Their phones are their lifelines to their friends , it’s how they make plans to meet on a shelter with Pringles and Mekupelet and a deck of cards — but it’s also a tool of such destruction, pure psychological warfare – torture – as Hamas blasts out images of brutalized bodies, videos of half naked women bleeding between their legs, bodies bent at impossible angles, men begging for their lives? as the headlines flash across the screen — beheaded babies, two words that should never be in the same Sentence ever — as their friends share stories of their own horrors and losses, and even send the terrible photos they’ve seen, too as they try to make sense of this horror: “hey, isn’t this your friend’s brother?” “Wait, don’t we know her?”
I can’t protect my kids now as I did back nearly a decade ago during that long, awful summer — I can’t cover them with my body to save their souls from this gaping maw of darkness, even though I would give anything to do that. But I CAN be there with them in the darkness, a safe shelter if they decide they need to run to me. A safe place to rest, and so I lie awake all night, waiting.