Zoe Singer

To whom it may concern

To whom it may concern,

Perhaps it’s the impending feeling that this was coming, somehow. Or perhaps it’s the awful familiarity of this. That I’ve been here before. That I’ve rehearsed this. That this grief is a practice my ancestors perfected and handed down. I’m built for having something taken from me. For being a victim, and rising against all odds. For rebuilding. For remembering.

To whom it may concern,

Perhaps it’s the knowledge that if things had been only a little bit different, if it was me who lived there instead of here, that they would have taken me too. Maybe it’s that disgusting game of would you rather that I play in my head (that we all play in our heads): to be taken or killed? Or maybe it’s the intrusive questions that I can’t quite shut out: which photo would they use for my poster? My sister’s? My mother’s? Maybe it’s that I can’t help but reflect every story I read onto the people I know.

To whom it concerns,

How do I express the extent of my disappointment with the world? How can I possibly articulate my helplessness? Because, you see, I do not have the luxury of giving up. I am only 21, and this is the world I have inherited. Od lo avdah tikvatenu: our hope has never been destroyed. Maybe it’s because we didn’t have the luxury of losing it. I cannot lose hope, because I have not yet lived.

But, to whom it should have concerned:

Why did you leave the world like this to me? When I was 6 you taught me to be curious. You asked me to be open minded. You taught me about empathy and conversation. You punished me if I resorted to violence. You told me that I have two ears and one mouth so that I can listen twice as much as I speak, and to listen to my friends, even if I disagree. You told me that sharing is caring.

Why didn’t you hold yourself to the same standards? Did you put that pressure on me because you knew that one day your mistakes would overwhelm you – and here we would be? Because now it’s me – us, we are still children – we are cleaning up your mess. We are fighting your wars. We are being taken hostage. We inherited this from you. You were the adults and you were supposed to lead by example. You didn’t.

To whom it concerns,

I’m sorry I blame the adults for their mistakes. For their lack of guidance. Please have empathy for me because I am actually very far away. I feel the pain of loss and death as if it is in the house next to me, I watch the videos and read the stories and listen to the parents cry and am as traumatized as if they live across the road, as if I’ve known them my whole life. But my capacity to do anything has been reduced to a double tap, to a share button, to a comment. I’ve watched as my world has shrunk into an echo-chamber, which we collectively scream into, louder and louder and louder. Hoping it will expand. It is only becoming ear-splitting noise.

May it fucking concern you.

Because my people have been taken hostage. Today marks 25 days since. There’s so many of them that I don’t even know their names. And no amount of money that I send or prayers I say or mitzvot I do is going to save them today. Because I am overwhelmingly aware of this incapacity. Because I am regretfully placing my hope and faith and anticipation in the same people that got us into this mess, to get us out of it. And it’s been 25 days. How has it been 25 days?

I hope you are concerned.

We are. All of us. Will you help me understand why it is that in times of such pain that we feel so strong? That when we are beaten to the ground, when our hearts break and our eyes leak and our skin bleeds, that this is the moment we discover our power, our unity? There has been a dreadful beauty in the past few weeks too; our community banded together and wrapped every action and rally and fundraiser and hug with desperation and love and love and love. But what is it about the human condition that seems to require this? We speak about learning from our mistakes and we don’t. We try to never forget and say never again so that we can gain what our ancestors lost so much for, and yet.

To whomever you are,

Perhaps it is that I cycle through all these emotions by 10 a.m., and by that point I am exhausted. That the world didn’t stop over here. That sometimes when I laugh I feel guilty but other times I don’t. Is the trade-off between safety and helplessness a worthy one? And still, why am I upset when those around me choose despair? Is despair a choice? I do not know.

To whom it may concern,

It is all red. It is anger and it is hate and it is pain and it is also love. It is blood. It is fear and terror. It is also orange and yellow and pink and fire. It is burning. It is strength and it is unity and it is togetherness and it is war. It is gunshots. Massacre. Birthdays and babies and beheadings. It is gold and green and brown and dirt coated boots that dance because there is nothing left to do. It is gifts and tourniquets and duct tape and meals sent from around the globe. It is prayers that wind their way up to heaven, thick with tears and glinting with silver threads of hope. It is black and it is dark and it is suffocating. It is rape. It is trying and failing not to watch the videos. It is a father wondering if his child’s glasses are broken, his child: snatched, ripped, taken. Can they see? Should they see? It is a mother who screams for her family. It is the blackness of waiting. The shadows of anticipation. It is dread. It is brutality. It is a nightmare.

To you,

Can you tell me how we will get out of this? Things only seem to be getting worse. How can it get worse? A life is a life is a life. We are becoming careless with this. Wasteful. We have begun to quantify life on how they were killed or by who’s hand or what their plans were or if they deserved it. I am not sure if anyone, really, deserves it. I know that I am a complicated person so I assume everyone is. Is anyone going to be patient enough to stop and listen and talk? Are we beyond that? Perhaps. Perhaps we are because now the stakes are too high. There are so many depending on us. But will we bleed and die until someone wins? Blood is blood is blood. It is not up to us to compare this pain. Death is death. I am bored of this fight, this argument, this game. If the game is played with life, can there really be a winner, anyway?

To whom it may concern,

Please don’t get upset, because I am going to contradict myself. As much as I wanted to end by asking you why we play this game with life, I will not. Instead I will tell you of how my friend reminded me of the history of Hatikva. She told me of the valley of dried bones and the hope that was lost, and yet, was not. I will tell you that we grew up together, waiting each day at the same bus stop, to go to our school where we learnt our language and our history and our traditions. That together we’ve shared a privilege of witnessing students bursting with Jewish pride, who wrestle with their heritage and find new ways to bring it into their lives. That last week and the week before we braided challah with hundreds of people from our community, twisting and knotting our strength into our dough. That we’ve said Tehillim every night, too. That my mother has spent the past few weeks working tirelessly to find the people who need help but might have been overlooked. That when I call my 85 year old Zaide who spent his life waiting to make aliyah and finally did, he laughs and tell me he is fine and then proceeds to complain about something entirely unrelated. That soon the weekend will come and I will light the candles and sing in synagogue and bless the wine and wash my hands and say the brachot and sit at the Shabbat table with my family, and we will laugh and maybe also cry but we will be there, enduring, together. That maybe I am practiced at being a victim and maybe I am angry at this mess which I am forced to face but mostly, I am ready. I will not be silent and together we will not choose despair. Od lo avda tikvateinu: our hope is not yet lost. It will not be destroyed. I refuse to let it be so.

About the Author
Zoe is a university student in Melbourne, Australia.
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