Lately, I find myself laughing at the strangest things. They’re not funny, but I laugh despite myself. The vocabulary I have developed in the past six years living in Israel is a testament to the tragedy that strikes every few years. “Resisim,” the word sounds funny in my mouth. I still can’t pronounce my reish, yet I know how to say the Hebrew word for ‘shrapnel.’
Why? Because it falls out of the sky at shocking speeds and decimates whatever it lands on. Because myself, my husband, our dog, sometimes my Mom, and sometimes our friends, sit together in the bomb shelter and wait. We wait for the siren to finish wailing. We wait for the big bang. Not the kind that creates new worlds; the kind that destroys beautiful ones. And when the siren is over, we wait some more.
Why? So that the shrapnel can finish falling, can finish its destructive trajectory. Moments before all this went down, I was working. I was sitting at my desk happily typing away. I was thinking about legitimate expectation and abuse of unfair prejudice procedures and other aspects of company law. I was not thinking about grabbing my phone, putting my shoes on, getting my dog and his leash, and running down six flights of stairs. My mind was elsewhere. It was thinking about the future. A future I sincerely hope to be a part of. That I sincerely hope the family across the hallway is a part of.
Why? Why them, you might ask? Because when I was about to hop into the shower yesterday morning and the siren went off, I didn’t have time to run to the bomb shelter. Nor did the three brothers who live next door. So we sat together on the stairwell, me in my bathrobe, my dog shivering on my lap, them in their boxers rubbing sleep from their eyes. This is how our day began. And for so many others it was so much worse.
Why? Because mothers and fathers and children and lovers will never see each other again. Because a new generation is being forged in war; on both sides of the border. Because if they put their weapons down, we will know peace; yet if we put ours down, there will have been no point to my thinking about abuse of unfair prejudice procedures. Because children go off to war and they return home as women and men who know suffering. Because our national conscience is shifting one rocket at a time.
Why? Because the term מב״ם (mabam) is etched into the vocabulary of a new immigrant from Canada. What does it mean, you might ask? ‘The campaign between wars.’ And what’s so bad about that? Our life exists between wars. You ask a follow-up question: What does that mean practically? It means I should have been more shocked when I woke up on the morning of Simchat Torah, a holiday whose name is eponymous with happiness, to find that terrorists had invaded my home and destroyed my people. Yet, when you live here, each morning without war is a miracle, each day precious.
Why? Because let me tell you a thing or two about the current discourse. “I went to my friend’s funeral yesterday,” I told my neighbour. “I went to two,” she replied. Our nation grieves. And as we grieve, the sounds of war and death crack over our heads. While we drove to the cemetery, I watched the Iron Dome intercept a rocket in the blue patch of sky above my head. An olive branch snapped and fell. I can promise you that the side of the highway is no safe haven. But the strangers I met who embraced me and helped me over the metal barricade between the road and the ditch are.
Why? Because we woke up one morning as rockets flew over our homes and felt like a nation. What did you do with this feeling, you might ask? Well, it compelled us to walk. To walk? Yes, to walk and to call out to whoever we pass. Hello! May peace be upon us! Where do you walk? With thousands of our brothers and sisters to say goodbye to those who keep us safe.
I now understand why I laugh.
When the tears start, our nation will no longer be walking.
We will be building Noah’s Ark.