Yosefa (Fogel) Wruble

The day we didn’t die

I have never been so frightened as I was this past motzei Shabbat/Saturday night. It felt like a throwback to my first two labors: wracked with fear, highly nauseous, with a body that couldn’t do much other than lie down shaking or run to the bathroom.

Should I wash all the shabbat dresses? What’s the point if we won’t be around to wear them again?

I kept feeling like I was in a movie; imagining shards of grass shattered on the clothing hanging in the laundry room.

But I washed and hung.

I folded.

I clung to the minutia of daily life because I had nothing else to cling to. I told my husband as we lay down in bed and waited for our lives to end, that if we died it would be okay. I felt an internal calm even though my heart was racing. We created a beautiful family, I worked in a field I love with all my heart, in a land I love with all my heart. In a land worth dying for. We would join so many Jews who died al kiddush Hashem, and while I will personally never be remembered, I felt confident I had done my very best. As I heard the planes overhead and later, booms outside our windows, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude for the men and women in the sky and on the ground trying to keep us alive. I cried for the men, women, and children praying that their loved ones would return to them on Sunday morning, for those who knew they might not. There was a love and respect pulsing through my veins alongside the electric fear keeping me awake.

The dissonance between the existential fear of that night and the banality of the morning after was shocking. At 8:30 a.m., bracing for a day with all my children whose various activities had been cancelled the night, I went for an exercise walk to give my sleepless body a boost. As I walked around the neighborhood with light weights in my hands, people were cleaning their cars for Pesach. Did we all almost just die? Is this what the day after yom ha-din looks like? Aside for being unable to function without sleep, I felt like I was stuck in whiplash for 24 hours. In a matrix between near-death and pre-pesach Pleasantville.

The strange thing about living through a protracted war is that it’s hard to gain insight into its events. We keep being bombarded with more threats, murders, and atrocities making it hard to come up for air. Inaccurate news reports and every third person expressing themselves on social media has heightened the inner chaos. It is only now with work slowed before Pesach, that I’ve had a few moments to process. I cry while I wipe cabinets, listening to tribute songs to soldiers and victims of terror; philosophically waxing as I clean up our backyard shed. It sounds awful, but it’s likely the healthiest few days I’ve experienced in the past few months.

Not being the wife of a (current) miliumnik, in a close circle to someone who has been killed, or the mother of a solder, I have assumed a position of quiet humility during the past six months. I’ve supported friends grieving for loved ones, made meals for others with no husband home for months on end. It’s one step removed, but it also leaves a mark. Upholding a family during such horrors, working a regular job and trying to support students experiencing the same horrors at a different stage of life. We are all carrying so much. It is only as I take a brief pause from my usual activities that I find myself able to unload some of the burdens. Through tears, through quiet walks, through questions, through hugging my 11-month-old son whose pure goodness has been one of the few salves during this time.

Putting aside the daily, Israeli reality of mourning, loss, and over-functionality, there is one aspect of these wars (there really are three going on at the same time…) that has left me feeling broken:

I feel abandoned by the world.

The world’s support for Israel — if it exists at all — is qualified, contextualized, and compromised. When I woke up after two hours of sleep on Sunday morning to read that the American president opted out of the opportunity to make a world-changing statement in the name of Western democracy, I was crestfallen to say the least. What will be with a world that cannot distinguish between good and evil? Between terrorism and freedom fighters? The dissonance between unimaginable internal strength surrounding me daily and western leaders’ inability to take a clear stand again evil has drained years of vitality and optimism in just six months’ time. Israel stands alone—with all its flaws and aspirations — among a sea of enemies and no one is willing to unequivocally stand with us. Israel stands on the front lines of a war that has already reached their doorstep, but they refuse to recognize this.

This afternoon I bought two beautiful plants for my bedroom. Perhaps in a few weeks, things will look brighter, but as a realistic citizen of Israel, I know we have months ahead of war, loss, likely attacks, and navigating work and family life through it all. I cannot change the world, but in the current moment I cling to nurturing — my children and my plants — praying that one day their world will look better than the one that currently surrounds me.

About the Author
Dr. Yosefa (Fogel) Wruble is a 'ramit' in the Migdal Oz women's beit midrash, hosts a weekly podcast for Matan, and is a lecturer at Herzog College. Yosefa serves her community as a Nishmat-certified yoetzet halakha. She publishes Torah-themed articles online and in print.
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