I let myself cry today. I walked away from my 8-year-old daughter and put my head on my friend’s shoulder and wept.
It took me a week to allow myself to cry. A week to only begin to comprehend the devastation — because no one can ever truly comprehend.
The tears come in waves. I put on a strong front for my children, but my husband keeps asking me if I’m okay. And then I look at the faces surrounding me and understand that I must look like everyone else — in a house of mourning.
No one is ever really smiling. The carefree smiles that should come naturally are gone: Sure, they smile at their children or at the sight of a good friend, but their lips are quivering and their eyes are bleak. No one is okay.
We are the lucky ones: our community wasn’t destroyed, our children can sleep safely in a bomb shelter, we know where our loved ones are.
But my Facebook feed is filled with pictures of smiling children who are now dead; Stories of heroes who were killed while saving strangers at a rave party; Parents pleading to release their children from Hamas; Soldiers who fought and died so that we could live.
Saturday morning, I ran to our bomb shelter with my sleeping 4-year-old in my arms. Our friends had finally come to visit us from the North for the holiday and they too had run to our shelter with their children. I wrapped a sheet from the mattress in the shelter around me — I hadn’t had time to find proper attire. My first thoughts were annoyance that Hamas chose the one morning when all my children had slept beyond 6 a.m. And then I was annoyed that school would be cancelled the next day after a two-week holiday vacation. Later, after reading the news, I would go to bed wishing to wake up with yesterday’s trivial concerns.
Two days later, I found myself listening to a webinar about how to talk to children about war. And then I sat with each child ages 8, 6 and 4 and told them that we are at war and that there will not be school for the near future. I explained to my eldest that some people have died and that this war took the country by surprise- the likes of which have not been seen for 50 years. I reassured her that Hamas is no longer in our country and that our soldiers will protect us, as will the bomb shelter and iron dome.
I told my children what they needed to know and no more because children cannot comprehend the whole truth. I cannot comprehend the whole truth:
Babies burned alive, women raped, parents murdered in front of their children, babies hid in a closet while their parents were abducted, mothers led to captivity with their babies in their arms, hundreds of teenagers gunned down at a party, the elderly led to Gaza by foot.
There are too many horror stories to read, and they are all too reminiscent of the Holocaust. Except that they happened less than 40 kilometers from my home just over a week ago.
So, the answer is no. We are not okay.
I hug my children tighter. I am grateful that they can wake me up at the crack of dawn. I try to give them some certainty in the face of a nightmare. I try not to crumble. I try to stay strong.
But today, I let myself cry.