How am I doing really? I feel everything slipping away....
This war has brought so much destruction in its path -- and we're not done. Will our lives ever be the same?
Last Saturday morning at around 6:30, I was lying in bed thinking to myself, “Wow, my upstairs neighbor is doing quite a workout this morning.” It felt like massive weights kept dropping on the floor above me. Weights so large that the walls and windows would shake. It made no sense, but to be fair, I also wasn’t fully conscious.
My phone, charging next to my bed, kept beeping. I mostly ignored it, assuming it was some news notification. But then it became more frequent, in rapid pace. Boom. Windows shake. Ping. Ping. Ping. Boom. Windows shake. Ping. Ping. Ping.
I opened my eyes and sat up. I grabbed my phone.
It was my daughter who lives in Ashkelon whatsapping me.
Ima, we’re being attacked.
We’re on our way to you.
We’ll be there in an hour.
Okay of course. Come over.
That’s where my head was for that first moment. I wasn’t thinking war. I was thinking chag. I hadn’t cooked much on Friday because it was just my husband and me for the holiday, the synagogue was planning a communal lunch, and anyway I was a bit under the weather and had spent most of Friday sleeping on the couch. So, yeah, my biggest worry at the time was that I wasn’t prepared for company, even my kids, and wouldn’t have what to feed them.
Then I looked at the news.
Non-stop rocket barrages. Infiltrations. Something not normal was happening.
I jumped out of bed and got busy. Within the hour, we had set up the guest room for my daughter, her husband, and their 3-month-old baby. I had managed to pull together food for them (and deleted my message. Why add stress?) Busy, busy, busy — and controlling my shock while checking for updates.
They arrived an hour later, a bit shaky but calm. They had passed by some terrifying things on the road — a bullet-ridden car, a few fires, fallen rockets.
Then my son-in-law said he was going back to Ashkelon.
What?! Why?! You can’t go back there!
He had to.
I have to get my brother.
He went to go fetch his 17-year-old brother who was stranded. His brother had been staying with friends who ran from the city and left him alone. He showed up at his brother’s house (and my daughter’s), not knowing that they were already in Modi’in.
My son-in-law ran out. Back to the front.
I tried reaching my other daughter who lives in Beersheva — a little further away from Gaza but still in the south where there was heavy rocket fire. It took a while but I eventually reached her. She, her husband, and twin toddlers were spending all morning in their bomb shelters.
There is a siren every ten minutes. No point in leaving the safe room.
The bomb shelter was also the girls’ bedroom, which was now also furnished with breakfast, extra toys, and two little potties.
I wanted them to come to Modi’in, where there were far fewer sirens. But I was also very nervous about them driving on the roads. The Hamas terrorists were roaming everywhere. I was glued to the news, and it was becoming clear that no place was safe.
By the afternoon, they realized that they had to leave. Staying in a rocket barrage like this was unsustainable. I chatted with my son-in-law in Ashkelon, who was now stuck there with his family because of closed roads. I checked Waze to see which roads might still be open. There was a route which seemed safe — straight up Road 6.
Drive fast. No stopping for anything. Nothing. Hamas terrorists were masquerading as people needing help. Just go. Just drive. Safely but fast. Whatever you do don’t stop.
Conversations I would have never imagined having.
It took them hours to get here, as apparently all of Beersheva was leaving at the same time. Those were the longest hours of my life. But they arrived. Baruch Hashem. Miracles….
By the afternoon, my son who lives in Haifa was called to duty. He stopped by our house on the way down south to pick up gear and food and a few big hugs. Then one son-in-law got called up and left. Then another got a call to report the next day. Just like that. Tak-tak-tak. Reporting for duty.
My husband was still trying to keep Shabbat. I had long given up on that, and could not stop looking at my phone. The news kept pouring in. My husband kept asking how bad things were. I was his channel to the outside world. It was all a bit bizarre.
Bad. Really bad. Then worse. Then even worse than you can imagine. Worse than they are even reporting.
