Living the Dream
She shuts her computer way too late again, having absorbed as many news stories and survivor/hostage testimonies as her now weary brain can handle. She makes her way to the bathroom to begin her nighttime routine. Just before turning the lights out, she recites תהילים (Psalms) 120-140 for the חיילים (soldiers), חטופים (hostages), murdered, wounded, and fallen. She tries to form an imprint of them in her brain like amorphous clouds filling a vast azure sky. The list of names she compiled each day of these holy people became, in just two weeks after Oct. 7, far too long to recite each name individually. In saying the words of דוד המלך out loud, she hopes her exhaling breath will mingle with the prayers of כלל ישראל and turn the tides.
Her questions, black and white shadows gripping the perimeter of her heart all day, now threaten to constrict the blood flow. How can we win this war in possibly the most complex terrain any army has fought? How will we rescue the hostages alive? How many more of our finest will be sacrificed? How will the growing number of orphans fare? Is the cumulative historical suffering of עם ישראל – though we’ve survived – worth it? Why do we hang on so tenaciously? How much more can we endure? Once again, she sits at the doorstep of despair.
But at the same moment, she remembers that ordinary Israelis choose אמונה (faith) and תקווה (hope) anew each day. It’s seemingly Purim all year here in Israel, she reminds herself, recognizing the concept of ונהפוך הוא from מגילת אסתר frequently in her conversations with and observations of Israelis. “Our חיילים don’t want us to be sad or experience despair,” she is told. “They are proud to sacrifice their lives so we can live and celebrate as proud Jews in ארץ ישראל,” she is told. She is told: “They – the ones fighting for us — believe in a complete victory, and it is important for them and us to believe it too.”
So, she is learning. She turns her back on despair, completes her תהילים, and shuts the lights. As she drifts off, she reflects briefly on the שפע she collects effortlessly like smooth stones in an array of colors at the ocean shore since she returned to her ancestral homeland to create a new life for herself. She reviews the conjugation of the verb להתגעגע (to miss) she learned that morning in ulpan. Past, present, and future tenses are confusing, but she’s not at all confused about how much she misses her family in the US. Her brain flickers with ideas of projects to help young widows and their kids rebuild their lives. Maybe it will all turn out ok. Maybe we will witness new miracles from Hashem, win this war, and rescue the hostages alive. Maybe a lasting peace will come, and our children and their children will inherit a world devoid of Jew-hatred, war, death, and sacrifice. Amen, she whispers into the darkness groggily, Amen.
עם הנצח לא מפחד מדרך ארוכה