The Lasting Aftereffects of an Unimportant War

I adopted my son when he was nearly three. He was not Israeli – I am. I brought him to this country hoping that I could give him a better life and promise him a good future. He was abandoned at birth and considered neurologically crippled, and I hoped I could offer him love and protection and safety.

But then reality hit, and things I could tolerate for myself became so much harder to tolerate. For some time now I have felt at times unbearable guilt for having adopted him. It has a source of great angst. Sometimes I do not sleep at night thinking about it. My son has many health issues that were untreated. He has difficulty synthesizing calcium and his bones were weakened, and most of his teeth fell out when he was three. I have helped him find medical treatment for that condition. He had other medical problems which would have stunted his growth and were potentially crippling. I have helped him with those issues too. He has language delays and struggles greatly with reading. It is an ongoing process to help him.

But, on the other hand…I have unintentionally caused him great suffering and I have endangered his life. There, I said it. People have claimed that the war with Hamas was a nothing – a joke. Internationally it was considered that Israel’s actions were so much more dangerous that any effect on Israel was as nothing. The so-called war was a mere bagatelle. In terror attacks, international newscasts constantly emphasize the death of Palestinians and largely overlook the terrorism itself, as if it were minor. Everything is minor because only for the Palestinians is fear serious, is murder serious. Nothing really serious or terrible happens to Israelis. Nothing terrible is terrible when Israelis are the victims, since they cannot actually be victims. The resistance makes murder a powerfully good act, in fact. It is not wrong, or cruel.

And yet this bagatelle was the reason that my son wet his bed for a year after Hamas bombed Israel with hundreds of bombs. He had nightmares and still has them to this date. My son would wake up crying and screaming. I would change his bed three times a night. I found that I could not afford to run the dryer so I used towels when I ran out of sheets. I used tablecloths. I used my robe, I used my coat on the mattress. The mattress smelled and I couldn’t always wash it or there would be nothing to sleep on. I am still sleeping next to him on a small mattress on the floor.

I had to throw away my own bed as he slept on it several times and it smelled horrible and there was no way to get the smell out. It is painful to sleep on the floor but I can’t fit a bigger mattress in his room. I have tried to sleep nearby on the sofa and sometimes that is OK. But sometimes it isn’t.

My son was scared that I would die for quite a while. He asked for over a year what would happen if I die. Who would take care of him? We discussed this quite a bit. I tried to reassure him that my family would be sure to take care of him. I took it seriously. I asked him to choose who he would want to live with. I asked his choice if they would be willing to assume responsibility for him if something did happen to adopt him.

But I also just accepted it, which in some ways is crazy. I saw article after article in the news about Palestinian kids being afraid of the Israeli army, of Palestinian families suffering from unemployment, from uncertainty, from fear. I just accepted that my son was just another Israeli kid who no one had to care about. Not important at all. Who cares if Hamas and their crazy hatred affects an Israeli kid. Israeli kids aren’t human and important and no one has to care about them.

My son has been run crying out of his class to ask me not to leave, starting this school year. It is something new in terms of his fear of losing me. He asks me to stand outside his school in case he needs to see me. But I can’t. Again, nobody cares. The world couldn’t care less. It was only today, when I read an article about a father complaining that his sons were wetting their beds and that the power outages in Gaza were the cause, and describing what it’s like to rummage in the dark to find replacement clothes, that I suddenly wondered how I had thought this was at all acceptable.

How is it acceptable that my son would suffer then and still suffers so much? Why don’t I see articles about the horrible lasting effects of Palestinian support for murdering Jews? I’m furious that my son’s suffering is a matter of complete indifference. I’m furious that where I to mention this ongoing issue in some peace-making forums, I would be described as unbalanced, and seeking to play a “card” of some sort, as if it was all a game that I am playing for my own personal enjoyment, and not at all about the wrong done to a little human being who is growing up with lingering terrors.

Was I wrong to adopt him? Did I in the final analysis do him harm? I hope not. I just know that my son’s suffering is NOT acceptable. The hatred Hamas and many Palestinians have for Jews, the total assumption of rights to murder, the assumption that “resistance” is holy, no it is NOT acceptable. I am sick and tired of the widespread indifference to such things and acceptance of what is cruel and wrong.

My mother’s family came from Tzfat, then in northern Palestine. They left in the 1910’s, fearing for their children’s lives. They moved to Romania and nearly all perished in the Holocaust. Must I do the same as them? Leave my homeland for my children’s sake?

It’s all so wrong. Yet it seems as if the whole world has come to agree that Israelis are worth nothing and there is no meaning to the pain of Israeli children, or Israeli adults. How anyone can assume it is right leaves me baffled and disgusted. But that does not change anything. I am just another worthless Israeli, and I have made my son one too.

About the Author
Rachel Bell considers living in Israel a challenge, as is writing for a living for over 20 years. Her family, from Tzfat and later Tel Aviv, left her a legacy of commitment to the project of self-determination and indigenous self-actualization called Israel.
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