I was trying to keep up with these developments, absorbing the shock minute by minute. My husband was get it in packages. It was a lot of information…. Unbelievable information.
Are you sure?
I’m afraid so.
That can’t be right.
I know how you feel.
Meanwhile, social media was far ahead of the traditional news outlets. I was chatting with a friend of mine who lives in Kibbutz Nirim, one of the spots that was immediately infiltrated. She was in her safe room. Alone. For hours. We chatted for a while and then she said she had to go because she was running out of battery. It was terrifying. But she made it out alive at the end. Miracle.
And then the reports started coming in about what happened to the soldiers. Rumors about the girls in tatzpitanut — the “watchers”, the ones in charge of the screens with the cameras on the fence. Talk about a slaughter on their base in Re’im. Unofficial and unconfirmed.
My youngest daughter is in tatzpi. On a different base. By chance. Luck of the draw where they get placed. Thank God she is fine. You know, more or less, as fine as well all are. Miracles.
Well, miracles among horror. What do you call that? Miracles amid horror?
We all now know the rest of the story. All week long we have been learning that it was, in fact, worse than any of us could have imagined. Every time we thought it couldn’t be worse, it got worse. And now, with over 1200 Israelis dead, including 250 soldiers, kibbutzim destroyed, hundreds missing, and worst of all anywhere from 150-300 captive in Gaza including dozens of children and babies, we are entering a long war.
With no leadership in sight.
There is no talk about the hostages. Nobody in the government has mentioned it. Not Bibi. Not anyone from his godawful cabinet. Nobody has a plan. Nobody has a thought. Nobody has spoken to the country about what we’re going to do for them. It’s beyond sickening. It is gut-wretchingly infuriating.
I have been posting about Bibi’s completely self-serving lack of leadership. You can read a post here. I cannot even describe how upsetting this is, that we are in the midst of this crisis in which the government is entirely at fault for not protecting the people from this horror, and there is nobody in charge taking any responsibility. I can’t even.
Today, I plan to do something I have never done in the 30 years that I’ve been living in Israel. I am going to put up a massive banner outside my home. I am searching for a printer that is open, and I am going to spend money to print up a huge banner that calls for Bibi to resign because he has blood on his hands.
Yes. In between helping my daughters look after babies, scrolling the news, following schedules of funerals and shivas, and keeping tabs the many ways that people are helping others and making sure I’m doing my part — in between all that, I’m going to print a banner and put it on my outside wall, that happens to face a major intersection in Modi’in, to make sure that I’m helping get this message out.
The Roar is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Meanwhile, though, you want to know how I’m doing really?
I will tell you.
First of all, I am in shock and trauma, like everyone else here.
And, like everyone else here, I’m going about my life anyway.
Getting on with things. That’s how Israelis cope. You just keep going. There are always traumas. Never at this scale, or even close to this scale. But always traumas. And you just get on with it. You organize, you keep busy, you make food, you get involved, you chat with your friends. And get on with it.
But deep down, you’re a bit of a mess. That is Israeli life in a nutshell.
But there is something else that I am. It is a thought that I’ve been stifling for a few days. It is the thought that was nagging in my brain when I woke up this morning, the one that I had in mind when I decided that I will blog today.
And the thought is this: I feel like my world is slipping away from me.
I feel like the values that I (and many others) have worked so hard to cultivate are about to become a thing of the past.
The first indication of this was that the entire protest movement was immediately put on hold. The protesting soldiers were the first to run to the front. Don’t get me wrong — I am sure it was the right thing to do and their actions are heroic. But I’m saying that a byproduct of all this is that we all have to drop the protest. At least for a while. Whatever “a while” will end up being. A week? A month? A year? Forever?
And in fact, one of the first things that Bibi said when this all happened — not “I’m sorry” or “It will be okay” or “I take responsibility” or “We will get the hostages back as top priority”) — his first message was, “All that ‘discord’ is behind us”. He was literally celebrating that the protest movement is over.
(For the record, none of the protester leaders actually think it’s OVER. They are just currently busy. Very, very busy.)
