We Now Return to our Previously Scheduled Lives…

In the car, I turn on the radio. Suddenly there are other stories to tell other than war, death and destruction. Where were those other tales for the past month?

With the war in Gaza sort of over, as cease fires are negotiated and troops are pulled out of harms way, we return to our next favorite topic. Making money. Spending money. We destroyed Gaza? Let’s rebuild it. Let’s raise money. Send them stuff. Sounds absurd, no?

It’s business as usual in middle Israel. We’re back to our previously scheduled lives, or so it seems.

Not that there isn’t need in Gaza or in Israel’s South. For the ordinary Gazans who lost their possessions, or their homes, barely escaping with their lives, they need our help to recover and resume their lives. For Israelis in the South, whose businesses are in danger of going under, whose lives have been (and continue to be) disrupted by rocket fire in a summer with little semblance of normalcy – they also need our help.

The radio patters on. Chit chat and laughter. Then an interview with the father of the first soldier killed in Gaza. “How is your mourning process going or something like that.”

How banal. How tragic. Is there no other way to ask this so-recently-bereaved father how he is doing? Except maybe not to ask. The father speaks of his son’s final gift to his country, and his pride at his son’s service.

And I just feel so fatigued.

The war didn’t just kill young men on the cusp of adulthood, along with fathers and husbands, and innocent civilians on both sides of the border.

Hamas murdered sleep the summer of 2014.

Everyone looks tired. We are tired. Tired of the news. Of the violence. Of the articles that all yell the same things. Each supporting their side of the story.

Tired of the death. Tired of worrying. Too tired to sleep though my fatigue. I might miss something. This, as my phone bleeps during the night’s darkest hour and I jump up to check it. Rockets! Mortars! Has something terrible happened?

At the Shabbat table, we listened, all too avidly as my son’s closest friend, a sharpshooter in the tank division, describes some of his experiences. He talk about staring death in the face, and seeing death, let alone being responsible for death, during endless days with little sleep, covered with the thick dust created by a 65-ton tanks rolling over everything in sight.

He reassures us, saying “I think the nightmares are past.” We smile hollowly, knowing they aren’t.

It’s human nature to move on, I know that. It’s healthy, right? This is the first time, other than the birth of my third and his subsequent diagnosis with Down syndrome that first week, that I’ve ever found myself so stopped in my tracks.

I think about that famous “Greatest Generation” of the Second World War – how they managed for six long years. My grandmother, when she’d pore over pictures of her siblings, nieces and nephews, and extended family from the old country, she’d remark, “we never heard from them again, after September 1939.”

Can you imagine? Of course you can’t.

Part of the horror of this past summer is the speed at which we hear the news. The live blogs of the local news outlets. The hourly radio reports. The talking heads on television, on social media, on the radio.

Everywhere we went it was war, war, war. All the time.

And now it’s business as usual? I’m trying hard to return to the routine.

Maybe it’s healthy that many of us don’t feel ready to return to our previously scheduled lives. Maybe we need to take the time to process, to meditate, to consider just what happened between June 12th, when Naftali, Gil-Ad and Eyal were kidnapped and brutally murdered, and August 4th when we pulled out of Gaza.

Maybe it’s just not over yet until we have an agreement – a lasting one.

Let’s reopen the door that creaked ever so slightly open after the horrific murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir. That door that beckoned forth a meeting of the minds between those of all cultural backgrounds who care about values, about humanity, about finding that elusive path to caring and compromise with our neighbors.

Let’s support our soldiers who’ve returned, and the families who are making their way back to their homes near the Gaza border, hoping that the threat of tunnel infiltration is past, that they can sit on their porches without running for the safe room or the bomb shelter.

Let’s calm down the rhetoric, and remember that finding our way to compromise and even peace in our times is a worthy endeavor. A cause worth caring about. Always.

About the Author
Beth Steinberg is the Executive Director and co-founder of Shutaf, Inclusion Programs for Children with Special Needs in Jerusalem. A believer in Jewish camping, Beth is a graduate of Massad and Ramah camps, where she learned the importance of informal education programs as a platform for teaching Jewish and social values. As a parent of a child with special needs, she struggled to find workable, appropriate activities for her child. Beth believes that a well-run inclusion program can help educate and change values, creating meaningful and lasting social change. Beth is also the Artistic Director of Theater in the Rough, engaging audiences with free summer Shakespeare.
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