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The Day After

A picture came up on my digital frame the other day. My daughters blonde heads silhouetted against the backdrop of the Kotel at sunrise. We were at the early minyan davening of Hoshana Raba, in a little courtyard overlooking the Kotel whose white stones shone in a golden glow from the rising October sun. I remembered looking at the Kotel that morning bathed in her yellow rays and thinking to myself-wow , this really is Yerushalayim Shel Zahav. And then my thoughts went to how lucky we are to have the Kotel to daven at and how this is a relatively new phenomenon in recent history. And then I thought to myself, way back on that morning of October 6th, I thought, “Isn’t it interesting that we have the Kotel, we are able to stand here davening and singing these beautiful songs despite the fact that the world hated us and we were almost destroyed”. And here I was looking at a scene from The Day After. Yes, the day after. Because that is what our state is. It is the day after our almost annihilation of 8 decades ago.

And then, the very next morning we woke up. We woke up to a day whose repercussions were and still are unimaginable. The war began, fear grew and a feeling of the unknown ahead of us has never disappeared. The memories I have of that day and the days following are still fresh, still felt in the pit of my stomach. Not sleeping Saturday night, Amalia tossing and turning by my side, nauseated, unable to sleep herself, only finally falling asleep when we moved to the mamad cuddled together.

Driving Lior and two friends to their base in the south, Goldie at my side. Driving into a scene straight out of an apocalyptic movie, army cars and tanks the only vehicles on the road. Silence most of the way. Idan Amedi’s כאב של לוחמים came on the radio, Goldie yelling to turn it off. We drop them off. Say Good bye. I bless each of these boys going in. We don’t know what is going to happen. I sit in the car to give Goldie and Lior privacy to say goodbye. Together we watch them walk in. Three young boys. Lior looks back and waves. They go in willingly. Anxious to fight for the Jewish people.

On the way home we were quiet. We were so afraid. Afraid to mention what we were all afraid of. Death was palpable on the border of our country. We saw tanks driving on the grassy fields and hills leading to the south. We honked and waved. The little boy drivers of these huge vehicles waved back wildly.

We got home. Ruth’s friend had been killed. She was a wreck. Ruth’s smile was gone. Her eyes red. I thought we had lost her smile forever.

We invited Lior’s family for dinner. My attempt to reach out to parents who had just sent their son into a scary unknown. We went to the store to shop for ingredients. An attempted distraction for my girls. Standing near the freezer full of french fries Ruth and I just started crying. I hugged her tightly unable to squeeze out the horror. No one looked at us strangely. Everyone felt the same.

At home once more, we heard of an infiltration in the village Lior’s unit was in. One V on his phone. One V for so torturously long. We sat side by side on the couch, Goldie and I, and we said tehillim and we were numb. Nothing we could do. His family came and we had dinner. All of us pretending and smiling and trying to chat and trying to be distracted and all of us failing.

Goldie and Ruth and Amalia all slept together that night. Pushing the beds together. Three sisters physical closeness enabling survival of a deep black fear. That was the first of the Days After. Days go by. Work continues. Life continues. Somehow. Checking headlines. Dreaded headlines every morning. הותר לפרסום, a sentence everyone wished they could block from the world. Keeping busy. Planning a last minute crazy and beautiful wedding for a stranger. Signing up for milium. Going to funerals. Going to shivas. Looking at old pictures and text messages saved from years back. Life is surreal and unreal. No one outside can understand. No one outside can feel what we are feeling. But every message from friends and family, every query of how we are, how Daniel and Lior are, is so appreciated and all the love from far away felt so strongly. Even if we still feel alone.

Life continues forward. For some. Not for families of fallen soldiers or victims of October 7. Not for families of hostages. There is guilt in continuing to live some sort of a normal life.

Days pass, weeks pass, months pass. So much has happened and is happening. So much antisemitism out there in the rest of the world. So scary-what will be? Where will the world be in a month, a year or five? Once we spoke often of The Day After. I haven’t heard much about The Day After lately. Maybe because for the Jews it is always the day after. It doesn’t matter where we are in history. It doesn’t matter what is before us. It matters what is behind us. It matters that we don’t forget that. That we know that history repeats itself. That we know that history will repeat itself again. We are Jews. It is our story. It is our lot. So the day after happened. It happened many times. And maybe it will happen again. I hope. We went to Birkat Cohanim on chol hamoed this year. First time in 20 years. To avoid the crowds Ruth and I found ourselves on that same courtyard where it all began on October 6th. I started to cry. We had no idea. I thought I was safe and blessed. I thought the Jewish people were safe and blessed. We had a country . We had a Kotel. We had had our Day After. Silly me. Silly silly us. I don’t see or feel a solution or a happy ending in our future. But I guess neither did our grandparents in Auschwitz. I think about that a lot. Six years of hell. That is a long time. I try to remove myself from Time sometimes. A month to us is long but a month for Him is nothing. It is a second. Can I get through that way? Is it even a helpful thought? I don’t know. Thoughts swirl constantly.

All I know is that I want to go back. I want to go back to The Day After that was. I want to appreciate and feel as safe as I did on that long ago day of Hoshana Raba.

About the Author
Chani Turk made aliyah with her family in 2004. They have been living in Modiin ever since.