The problem is that we are now being inundated with all this language of “unity”. I have posted in the past about why I find calls for “unity” terrifying. They are silencing tactics. Calls for unity almost always attach to language suggesting that certain people should stop talking. Now is a perfect example. Bibi’s talk of unity — which is perfectly mimicked by so many people in Israel right now — is precisely an instruction to protesters to cease and desist. No matter how utterly corrupt Bibi is. No matter how he is trying to destroy this country. The protests were “merely” about his destruction of democracy and human rights — most people protesting could not have imagined this scenario in their wildest dreams, in which his megalomaniacal narcissism would cost so many lives as well. Yet here we are. This man is leading Israel off a cliff. And now all these calls for unity are basically shutting down opposition.
So that really scares me.
And there are a lot of other things being shut down, too.
On a seemingly minor, trivial matter, let’s talk about gender. (You see how I did that? I called gender a “minor, trivial matter”, both in order not to offend anyone by raising issues that are annoying but not as important as this whole situation, and also because maybe it’s true that in the scheme of things, it’s hard to be passionate about so many things at once….)
Anyway, gender. So there are a lot of things happening now gender-wise that are very jarrinng. One is that soldiers are still often referred to as men only, even though many women are serving, often heroically.
Another grating gender issue is the reference to “womenandchildren” in the context of hostages. There are so many calls now to rescue “womenandchidren”. This is such an old construct that renders women as fragile and powerless. Childlike. Infantile. In the same category as children, forever. (Just to clarify: women are adults, not children.) And also, by the way, don’t men deserve to be rescued? What do these old constructs do to men? As if men have to be stoic and give up their lives and not feel things? This is so unhelpful.
Also I’m finding a lot of references to grandmothers particularly irritating. I was planning on writing a post about how our culture often describes grandmothers. Usually soft and feeble-minded. Bad drivers. All smiles and little power and a source of needed hugs and comfort food. Mostly just a little dumb. I have lots of examples collected, but I may never get to that post. In the meantime, we’re seeing lots of images of grandmothers with posts about how awful it is to take them hostage. Yes it is!!! It IS awful!! But I wish there was a way to describe these stories without making it seem like all grandmothers are frail and helpless… I am a grandmother and not ready to be that yet.
(For a counter example, here is a chilling post about the amazing Dr. Shoshan Haran, an inspiring social entrepreneur who is being held hostage along with another 9 family members. Her son describes her as his hero…..)
(Taking a deep breath. Transitioning back to what I was trying to say…..)
So this is what I mean when I say I feel like my life is slipping away. There really is no room for this conversation about gender. I feel like I can’t even bring it up anywhere. I’m writing it here, but even in the context of everything I’m describing, it’s like a tiny little blip. This whole story is so unbearable that even inside my own head, I’m agreeing with the voice that’ telling me to shut up about it…..
So I’m kind of preparing myself for moving backwards. For letting go of things that were once really important to me….
And then there is the issue of what is going on in Gaza.
The IDF has been very clear and unequivocal that it plans on leveling Gaza. It’s already started. Entire neighborhoods are being destroyed. Already 2000 people have been killed. And the “wassach” — all that posturing, the machismo, the turkey dance that our so-called leaders are doing — are completely normalized. Defense Minister Gallant has called the people of Gaza animals. And that’s it.
And we wonder why Palestinians of Gaza hate us.
I would just like to point out that this is the definition of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. This is the only response that Israel has ever tried, in the (how many? i can’t even count) mini-wars in Gaza that we have had in the past 20 years. And it has never worked. In fact, the problem seems to have gotten worse! (Could it be any worse than right now???). Israel has tried exactly one way to stop Hamas — with extreme violence, wrapped in language of how nice an ethical we are — and it has not only failed to stop the problem, but here we are.
Oct 7, 2023, Exhibit A: Whatever We Have Been Doing Is Not Working.
Is it possible, I would like to ask, that our wassach response has not only failed to “destroy Hamas” but has actually emboldened Hamas by getting so many more people to hate us for being brutal?
