Maia Zelkha

Vehi She’amda, six months

Worshippers at the Western Wall, 1912. (Wikimedia)

Last weekend, my boyfriend and I barbecued steaks in his backyard while being warmed by a bonfire; we drank sour, freshly squeezed lemonade; upbeat music poured out of a speaker. That Shabbat, the food was mouthwatering. The weather was hot and rejuvenating; the whole family played a competitive game of soccer; we hiked along a trail that had exploded with wildflowers. Life, I thought— hot, melting, gorgeous, ethereal, joyful, open life; I am so lucky to feel this joy.  

But lately, too, I’ve begun to weep again like how I did at the beginning of the war. How is it that six months have passed? There was a time a few months ago when I read horror story after horror story and existed in a perfect state of numbness; numb enough to function while consuming the daily news and horror while still with the capacity to feel brief, paralyzing flashes of rage and grief. 

I don’t feel rage anymore; I just feel broken. There’s an ancient song of triumph and survival that we Jews have been singing for thousands of years; Vehi She’amda, “In every generatio​n they rise up against us to destroy us; But the Holy One redeems us from their hands.” 

I used to hear this song and my heart would flutter, my eyes would well; the line of how God will redeem us again and again pierced my soul. Now when I Iisten to it, my eyes still fill with tears— but it’s from a wild, confused grief that arises whenever I hear the line before, “In every generation they rise up against us to destroy us.” 

I confided in my boyfriend about this grief, this hatred that has haunted our peoplehood since its conception. “Why,” I sobbed, “Why do people hate us so much? Why do people want to kill us? Why do they celebrate when we’re murdered?” I felt overwhelmed with deep, generational grief when I thought of how the only reason my family was spared from the Holocaust was because they immigrated from Europe in the 1920’s, and how they changed their Jewish last name to a more “American” one, no doubt in an attempt to escape the rabid antisemitism that pervaded in so many parts of American society. My Iraqi grandparent’s survival and testimonies of the brutal Farhud that took place in Baghdad in 1941, their ethnic expulsion from Iraq. A small glimpse of the confusion and grief that they no doubt felt weighed on my chest like an elephant; a glimpse of how there were people who, too, hated them for various, contradictory reasons, across different spectrums of logic. 

My boyfriend tried to console me. “Moshiach will come, and then we’ll be in a time of Geula.” I laughed cynically. “Do you really believe that?” I asked. He was silent for a moment. 

“I have to. I don’t have a choice.” 

I had lost so many friendships at the start of the war; soon after October 7th, before Israel had even began its retaliation campaign in Gaza— or had even finished identifying bodies– I noticed a number of acquaintances of mine from the US had unfollowed or blocked me. Many of those who I had kept in touch with from university never reached out to me, silently viewing my stories as I posted updates from bomb shelters or expressed profound sorrow. We still haven’t spoken in six months, and I don’t think we ever will again. It’s a thick silence that they began, one that I feel too exhausted to break.

That exhaustion pales in comparison to the exhaustion that family members of hostages feel as stories of violence and torture slowly trickle out from those released from captivity many months ago. It’s an exhaustion that pales in comparison to Rachel Goldberg, whose son was taken hostage after a grenade blew off his arm on October 7th. It’s an exhaustion that pales in comparison to those whose loved ones were savagely murdered, or whose beautiful, strong sons were killed in battle, in a war that began with indiscriminate violence, devoid of any purpose except to perpetuate suffering. It’s an exhaustion that pales in comparison to children in Gaza who are forcefully pushed to the front lines of brutal warfare as Hamas deeply embeds itself in civilian society and infrastructure, happy to sacrifice “martyrs” for their deranged cause. 

And yet, I had a good weekend. 

Each day, the sun is shining— people are out walking— children play in restaurants and parks– I continue to write, to breathe, to love. I go on hikes; I eat delicious food; I joke with my dad on the phone. Sometimes, there are even brief moments where I forget a war is happening, where I forget how broken I feel. The daytime is usually a kind of inverse dream, one where I’m wide awake, soaking up reality’s glimmering facets that make me forget “real life”, the reality that exists outside of those moments that feel too good to be true. 

It’s the night that’s always hard for me; when I lay in darkness with no distractions and am forced to process the posters of hostages that I walked past that day, the videos of vicious, unapologetic Jew-hatred that float across social media; that first hair-raising, split second of terror I felt when I heard a siren of an ambulance that day; the looming thoughts of Hezbollah and Iran joining the war; a video of a beautiful young woman singing a song as her hair blows in the wind, long before she was murdered on October 7th. Guilt that I had a good day— when someone else lived another day of hell. How is it that six months have passed, that there is still no end in sight? I walk on a slippery line these days, between moments of pure warmth juxtaposed with moments of pure ice; they are incompatible worlds that constantly intrude on each other, impossible to live in both at the same time. Maybe Moshiach will come. 

About the Author
Maia Zelkha is a writer living in Jerusalem. Her work has been featured in publications such as the Jewish Book Council, Parabola, and Vision Magazine. She can be contacted at
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