“No one will be the same after this,” wrote an Israeli friend of mine in a “How are you?” message in the second or third week of the war.
We are eight weeks into the war – ceasefire notwithstanding – and I fully believe my friend is right despite some trappings of normalcy which have returned over time. For example:
• Radio music which for weeks was restricted to the somber genre played on IDF Remembrance Day, Holocaust Memorial Day and Rabin’s Memorial Day, has been replaced by the rich variety as it was before the war — sounds of the ’70s and ’80s, contemporary Israeli, jazz, ethnic…..
• The first rains, the “yoreh,” have finally arrived and we have taken out our winter clothes and turned off the garden watering system.
• Schools have resumed regular schedules (universities not yet, as so many students and faculty are in the IDF).
• Some folks are taking vacation trips abroad, probably one of the best things to do to clear the head and the heart.
• Cultural events on hold since October 7th are back on stage.
• And, in the last few days, the ceasefire, which is probably temporary, has freed us from regularly hearing fighter planes overhead and to go out without thinking “What do I do if the sirens go off?”
These moments of normalcy are all good. They give strength and hope and provide stable ground to stand on. They reinforce much-needed positive parts of life. But they cannot make the anxiety, the anger or fear go away. Not for me, I doubt for anyone.
I am reminded of what we experienced during the COVID pandemic, but only to a point. As threatening as it felt –and truly was—thanks to effective new medicines, today it is almost “routine”; mostly a nuisance but not an “enemy.”
Unfortunately, a similar scenario cannot evolve here in the Middle East. There is no amount of science and technology that can prevent the degree of evil and hatred we have experienced.
Personally, I feel as if I have been put on hold both in my level of activity and emotionally. I am functioning fairly well but am less focused, much less busy than usual and more anxious. Speaking with others, I gather that this is par for the course. Recognizing that I need to move on, I have found two rewarding new activities — Qigong and volunteering at the local dog shelter. But repeated questions overwhelm us all – “When will it be over? What will bring its end? The return of all the hostages? The destruction of Hamas? “What happens the day after?” What about the seeming failure of Intelligence to pick up on what was developing for months? What are the implications for Netanyahu and his government? Will the rehabilitation, needed by those directly affected and millions like myself who are spared a personal connection but share the national loss, succeed?
Answers will come over time and we will continue to live our lives, but the backdrop will be different, as will we as individuals and as a society.
How will we be different? I really don’t know and I now realize that that is the very source of my anxiety- not knowing what the future will bring
So, today, Nov 30, my answer to the well-meaning question “How are you?” is “Trying to keep busy, trying to cry but not always being able to, avoiding news selectively, enjoying family, particularly the four grandchildren, and knowing that each day will somehow be a bit different and so will I.
I’ve begun to wear my red T-shirt inscribed with the slogan, “Same-Same, But Different” again. It has new meaning for me.
And now, I am off to the dogs!
I thank my dear friend Carol Novis for a few very valuable suggestions she made on my text.