All this wassach. Always wassach. Always bombarding to make noise and prove a point. We do this and claim that we are the most moral army in the world because we don’t INTENTIONALLY kill innocent people but do it only by ACCIDENT while we’re destroying entire neighborhoods. We do this and then say the world hates us and it’s all antisemitism and they just want Israel destroyed. We do this and then cry fowl and say, “You see, you see, we can’t even defend ourselves.”
This whole story, though, feeds straight into the narrative of Jewish victimhood. If there was ever a moment in our recent history when we were justified in feeling like our lives are at risk and maybe no place is safe for us, it’s now. So that’s happening, too. It WAS a pogrom, and it IS awful and there’s no escaping the Kishinev feeling. (In Kishinev, btw, only 50 people died, as opposed to 1200 in this one. So try making sense of that…)
Still, I don’t like where the Jewish victimhood narrative takes us. What does it justify? Our generational traumas are so deep, and often completely justified, so it’s hard to shake loose and come to our senses about things. I’m very worried about where this is taking us, the Jewish people, in terms of our own behaviors in the world.
I wrote a post a few days ago on FB that I agonized over. I wanted to address these competing emotions because, even as we are in mourning, I don’t want that to be an excuse for us to do something that is so very wrong….. Here is what I wrote:
"Hamas terrorists" is NOT interchangeable with "Palestinians."
As devastating as these events have been, they do NOT justify wanton hatred against an entire people, generalizations, and complete dehumanization of the other.
And also, just because I'm Jewish and Israeli and my own people are in a terrible state of pain right now, that doesn't mean that there aren't also OTHER people from OTHER nations who are experiencing real pain. Others don't deserve to have their lives ruined EITHER just because they happen to belong to a particular group....
Even in our darkest times, we need to preserve our humanity. As hard of a task as that is, it is also EVERYTHING.
It is everything.
Do we use our pain to unleash violence and hatred onto others? Or do we use our pain as an instrument of compassion, to learn to recognize the pain in others?
I posted this, but I worried — and still worry — that it’s too hard for people to engage in this conversation in a balanced way. There is too much “us” versus “them” thinking, that says that if I care about Palestinian lives, that makes me a Hamas supporter. Or a terrorist lover. I got this accusation already this week.
And then there are tons of Israeli-PR posts going around. The hasbara machine is working full blast. I saw one post in which a woman said, “You are all being brainwashed to think that Israel kills babies.”
And I was thinking, “No, no, YOU are brainwashed into thinking that we don’t.”
(I used to be there, too. I was also brainwashed for a long time. I wrote about it here.)
In fact, yesterday’s news that the IDF attacked a caravan of Palestinians trying to escape killing 70 people, mostly children, was completely ignored by the Israeli media. Simply not reported anywhere. Who is doing the brainwashing, I want to know?
(Even assuming it was an “accident”, we should be talking about it….)
But again, I’m feeling like we can’t talk about this. There are so many calls saying that “this is not the right time”. And all the antisemitism happening. All of that.
Once the Jewish people are in survival mode everything else stops.
So that’s where we are. Can’t talk about this stuff. For now. Or at least until… until when? Who knows…
That’s what I mean when I say that I feel like my life is slipping away. My values, my ideals, my voice, my power. I can’t really talk. I can’t really move. I can’t really do anything. Like everyone else, I’m stuck.
Is anyone out there trying to remove our corrupt and incompetent government? Is there any leadership out there with a cogent vision for society? How will we ever learn to humanize the other? Is there anyone out there with any power to push those ideas forward in our culture? And will the protest movement come back and when? What will the calls be? What are their values? I had questions six months ago about who we are and what the protest movement is doing and for whom and towards what ends — and I think I have even more questions now. But where is another alternative? And if I don’t even fully trust the pro-democracy movement to represent the values I hold dear, and if the movement itself is now invisible anyway, then where are we? Where is a vision for our identity, our humanity?
Slipping away. I feel everything slipping away.
That’s how I am really.
Thanks for asking. I really appreciate it.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Roar to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.