My 28th sleepless night.
I was never a particularly good sleeper, but since October 7th, I have not slept without meds. Last night I tried. It did not go well.
Like so many of us, I have images in my head I cannot erase. Images of a brutality that I only heard about from a Shoah that occurred decades before I was born. I could never imagine brutality like this in my lifetime. How could something so positively Medieval occur in this modern world? The images have seared my soul in such a way that I am having trouble moving forward.
If it was not entirely clear to us before, it should be now. We have only each other. The United States government has been as supportive as anyone could hope; however, dissension is but one election away. True reliability can only come from family. Right now, I crave family. That means, I want to be in Israel.
But getting there now is challenging. Most commercial airlines are not flying. But even if I could get there, my family would freak out. And what would I do when I got there? As a well-intentioned foreigner, I’d only be in the way. So, I am left to participate with my money and my pen.
I had a vacation planned last weekend in Spain. There is something pornographic about enjoying myself when my people are in strife. But how does abstaining from my plans help? So, with reservations, I went. But again, I did not sleep. I got up in the dark and walked to the sea. And there it was, sunrise.
Even in this dark moment of human history, the sun rises in a most spectacular way. Does that mean that I can enjoy a vacation while my people are being held hostage? While children of close friends are on the front-line battling evil? While I have continual nightmares of death and destruction? I don’t have clarity about this, but one thing is for sure, G-d shows up in amazing ways exactly when I need it.
Fifteen years ago, I started wearing my kippah full time. Since I eat vegetarian in non-kosher restaurants, wearing the kippah in those situations is problematic. So, I’ve taken to covering the kippah with a baseball cap. At first, I only wore it when revealing the Kippah was inappropriate. But after a while, the baseball cap became a fixture, part of my daily costume. However, since October 7, I do not want to shy away from my primary identity. Maybe it is pure defiance, but I want to brandish that kippah.
But showcasing my kippah in Spain is different. The kippah is a neon sign that often invites conversation; but in the case of Spain, it could easily invite conflict. Part of me wants it. You support Hamas? Bring it on, pal. But then again, maybe that would be idiotic, endangering myself and those around me.
One of the emails I got from my last article insisted I use my writing to make “them” understand the true history and reality of what Israel is going through. My response was they don’t want to understand. The facts are out there – they don’t want to know, and worse, they are so self-righteous, they attack and threaten before you can try to correct them. Is anything gained by pointing out the difference between 1,400 civilians brutally targeted, raped, pillaged and murdered versus civilians who are casualties because Hamas hides intentionally hides behind them? Is it really going to make a difference? Adding to my skepticism, the Israel Foreign Office sent out a message to all Israelis and Jews to be careful about outward signs of Judaism, warning that acts of terror and antisemitism were at all times high.
So, I kept the baseball cap on. But it didn’t help my sleep. And it didn’t help my Jewish pride.
At dinner one night, a woman noticed my kippah when I briefly took off my hat. She came straight over to me and said, “I want to talk to you about Israel.” I gulped. OK, here goes. She continued, “do you think that there is ever going to be a chance for peace over there.” I looked at her. She was sincere. And so, I answered with sincerity. “I honestly don’t know if there will ever be peace. But one thing I can tell you that I believe completely, the only possibility for peace will be from a position of Israel’s strength.” She thought about this for a second and then nodded. “I understand.” We continued to have a reasonable conversation.
Was this the sunrise again? Is this G-d giving me hope?
The next night, I flew back to Warsaw. My flight was late and I arrived after midnight. As I got into the taxi, my hat came off. My Belarussian driver looked over at me and spotted the kippah. He gave me a hard look. We drove for a while and then he turned back at me with intense eyes and broken English. “I-am-one-hundred-per-cent-wit-Israel.” He put his hand out and shook my hand.
Maybe this is the sunrise after all.