Rachel Gottlieb

Israel at War: The Little Things

A sign in Ben Gurion Airport reminding us, even as we leave, that we are one (October 22, 2023) (Photocredits: Author)

I thought it was Wednesday this morning. From the moment I woke up at very early o’clock (jet lag ftw) until about five hours later when I was finishing shacharit, I was firmly under the impression that it was Wednesday. Which is a problem, because I start work about an hour and a half earlier on Tuesday than I do Wednesday, and by the time I realized it wasn’t Wednesday, I was already late. It’s also a problem because it’s always a problem when you think it’s closer to Shabbat than it actually is. (You all know exactly what I’m talking about.)

The truth is, I had a really hard morning. It wasn’t just that I had my days mixed up. It was…rough. Really, really rough. I found that also in the first week of the war, to be honest. It wasn’t until the fifth morning of war that I didn’t wake up in tears and that it would take a couple of hours to settle myself to be able to function. Today, though. That was so hard.

Because when I woke up this morning, I forgot that I had come back to the States. When I woke up, I thought I was still in Israel. But then the bed felt wrong. And everything was off. And then I remembered. Do you know what a gut punch it is to realize that? Let me describe it for you: It’s the type of blow that leaves you gasping for air. Nobody had physically punched me, but I felt like someone had because I couldn’t catch my breath because when I woke up I was still in Israel and then suddenly I wasn’t. My heart hurt so much to be so far away that it was all I could do to breathe and make sure that oxygen was still reaching my vital organs.

And it was hours before I could really breathe again. Hours. And even though I went through most of the motions of a healthy morning routine, I was far from present. (It makes working out uniquely challenging. Especially as you’re, oh, I don’t know, doing push-ups and your depth perception isn’t known for being excellent on a good day and then you’re not paying such careful attention and the next thing you know your nose is very much in the floor. Good times.) There’s something about mornings, though, that just make them so hard, almost like the reverse of a physical ailment. You know how when you’re sick, you feel best right after you wake up, because your body is refreshed and ready for a new day? And that the end of the day is when you feel worst because that’s when you’re completely worn down? And you need to recharge? Yeah. It’s the exact opposite now. Instead of feeling best when I wake up, that’s when I feel the worst. That’s when I feel least able to handle the challenges that lie ahead of me. That’s when I feel the most overwhelmed at the thought of facing the day. That’s when I can’t handle it. And it takes a long, long time to get myself right enough that I can go through those motions without it breaking me. Because when I’m in that state, the smallest, littlest, most insignificant things are enough to set me over the edge.

But, as it turns out, it’s also the little things that give me that support that I need. The little things that come from the important people in my life. Like the fully supportive response from my boss this morning when I texted her that I was completely mixed up. Or the phone call with a friend as I drove to work, because I still didn’t feel like I could face the day, and we didn’t talk about anything of any significance, but it was enough to make me smile and laugh and start to find myself again. Or the fact that my other boss took note of the fact that I said last night that I miss hummus and pita, and she showed up with some authentic hummus and a hot pita for me. Or another friend just texting me periodically throughout the day to see how I was holding up.

Moments like that remind me what it means to be part of the Jewish people. Moments like that remind me what it means to be part of a greater whole. I’ve got great people in my life, and I am so blessed to have them in my life, and I see it manifesting especially now as they see what I am going through and they see that I can’t do this on my own and they put in that supportive scaffold to help me shore up the cracks until such time as I can be whole again. And that’s really microcosmic of am yisrael. We’ve got our cracks. Right now, there are a lot of them, in the form of over 1,400 who died and over 200 who are captured and are still in Gaza. And right now, we can’t survive without that scaffold. If we pull down the scaffold, if we pull down that support, we will shatter. And so we stand as one. Shouldering everyone’s pain. Standing side by side with our brothers and sisters. Supporting however and wherever we can. Praying and praying some more. Because that’s who we are. We are a unit. And we support each other when the little things become too big to handle.

Am I okay right now? Not really. I have my moments, but not really. And it’s going to take time—plenty of it—before I get to the point where I can  wake up and I am simply ready to face the day, to not first have to climb a mountain to get to that point. But even when I do get to that point? I’ll still lean on the people around me. And I’ll reciprocate, however I can, not because I owe it to them, but because that’s what it means to be part of a community that is more than just you. That’s what being a member of the Jewish people is about.

It is the little things that throw me over the edge, yeah. But it’s also the little things that put me back together. And it will be the little things that put us, as a people, back together, with gold painting over what was the deepest of cracks that is now shored up, highlighting each and every one of the little things that add up to a whole that is greater—so, so much greater—than the sum of its parts.

Please continue to pray for us, and for the following soldiers, especially:
עזרא צבי יוסף בן אריאלה פנינה
יעקב זכריה בן אריאלה פנינה
אליהו סִינַי בן ביילא רבקה
נַתַּן בן דבורה אסתר
דוד אלכסנדר בן דבורה אסתר
אלכסנדר בן שרה אלישבע
ראובן אליעזר בן אביגיל אסתר
בועז כָּלֵב בן יפָה מרים
יצחק אייזיק בן פריידא
אהרן בן רחל ברכה
חובב בן דבורה אסתר

כי ה׳ אלקיכם ההולך עמכם להלחם לכם עם אויביכם להושיע אתכם. ה׳ ישמור צאתך ובואך מעתה ועד עולם

About the Author
As a combination logophile and Israel-o-phile, Rachel's fingers itch whenever something needs to be shared about Israel, particularly as it relates to the Diaspora. Her credentials include a Master's in English and many years experience as a high-school English teacher, which covers the writing part, and being a card-carrying member of the Jewish nation, which covers the Israel part. Although she currently resides in Suffern, NY, her heart has long since been stolen by Israel herself, and her mind is constantly preoccupied with the capital of the Jewish people.
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