Shoshana Goldstein-Nissenbaum

The Price of Freedom

photo credit unsplash
photo credit unsplash

It takes tremendous courage to be willing to pay the price for freedom whether it’s national or personal.

The narrative unfolding in our war against terrorism, specifically the recent attacks by Hamas, bears a striking resemblance to the dynamics of abuse experienced by many of my clients. In marriages where abuse becomes a ‘normal’ or regular occurrence, the very existence of the entire family is put in jeopardy. This parallels the situation we face as a nation in the constant and current threats posed by Hamas.

Prof. Rally Hershkowitz, of Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva, in a recent interview, talked about the trauma of October 7th. She noted that at a certain point she realized this was not a ‘normal attack’. She then commented, “That’s an oxymoron, to speak of an attack as ‘normal’.

The very frequent rocket attacks in the south of Israel for the last 20 years have become ‘normal’. The residents of Sderot, Ashdod, Ashquelon and all the smaller cities and yishuvim bordering the Gaza strip, have had to routinely run to the protection of bomb shelters as the screaming sirens warn of an incoming rocket. Tragically, suicide bombings and stabbings all over the country have become commonplace.

The government has repeatedly declared that these attacks will not be tolerated, and yet, the assaults on our nation have continued. The Oslo Accord signed in 1994, was designed to ‘solve’ the problem. Yet, instead, it yielded unimaginable success for our enemies in the physiological battlefield. It initially promised peace, but paradoxically fueled internal conflict and confusion.

In the trend strengthened by these ‘peace accords’, instead of Hamas being identified as the enemy, those speaking up against the “peace process” have become the enemy. For almost twenty years Israel has suffered continuous gas lighting. In the global arena, Hamas, and all the groups that support it have taken on the role of victims while anyone who questions their status is called insane.

The similarity between the individual abusive relationship and national abusive relationship lies in the normalization of aggression, where the offending party consistently escalates the level of harm. This creates a perilous and unsustainable environment. We become used to the actions that occur frequently. A terrible byproduct of this normalization then emerges. Just as citizens who demand an end to these aggressive actions by our enemies have been labeled as extremists and against peace, the victims of domestic abuse are often dismissed or stigmatized when seeking help.

The script of our national narrative is eerily similar to an abusive relationship in a marriage. The abuser slowly raises the bar of tolerance for the victim. The attacks begin with condescending behavior, dismissiveness, humiliation, threats and scapegoating which all become part of the ‘normal’ exchanges. The victim may convince the abuser to go to therapy. On the advice of the therapist, boundaries may be set. If the abusive spouse crosses a certain behavioral line the victim will file for divorce.

Usually, these ‘boundaries’ are as vulnerable as the border between Gaza and Israel – hurt being just a stone throw (or rocket launch) away. The abuser will continue to raise the bar of tolerance, keeping the victim locked into the marriage. Logical arguments abound; staying together for ‘the sake of the children’ or ‘the mizbayach sheds tears when a couple divorces.’ The abuser ‘digs tunnels’ that penetrate into the heart of the victim hurting them where it hurts the most.

An abused person may turn to family and friends for help, giving them a place to express their pain, and receive compassion and good advice. But for too often, the supportive family aids the abuser without realizing it. They encourage the victim to try and be a better spouse. They may not accept what they’re hearing and accuse the victim of exaggerating or being too sensitive. Some of my clients’ family members have told them not to react. To take a course in shalom bayis or find a certain segula for shalom bayis. Others have told victims to consider the awful effects exposing the abuse will have on the children, and of course how divorce will prevent a child’s ability to get a shidduch. These threats (which may be given under the guise of love and advice) only exacerbate the abuse and the pain that it comes along with.

In marriages where abuse, whether physical, emotional, or financial, becomes normalized, the entire family’s existence is jeopardized. Divorcing an abusive spouse, who will most likely persist in their harmful behavior even during ‘peaceful’ negotiations, is an act of bravery worthy of a medal.

And as we have all experienced since October 7th, war is not easy. There is a price to pay, a heavy and exultingly painful one. I have three sons in the army, and I know that every second of this war their lives are at risk. But what I also know is that every second, they are not on the battlefield, the existence of the Jewish nation is at risk.

The parallel between the personal and the national underscores the significance of courage in the face of adversity.

It takes tremendous courage to be willing to pay the price for freedom.

About the Author
Wife, mother, grandmother and Toenet Rabbanit (a legal advocate) and licensed mediator, Shoshie is one of only a handful of chareidi women who represents clients exclusively before the rabbinic courts in Israel. To reach out for a free consultation - or
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