the politics of life and death; peace and war

I don’t enjoy discussing politics, I don’t enjoy reading about them, I don’t enjoy any aspect of politics; I certainly don’t want to write about them.

Yet at this time, in this place, ignoring all politics is insensitive to the war raging to the west of where I live.

For the last two Friday nights, above the hum of air conditioning, we heard an almost constant “Boom, boom, boom!” Not hearing sirens we didn’t think much of it.

After dinner I went to my rooftop garden and continued to hear, more clearly, the repetitious “Boom, boom, boom!”

My neighbor’s kids were outside in their ground floor garden watching the sky and listening to the “Boom, boom, boom!”

Lights, akin to fireworks, were visible.

My husband suspected the city’s sirens broke. I imagined Beit Shemesh was under attack (being further west from Betar Illit) and the lights we saw were “Iron Dome” in action.

After Shabbas I called my sister in Beit Shemesh; she didn’t hear the “Boom, boom, boom!” but her children and neighbors listened to the “Boom, boom, boom!” of war all Shabbas.

Even before the war began — listening to the news, reading the news, skimming through FaceBook posts all began to make me feel paralyzed because in the spectrum of possible reactions to danger: fight, flight, freeze my default setting is “freeze.”

But I can’t afford to be frozen, I can’t afford to spend whole days and nights crying and praying (and I also can’t win the war) so I’m vigorously avoiding the news.

There’s a war. Men are dying. The funeral for an American Israeli soldier had 20,000 attendees. I’m crying. I’m mourning our losses. I’m simply doing my best to not cry and mourn all day long, everyday.

There’s an incredible unity among a nation generally divided into dozens of opinions. I’m proud of the young men fearlessly marching over their personal fears in the effort to keep our country (about twice the size of Los Angeles county) alive.

As a nation of priests we accept the responsibility of being held to a double standard. We surpass any and all expectations of a state under constant attack. We are unified and we are a kiddish Hashem (we are sanctifying G-d’s name). No one can defeat us in these circumstances.

During this war I see my responsibilities as specific and concrete actions: pray; be conscious of G-d’s constant participation in my life (mindful of my home, food on the table, my children, my husband, my health); write letters to our soldiers; buy pizza for our soldiers; buy underwear for our soldiers; find ways to visit our wounded soldiers; love my neighbors; love my children; love my husband; love myself; keep living and working; and TRUST, trust G-d.

That’s about it.

I’m not helpless but I can’t don a uniform and pick up a weapon and charge into the fray.

I wish I had the power to authorize a complete carpet bombing of Aza.

The world’s opinion means nothing to me, the lives of our soldiers (sons of my friends, husbands of my friends and soon my own children) aren’t worth sacrificing on the altar of public perceptions.

Our cousins in Hamas created a holy altar upon which we’ve unwillingly been offering sacrifices.

The men and women murdered for being Jewish, for being Israeli, each one is considered a pure and holy offering on the spiritual altar which exists until we are able to rebuild G-d’s altar in the Holy Jewish Temple.

So they seek to annihilate us at the same time they unite us and elevate our spiritual merit. To what end.

My aunt asks how I’m coping, how I’m living, how am I during this war.

The answer: I’m struggling with disabling lethargy (my default reaction being “freeze”) but most of my life is unaffected. My oldest boys and I are getting gardening work done and my youngest is going to science camp five days a week. My husband hasn’t changed his work or learning schedule.

We are doing our best to maximize the gift the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) offers us: LIFE.

That’s just what Israelis do.

Another thing we do: we say thank you.

With a war near enough to hear “Boom, boom, boom!” it’s impossible to not think about the men, some of them barely out of their parents’ homes, entering a war zone.

It’s impossible to not think about the beautifully flourishing garden of eden that existed in the Gazan Strip when Israelis lived there; how all of that serenity was transformed into a living hell our young men need to clear out — while the whole world watches and sits in judgement.

To My Dear Israeli Soldiers,

Thank you.

I’m certainly not judging you; you my other sons, the cousins I’ve never met, the fathers of the brides my sons will marry.

In stark contrast: I’m flooded with never-ending, overflowing gratitude because you are here, right this second. You are reclaiming our right to live in the holiest of places, you are reclaiming our right to live without rockets raining down, you are reclaiming our right to live as peaceful and peace loving people. You are fighting the fight I am unable to fight. You are fighting the fight I hope and pray ends all future fights.

Let’s all hope and pray this is it! Enough insanity! Let’s get it right; let’s be united in love and respect and trust; let’s agree we are different and we have our unique ways of serving G-d; let’s agree G-d loves and cherishes each one of us exactly the way we are so how can any one of us judge another; let’s see ourselves united, as ONE NATION, (and borrowing my American childhood) UNDER G-D.

There’s a deep relationship between peace and “ahavas chinam.”

What is “ahavas chinam?” (Unwarranted [free] love.)

How can love possibly be “free?”

Simply existing; the fact that G-d is constantly willing me and you into being seems to demand, seems to imply we are worthy of great love.

The current 2,000 years old exile started because we forgot the pulsing value of each person; we found reasons to loathe each other and our lack of unity, our willingness to hate “freely,” our jealousies, the lowest parts of our humanity all combined to destroy the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Today we are witnessesing an outpouring of love; an abundance of unity which fills me with hope.

When I moved to Israel 21 years ago I was certain a permanent end to war was imminent. When I was pregnant 17 years ago I was more certain we would soon live in a world of peace. And each year, as my sons grow older (and we discuss which army units they want to join), I’m more certain of impending PEACE.

I hear about the letters we write and I hear about how important our encouragement and gratitude are; perhaps you feel less lonely, perhaps you see us standing nearby cheering you on in this life and death game of politics.

And, suddenly, I understand a part of my childhood I never knew how to apply to real life.

Growing up in California I watched my mother, father, aunts and uncles, etc. scream and shout for their (American) football teams. Their enthusiasm baffled me.

Now, I get it!

I want to project the image of all of us screaming and whooping and yelling and stomping our feet because we want you to win!

We want you safe!

We want you to catch the pass and score the touchdown!

We want to carry you (alive and well) on our shoulders as we leave the field and grab a cold beer.

I get it!

Those ridiculous and foolish pre-game barbecues; time wasted speculating about who scores more points, who throws the ball further, who tackles with the most strength and so on.

This is where it makes sense to me: it’s a life lesson about how to help a hero tap into spiritual energy while surpassing the body’s physical limits.

You are WARRIORS (not fleeting athletes) battling a cruel enemy and my heart shouts and cheers and roars with words and sounds to help you feel uplifted, loved and appreciated.

I am thrilled to be on your team!

You are my heroes.

G-d bless you all to get in there, wipe out the away team, get out and get home.

About the Author
Adrienne was born in California. While attending university in Davis, CA she met her husband. He proposed within 36 hours and announced, "I'm moving to Israel." Adrienne (who never thought of living anywhere) said, "That sounds like fun." Within six months they moved to Jerusalem where she was able to continue her studies at Hebrew University. After four years they were blessed with twin boys and Adrienne became a full time mother. Today Adrienne works as a professional gardener in Jerusalem, teaches English (she calls it her "shmittah" job), assists with three day Imago workshops, writes material which seems inappropriate for the Israeli Charedi community (despite living in an intensely Israeli Charedi city) and manages to love, feed and clothe the four men in her life.
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