Ariella Tenenbaum

No, we’re not OK

“How are you doing today? How are you guys holding up?” How can I possibly answer that question. We are physically safe for now. We are at home in Jerusalem. My children are too young to be serving in the army. My husband doesn’t have Reserve duty, so he is around. I feel guilty admitting that I spend many hours of the day feeling so not okay. There are thousands of families who have more rights than I do to feeling “not okay” – families of soldiers on active duty, families of reservists, families who lived through the absolute horrors that took place in the South, and relatives and friends of all the families and soldiers who didn’t live through it. Thousands upon thousands of people affected and mourning, but as it turns out, there is still enough “not okay” to go around.

In raising our kids in Israel, which is deeply wrought with a pervading sense of us and them (Jews vs Arabs, religious vs irreligious, charedi vs Zionistic, Right vs Left, etc) we always emphasize that no one group is all good and no one group is all bad. There can be rotten eggs anywhere, but for the most part, humanity wants to live and let live, and we just need to follow our own moral compass. How can I, in good conscience, continue to tell them that? I wish I could shelter them from knowing of the complete and utter barbarism that was carried out here just a few days ago. I wish I could have sheltered myself too. I don’t believe in lying to children, we told them the truth, the simplified truth, when we learned about what was going on “A large group of terrorists from Gaza managed to cross into Israel, they took control of several settlements. Unfortunately many people were killed, and some people were kidnapped and taken into Gaza. The army is bringing a lot of soldiers down there to get control back, and we are now at war.” This is not my children’s first rodeo. They know what terrorists are, they know what Gaza is, and they know what the air raid sirens we were hearing meant. But I naively pray that they’ll never have to know the facts of what really went on there, and never have to encounter such pure evil and hatred. I can handle navigating a whole slew of complicated existential questions from my kids, but when my sweet caring 8-year-old daughter turned to me one night and asked the simplest question of all “But why? Why do they hate us so much?”  I have no answer for her. She also asked why can’t we just share the area that they want, I told her we already tried that, and that’s how Gaza came to exist in the first place. Our family’s moral compass doesn’t work here.

Here we are, several days in, and we are still far from “okay”. I haven’t slept a full night sleep in days, I lay awake listening to fighter jets flying back and forth through all hours of the night. Between the knots in my stomach and the pit in my throat I have no appetite, I haven’t eaten a full meal in days. I try to put on a good face for my kids and sometimes I can disconnect from everything going on outside and move along with my life…until my ears start pulsing again from the sound of explosions in the distance. Will the next barrage be aimed at us? Where are my slippers and hoodie if we have to run out to the bomb shelter again? And my kids, they’re rockstars, they’re calm and collected and know exactly what to do when the siren goes off. They know to drop what they’re doing and go straight to the shelter. Even my 3-year-old daughter knows what to do, “Mommy, are the booms done yet?” But when my thoughts aren’t occupied by other distractions and dealing with my family’s needs, I am just consumed. Consumed by worrying about and praying for all the soldiers who are fighting on the front lines now. Soldiers who were like younger brothers to me growing up, soldiers who are loving sons of dear friends and neighbors of ours. Consumed by imagining the nightmare scenes unfolding.

We’re considered a “low danger” zone, so we have the maximum amount of time to get to a shelter if there is an air raid siren – 90 seconds. We can handle that, a 90-second sprint can get us pretty far, even with a toddler in tow. I think about all the families in the 15-second zones who probably haven’t left their shelters in days. The only way through this is through faith and support. I am a person of faith and I believe that G-d runs the world, something good will come of this, it is all part of a plan, and maybe the most crucial – it is all out of my hands. The only thing I am personally in a position to do is to pray, and pray, and pray and support the people around me. Everyone’s overwhelming desire to help is inspiring. A need arises and is filled within seconds. Families of reservists are getting home cooked meals delivered to their door as soon as they ask. Other families of reservists are getting care packages even if they don’t ask for them – because everyone wants them to know that we care, and no one is in this alone. People are willing to stand in line for hours on end just to donate blood. Carloads of treats, snacks, and supplies are being delivered to army bases all over the country to help raise soldiers’ morale, all the time.

Now it is a gorgeous, clear day outside. Maybe we’ll venture out to the park this afternoon to stretch our legs and get some fresh air. Then we’ll come home, look for something to make for dinner, throw in a load of laundry, and sit down to pray some more. Because even when you’re “not okay”, life moves on. We keep putting one foot in front of the other, and tomorrow will be a new day.

About the Author
Ariella Tenenbaum is originally from Venice, California, but now lives in Jerusalem with her husband and four children.
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