My therapist said, “Just write it down, it doesn’t matter if it even makes sense, type it, scribble it, just get it out.”
This advice came three months before the “Swords of Iron” war began. It’s been over a week since the masked Hamas terrorists cowardly entered our country. On their backs they hauled rage, weapons and catastrophe. They wreaked havoc, killing babies, women, grandparents and anyone else they came in contact with. From Gaza, they sprayed thousands of missiles into Israel on one of the holiest days of the year. It was the bloodiest day for Jews since the holocaust.
This is the first time I’m able to bring myself to act on my therapist’s advice. “To get it out”. It’s six in the morning and I’m sitting on my mirpeset (porch), watching our sky getting lighter by the minute, soaking in the beauty that is Israel. But there is an oppressive boulder weighing down on my momentary peace. The things our nation has seen, heard and endured since this started are incomprehensible. The thoughts come at me so fast and so hard. I believe that I can speak for all of us when I say, every one of us will be scarred forever from this war. We are NOT okay. But we ARE strong. Our tears join the rain that came this week. We cry for the families who have lost people. We cry for those abducted by Hamas; their loved ones not even knowing the fate of their cherished relatives. And still, with all the atrocities, our nation; our brothers and sisters of Israel will rise above, as we ALWAYS do.
My message boxes from every social media account are overflowing. Everyday, I’ve received messages of love, hope, support and condolences. I read stuff like, “I can’t imagine what it’s been like.” “Can we send you something?” “Are you alright?” “We are praying for all of you there.” “If you need to leave Israel, our home is your home.”
All kind and welcome blessings. In the backdrop of the open conversation tabs, there are slews of posts from people promising their support to Palestine. #SavePalestine is chiseled in my brain, it is a persistent reminder that millions upon millions hate us for being Jews; Whether we are Zionists or not, whether we live here in Israel or not. The #StandWithIsrael hashtag seems to be lacking the attention it deserves but we’re fairly used to being the underdogs.
The haphazard and endless posts running through my stream chanting “save Palestine” is genuinely disconcerting to say the least. I imagine these supporters, furiously typing from the comfort of their cozy couches, somewhere in the world believing they are safe, when in fact Hamas does not only want the Jews obliterated; they want every single infidel on planet earth gone. Most of these people barely understand a stitch of the damage they cause with their ignorant words and posts. I’ve actually seen multiple videos with signs that read “queers supporting Palestine”, the insanity of these oxymoronic campaigns is so misguided and utterly confused. I want to say, do you not understand that if you walked into Gaza, and waved the vibrant rainbow flag that hangs so proudly on the wall behind you, that you would be murdered?? Like so many of our innocent civilians, you would be dragged through the streets, beaten, raped, tortured and put on display. In Israel, you would be safe. But then, I remind myself to push aside these feelings, the things I have no control over, to make space for what is in my control. I release those emotions, making sure my energy is conserved for my kids, for myself, for my relatives and for my husband. To make sure they are cared for. This is what I can do, so I grab on to that.
In Israel, the teachers are doing the best they can, all the while their own children need to be looked after as well. The educators are building and running the dreaded Zoom lessons that we thought we had outgrown after the COVID disaster.
My first grader twins squeeze together on one chair in front of the laptop. The screen covered in a grid of adorable faces of our nation’s children. Once they’re all a bit settled, their teacher shares how much she misses them. She asks everyone to share their feelings about everything going on. She asks caringly, “Is anyone’s father in the army?” “Mine is! Mine is! Mine is!” Their little voices echo through the speaker of the laptop and it pulls on my heartstrings. She reads them a book about understanding our feelings and how to process them. The twins look bored at this point. Thank Gd.
“My dad’s a Chovesh (EMT) for Hatzalah! He’s also volunteering with the police to protect us!” My daughter covers her eyes, a bit embarrassed about her brother’s loud announcement in front of the class. Shyly, she smiles and nods in agreement with her brother.
When we made aliyah, I was faced with the decision of choosing whether to send my eldest directly to the first grade, or have her repeat kindergarten. I chose the extra year of kindergarten to help her acclimate. I didn’t realize the impact that would have on her 12 years later. At the time, I thought it would give her some extra time to learn Hebrew with less pressure. If I had not kept my daughter back a year to assimilate she would have been drafted any day now for basic training. Because of my blind decision, she is not. If given the opportunity she’d run over there to fight now. She, along with many others, feels like she isn’t doing enough and wants to do more. I can’t help feeling so blessed that my baby is under my roof, safe. All the while tinged with guilt thinking about all our fellow Israelis who are serving now. I know I am not alone in this sentiment. This limbo of wanting to contribute and at the exact same moment wanting to stay out of harm’s way. Our Gd given human nature to survive has been kicked into high gear. So many brave souls have lost their lives to save our country in such a short period of time. It’s heartbreaking.
How does someone tell a child their father is not coming back?
How does someone tell a parent that their son or daughter is not coming back?
Right at this moment, someone here in Israel is being told that their loved one will not return home.
This is our reality.
Little as it may seem, everyone has a role to fill. Everyone desperately wants to help in any way they can. Many of us pray, which is one of our greatest weapons, understated as it may be at times. Our children draw pictures of hope and blessings for the soldiers’ safety. Multitudes of residents, collecting and distributing goods and necessities for the soldiers. Families open their homes for the displaced families of the South. Armed and unarmed men and women volunteering for security shifts to keep our neighborhoods as safe as possible. People continue to donate money for bullet proof vests and helmets. The list goes on but it would take me all day to share. But you get the idea. I account for all this with so much pride.
I keep waking up, way too early, or through the night repeatedly. The first thought that comes to mind is what is happening?? Has it gotten worse? Better??
As I write, I am reminded that my six children’s mental well being is my responsibility. While their father continuously volunteers his time for Hatzalah and the security of our city, the kids fall on me mainly. I hope I’m doing enough to protect their minds from this grief surrounding our nation. I pray, “kids I’m all you’ve got, I hope it’s enough.”
All I had was hopes and dreams when we made aliyah (immigrated to Israel). We left everything we knew, and brought you here. To be embraced by our people and culture. To belong. In that moment, all of my dreams; I gave them to you. It seems our passion has, in fact, passed down as well. When I brought up the question of leaving the country while this was going on, they all refused. We wanted to make sure our feelings on staying in Israel during wartime were shared with our children.
They replied, “This is our home. We don’t want to leave”.
Our nation is deeply wounded. They say we are destined to repeat history. We vowed Never Again. But we put our guard down. Our government supposedly didn’t see the fissures that led straight to the quake. Sadly, the devastation continues, a result of Hamas as well as our government’s massive blind spot. But we are fighting so hard to live safely again.
It seems as though there may be many more of these terribly difficult days ahead. I pray they are short lived. We are suffering from the darkness, but thank Gd the morning always comes. Sending love, hope and strength to you all.
Am Yisrael Chai.