About Liz

A lot has changed since I started this project in 2004. I moved to Israel, got a job, started school, got married, moved to the ‘burbs, got pregnant, had a baby boy, got pregnant, had a baby girl… That’s what it’s all about, right? So whereas this started about aliyah, it’s become more and more just where I take notes. About life in Israel in general. I like to think that was the goal all along. Need something? Email or tweet.

Fifty-Two Frames: Quiet

So did you hear the one about the time a 15-year-old asked me about that pic I posted on instagram, and I told her excitedly how I had found my old Walkman in my childhood bedroom, and she looked at me with a sympathetic smile and asked me, ‘what is that?’

I hit play and miraculously it still had juice enough to pick up where it had last been left… some 90s song… good times.

And so what if that was 20 years ago.

Week 32: Quiet

Remember the old days when you’d put on big ole earphones, press an actual button, and shut yourself out with noise?

Welcome to the wartime TMI challenge

Is there a word for the despair one feels at no longer knowing who or what to believe?

It gets worse with every conflict: social media. A platform initially designed for sharing college memories and life milestones became a place for arresting my sense of truth.

Over the years, I’ve come to follow more and more people with worldviews and backgrounds that drastically differ from mine. I like it; it keeps me centered. It makes me feel just uncomfortable enough to keep on my toes, just insecure enough that I’m constantly sharpening my own truth.

At the beginning of this latest Gaza conflict I ditched traditional news sources, opting for scanning headlines with an occasional click, and instead followed dozens of new people on social media: Gazans, Arabs from around the world, journalists from a spectrum of news sources (mostly based in Gaza), and others. I had already been following extreme right and left wing Israeli voices for years.

Problem #1: It turns out, when you’re reading everything with a grain of salt, you end up absorbing some pretty bad-tasting discomfort.

The discomfort has turned into pain over the last weeks. And its sting gets sharper as I’ve watched a sudden rise in non-political friends fill my Facebook newsfeed with urgent, sensationalist, pleading headline after headline after headline (which I made a policy a couple weeks back to never ever click).

Problem #2: Everyone is sharing the same thing, regurgitating it to the same audience.

And people get fed their own homegrown-grade of bombastic propaganda. There seems to be no place to go to seek facts if you are following remotely. We can’t trust anyone else, so we can only continue to share our own hearsay.

Problem #3: Everything… but everything… sounds like propaganda now.

Every time I open Twitter – which is less often these days – I’m greeted with DEAD CHILDREN and antisemitic cartoons and RIGHT TO DEFEND ITSELF and NOWHERE TO GO and digit-heavy infographics and HUMAN SHIELDS and so on.

And no matter how much of a basis in truth and experience and fact each piece of content contains, whether you’d tag it ‘pro-Israel’ or ‘pro-Gazan’ or ‘pro-human’, the wrapping and the sharing and the repeating ends up downgrading its meaning.

A lot of talking, less listening.

I can only imagine how all this leads to misunderstandings of other realities for people not actively seeking truths outside their own.

Clearly, I asked for it. Maybe I’m listening too hard. And clearly, I live one of many many angles of truth here. So when seeking understanding of other truths, how far do I go? How sick do I make myself in the process? How morally compromised do I become? How depressed do I let it make me? The actions taken to erase my name, the actions taken in my name to save my name, the danger, the sadness, the collateral damage, the short term strategy, the long term goals…

Problem #4: Because each of our experiences is by definition one-of-a-kind, every person reading this will read it differently, to his/her own tune, to his/her own meaning.

Are we ever really hearing each other then?

All I have left to say is… if being a member of a population at war doesn’t enable me to learn anything new, to think harder, I consider myself a failed human.

Maybe there’s really no such thing as a ‘lone’ soldier

One thing I know about Max Steinberg z’l is he was a Jewish citizen of the world who took action for our people.

Another thing I know about Max Steinberg z’l is that his actions brought together Jews of all kinds, pouring out from big and bigger rooms to comfort his mourning parents and siblings.

Is the ‘lone solder’ a solely Israeli concept?

As immigrants, chances are we’ve been, are related to, or have known a lone soldier at some point. A lone soldier is an immigrant who came without family (namely parents) and as such is taken under the wing of the many – the army, an adopted family, and organizations dedicated to his/her well-being.

Max Steinberg (24) was a lone soldier from LA. Sean Carmeli (21) was from Texas. Jordan Bensemhoun (22) was from Lyon, France. The three were killed over the last week in Gaza.

