HaDassah Sabo Milner

In the beforetimes

In the beforetimes, I was supposed to have landed six hours ago in Israel, picked up a rental car, and gone to have breakfast with my mother, and then onward to see my precious children, to get their hugs and kisses and to just bask in their presence after not seeing them for a year.

In the beforetimes it was easy to plan. In the beforetimes, life just continued the way it always was and we didn’t have to think of war and all it brings with it. In the beforetimes, all was possible. In the beforetimes, I’d have been handing out Elmo juice boxes, Super Sour Gummy Bears and Peanut Butter pouches and all of Amazon to my kids, joking around about how a big tough major has to have his Elmo fix. In the beforetimes.

Now, I carry my phone everywhere I go. I am scared to be untethered from it for even a second. It’s a new umbilical cord. Every sound makes me jump, every knock on the door, every beep from my phone. In the beforetimes, I wasn’t this highly sensitive.

In the beforetimes, I could go days without my anxiety bothering me at work. Now, daily, I have times where the anxiety is so acute that I have to leave my office for a walk to get through it.

In the beforetimes, I knew how to smile from the heart. In the beforetimes, I knew joy and laughter, and I took it all for granted. Now, it hurts to smile, and all joy and laughter are either absent or muted.

In the beforetimes, life was full of color. Now it’s just gray and dark.

In the beforetimes, we had no idea of what was waiting around the corner. In the beforetimes, life was just going to continue the way it was going.

In the beforetimes, I would be hugging my kids and they would not be off fighting a war. In the beforetimes, I would be breathing Israel’s air – for Israel is the only place where I feel I can breathe properly – and feeling settled for the first time in a while. In the beforetimes.

In the beforetimes, before Hamas completely turned our world on its head, and massacred and kidnapped and did horrible things to our people, we could not have dreamt such evil could ever happen again to our people. In the beforetimes.

In the beforetimes, I was so proud of my former soldiers, with how they built up their lives to be regular Israeli citizens. In the beforetimes, their army reserve duties were just that – duty, and then they were over. In the beforetimes, I did not have two soldiers fighting a war and out of contact with me and the outside world. In the beforetimes, I didn’t have to turn away from social media as it reported another soldier’s death and I heard a mother’s heart shatter.

The beforetimes are no longer. Israel is at war. My kids are soldiers in this war, my friends’ kids, my relatives and their kids — everyone has someone fighting this war. Those not fighting are running for shelter with rockets soaring over their heads.

I wish I had realized that the beforetimes would not last. I would have made the most of them. But I sit here and weep, feeling completely devastated and useless and afraid for the future. In the beforetimes, I always knew when I was next going to see my children. It’s now been a year and my arms ache to hold them, and my heart hurts with the knowledge that so many mothers will never be able to hold their soldier children again and I pray, selfishly, that that won’t be me.

In the beforetimes, I was never this scared. In the beforetimes, I never prayed this much. In the beforetimes, I took my safety and the safety of my family for granted.

The beforetimes have ended. October 7, 2023. The end of an era, the beginning of war.

About the Author
HaDassah Sabo Milner is a Welsh Jew who lives in Monsey NY. She is a writer and a blogger and a lifelong foodie, and works in the local court's system. She's married with four sons who provide her with much fodder for her writing projects. HaDassah's oldest son made aliyah in Aug 2013, and her second son joined him in July 2014. Son #3 made Aliyah in August 2016 .Son #4 is a volunteer EMT and an entrepreneur and has no plans currently for aliyah.
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