A bomb explodes overhead. Smoke rises; seemingly innocuous from my sandy spot on Delila Beach. The sunset streaks the sky golden and I think back to what he told me that morning. Yehuda. 16 years old, cigarette dangling between his fingertips.
My brother was murdered last month he tells me. On the first day. His voice is nonchalant. So much so, I later googled to confirm, dumbstruck by my ignorance. I haven’t been back to school since, he continues. How could I when there’s so much to be done? When I’m too broken to think. So he picks tomatoes by the Gaza border. Because according to him, nothing is more important.
I look at this boy and I think to myself, it could have been him. This precious, wonderful human who just wants to help. Who wants to take life by the hands and experience all it has to offer. It could have been him. And all I want is to wrap him in cotton wool and keep him safe. But life isn’t like that anymore. Nowhere is safe.
As we harvest, I think about the abundance of red, vibrant tomatoes growing at my feet. While just a few miles away, the red is lackluster blood. The blood of 77 heroes. And I despair. I mourn for each of them in my own way. We all do. None of us are whole anymore. Our hearts are fractured and broken 70 different times. 1200. 240.
Moments later, we are evacuated from the area. The threat of a Qassam rocket; a directionless trajectory addressed to whom it may concern. But what does it really mean to evacuate? To drop it all and leave it behind. To say goodbye to the calm and order and throw yourself into survival.
This country is small. So so small. Everyone knows everyone. And I wonder if each encounter might be a last. So I’ve taken to cherishing them. Little moments of gold. Of love. Each siren renders us a near miss. And I feel guilty, as if my victory means…
A nation of near misses. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. Too bitter. So we carry it together. And in doing so, we treat each other with care and respect and the fragility deserving of this magnitude.
I remember Yehuda’s words. The way he spoke. The feelings unsaid. Perhaps not even realized. Sometimes, grief carries us to places far away. To the place of tragedy. Closer to his brother. I can understand that. I’m sure we all can. Yet, grief is also our capacity to hope. To plant a tree one may never benefit from.
Then I remember. Lyrics. Hopeful ones. There’s still a song inside the halls in the dark. I’ll come for you if you just stay where you are. Our grief is our capacity to love – the greater the grief, the greater the love. And this nation, its love is boundless.