Talya Woolf


It’s almost six months since the invasion. Since the murders, rapes, torture, atrocities.

And we are broken.

I haven’t had the strength or emotion to write for a while. I had no words. Even thinking about it was a non-starter. I wasn’t feeling anything.

This morning, I had breakfast with a new friend, someone who we wanted very badly to be a speaker at the innovation summit next week that I’m helping to organize. He couldn’t make it to Israel next week, but here was here until this afternoon. So I got up early, before my kids awoke, and drove down to Tel Aviv by 8am.

Most of the time, I never turn on the radio. I don’t want to hear bad news, and recently, I haven’t had the mental energy to listen to Hebrew in a constant stream. This morning, on my way down to Tel Aviv, I turned it on and music streamed out. Sad music. Wrenching music by a soprano that may or may not have originally been about the war, but either way – it was now.

A tear leaked out. A crack formed in the carefully erected wall that surrounded my heart.

I kept driving and wiped away the unexpected tear. Missed my turn for the hotel parking while gazing lovingly at the Mediterranean, the rolling wood constructed along the length of the beach, the Israelis walking, jogging, skating.

I drove another 150 meters, turned left, and parked the car underground, not caring how much the charge would be for only an hour.

It was a beautiful day in Tel Aviv. A few clouds, a lovely breeze, the perfect temperature, too early for bright sun. It was a slight uphill to the hotel and it felt good on my legs as I walked and steered to my right. I entered the hotel, headed to the elevators, and ended up on the 18th floor.

The first thing I did when I met him for the first time was repay the hug he had wanted from a different Israeli friend of his. And we chatted. We filled our small plates at the breakfast buffet, poured hot cafe hafuch into our little cups, grabbed a couple fruits, and sat down at the table, with the sun and the sand to our west.

We talked about the war first, how we were each doing. And I started tearing up again, ever so briefly. He shared with me how it was also hard for Jews on the other side of the world, living with the same torture for six long months. I say Jews because I didn’t yet know he was Israeli, that he had come here in ’73 to volunteer to fight, only to be sent to a kibbutz to help, that his wife is Israeli, that he lived here for years.

There are people in life with whom you connect – that your soul recognizes from a previous life, perhaps. I certainly didn’t expect that this morning. But we talked more. And realized we had a couple people in common – only one degree of separation this time (Jewish geography and all). As our hour of breakfast closed, and I had to leave for a meeting, I was sad. Sad that my new friend was going, my old friend whom I had just met.

I took about three more hugs from him, that he willingly gave. Promised we’d be in touch. We bid farewell and I walked away, toward my car. On my way, covering those 250 meters or so, I passed a sign for kidnapped Orion Hernandez.

Photo credit: Talya Woolf

I drove north again, this time toward my office. Passed open parks where there was graffiti in memory of the murdered friends who had gone to the south, others saying they’d wait for them to come home. I continued driving, passed an electronic parking lot sign that flashed “Yachad Nenatzeach” (together we will win) on and off. On and off.

Photo credit: Talya Woolf

Drove by another sign in the middle of a boulevard.
איך אני?
אני בסדר – אתה יודע
כמו כולם

How am I?
I’m okay. You know…
Like everyone.

The crack became wider, and I started feeling for the first time in months.
And I thought – as my heart broke and the flood of despair washed over me – Tel Aviv is the saddest city. Depressing despite the cheery and lively exterior. A fresh, hastily painted coat of white covering an old graying wall.

It’s much too easy to recall the heaviness and despondency that sits inside of Tel Avivis, inside of all Israelis around the world. We keep moving forward, step by step by reluctant step, because we have no other choice. We have nowhere else to go.

I don’t know what triggered it. Perhaps it was water torture.

The song on the radio.

The really good hugs.

Two old friends reconnecting.

A good meal overlooking the edge of Israel.

I don’t know.

And I couldn’t say for certain if I’ll stay this way. But I know that I’ve cried more tears today than I have in a while. The kind of tears that sneak out while you’re driving, even more while I put my children to sleep, snuggling each one until they fell asleep.

There’s nothing more peaceful in life than watching a child sleep. Running your hand over their hair with their eyes gently closed, their breathing even and calm, their fingers relaxed so that you can curl them around your hand. Kissing them on their cheek, skin so soft it feels like nothing at all. Whispering, “I love you” in their ear. Lingering in their room, listening to the quiet love that tucks them in throughout the night. Thinking of those who will never have this again, who had it stolen from them. Who should have had this.

We are broken.

But maybe one day, we will find a way to find as many of our broken pieces as we can, paint our jagged edges with glue, reassemble the shards into something resembling a human being – more than several tiny pieces missing, of course – and paint over them with gold paint,

making something more beautiful than before.

About the Author
Talya Woolf is an eight-year Olah with four spirited children and a fantastic husband. She is a writer, American-licensed attorney, handgun instructor, amateur photographer, and artist. She is politically confusing, Modern Orthodox (though she doesn't dress the part), and ardent Zionist (ZFB). She enjoys spending time with family, friends, running, photography, and reading about highly contagious diseases and WWII.
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