And between our family culture here and the Jewish rules of mourning, thousands have joined in paying respects.

One more thing I know about Max Steinberg: he was not alone.

 

What we can learn about the ‘innocence of children’ from Goodnight Moon

So here’s something. I received a link to the following article today (thanks cuz); a submission to the New York Times Draft blog for writers.

What Writers Can Learn From ‘Goodnight Moon’

Though I was certainly an English major, I’ve actually never, believe it or not, fully analysed an entire critique of Goodnight Moon before. And this piece, focused on writing technique, spoke to me as a writer – there are definitely interesting technique takeaways in there.

But today specifically, I took something else away too. It had actually already been on my mind. And that related to the perceived ‘innocence’ of children.

Here’s what the author, Aimee Bender, has to say about the way Goodnight Moon differs from other children’s books:

It works like a sonata of sorts, but, like a good version of the form, it does not follow a wholly predictable structure. Many children’s books do, particularly for this age, as kids love repetition and the books supply it. They often end as we expect, with a circling back to the start, and a fun twist. This is satisfying but it can be forgettable.

This had me circling back to what I, quite literally, woke up to this morning: my five-year-old son showing us a drawing he made of a boy, perhaps himself, choosing shelter during a rocket attack.

With everything going on lately – in the world, downed planes, civil wars, massacres, and at home, rockets, air strikes, terrorist kibbutz plots, collateral damage – I’ve been wondering lately how much innocence really is lost from children. How much innocence they have in the first place.

Are children as innocent as we assume, and if not, should we be pretending so?

Around the world, millions of children lose their innocence a lot earlier than say, middle class Western kids. And that includes plenty of American kids who are homeless, poor, hungry, and trapped in a devastating lifestyle.

How much innocence is there, really? Is it, say, a shelter of sorts, from an eventuality? Is it the lucky few who even get to experience the so-called innocence?

Is it our own regret at reaching the threshold of adulthood, passing through it, and forever exposing ourselves to the world we’ve actually been living in the whole time?

Back to Goodnight Moon. What always bugged me about it is that it’s not smooth. It’s not neat. The author lays out the room, and then goes on with the goodnight chant, which is perfectly natural, but the contents of the chant don’t match up. The pages aren’t parallel.

What a surprise, then, to find that there is a blank page with “Goodnight nobody” out of nowhere, sharing a spread with “Goodnight mush.” What a surprise, then, that the story does not end with the old lady whispering “hush” but goes out the window into the night.

Goodnight Moon feels like it should be a tidy tale. It’s not – it’s bumpy. What you expect doesn’t actually happen.

Perhaps that is a piece of children’s literature that speaks truth to children who are supposedly ‘innocent’ or blank slates. In fact, a little bit of a bumpy ride might feel natural to a small child who hasn’t yet neatly summed up the world as good vs evil.

There’s been talk lately about how much to expose to our young kids, how far to go to protect their ‘innocence.’ I’m just not sure how much of that is a construct of the safe situations we were lucky to grow up in. In which, eventually, we too lost our innocence.

Kids, even living on the safest terms, don’t exist in a vacuum. And I reckon they’ve figured out long before we think they do that life isn’t a Disney movie. So what should we have them think in times of stress? When things get ‘real’?

If it’s real for us, surely it’s real for them?

What do you think?

Israeli children and artistic expression: A war story in pictures

Note: We did not ask our five-year-old to draw anything. We didn’t know what he had been up to when at around 7 this morning he came up to us holding a picture he drew.

Turns out, it’s not a story about a disabled boy who has divorced parents.

“Why are there two houses?”
“One is our house, and one is the miklat.”
“And which one is he going to?”
“The miklat. There is sirens.”
“Why is the sky black?”
“It’s night.”
“Who is this? Is it you?”
“I don’t know yet.”

“You see this? <points to yellow in the sky> I wanted so this will be a star because it’s night.”
“Oh yeah?”
“But now it’s a rocket.”

————————————————————

“This is me and you on a boat in the sea, and that’s <muffled, sounds like Abba> cracking open the sky.”

“That’s what? Abba?”

“No, labba.”

“What’s  labba?”

“Labba is טילים (missiles).”

————————————————————

“Hey, what’s that?”

“What?”

“That symbol you drew.”

“I dunno.”

“Where’d you see it?”

“On Bebe’s shirt.”

“It means shalom – peace.”

“I’m drawing an x on it.”

“Why?!”

“Because I want.”