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.”

The facts about Gaza that we’re not saying

For the last few days I’ve had this lump in my throat, blocking me from saying something I feel but haven’t been able to articulate.

Do you know what I feel when the window’s been shut, the door is locked, and I’ve sat down on the floor of our safe room?

I feel incredibly lucky.

Lucky to have a roof over my head, lucky to have a government watching over my safety, as much as the means churn my guts. Lucky there are laws that buildings must be built with safe rooms now. Lucky that I can get to mine within single-digit seconds, let alone that I actually have 90 of them. Lucky that I know once the door is closed, chances are pretty much 100% – based on my location and building structure – that we will be totally fine.

It’s horrible that there are thousands of eighth and ninth graders in the south of Israel who have never known a different life than constant trauma. There are no words to adequately sum up that situation. It’s horrible they haven’t always been given proper support from our government – that they’ve had to push for it throughout the years. It’s horrible that things only get really serious when the rockets creep out towards the center.

Here’s the part I’m having the specific trouble with.

Israel – the entire Jewish world, in fact – is still pushing through a very low time. A roller coaster that ended up crashing after the highs and lows – when we found the bodies of the three kidnapped teens. We supposedly felt unified, we felt as one, we felt each other’s pain, and for just a few minutes, forgot the clothes we were wearing, the type of headgear we may or may not don, we let it go in order to cry together.

Then it got worse.

Our national pride – our infinite price on life – was stabbed right through its core, when at least three young individuals took an innocent Jerusalem Arab boy’s life in their hands, in a way unfathomable. We wrung our hands, we cried out in pain, we condemned and we distanced.

And now… now we’re combating Hamas in Gaza. Again. For the third time in six years. It’s complicated. Of course it’s complicated. In so many directions, it’s complicated. The rockets that are targeted over here, the rockets that are targeted over there. The history, the context, the instability.

The fact that to protect ourselves, we cause A LOT of collateral damage.

While I do believe the IDF embraces a military culture that tries harder than others to preserve life… to use intelligent targeting, to warn civilians – and I do believe Hamas puts its own people on the line to make its grisly point…

We’re just not acknowledging it enough. We are not ok with this. We are not ok with trying our best and it still causing loss of life. We must not be complacent about it. If “murder is murder is murder”, so too, life is life is life.

And as I watch the rocket reports happen live over social media among my peers – meaning those as lucky as I am, scattered across Israel, absorbing the terror and the sadness and the frustration in each individual’s own way – all I can think is, everything about this discussion is us, us, us.

Rockets explode over our homes. Debris is caught on Tel Aviv streets. Posting what we were doing when the siren sounded (again). Posting what our kids thought. Posting what other people should think. Posting with humor, a nationalistic characteristic to get through the pain. Posting repeated hasbara – what some might call, without irony, ‘truthful propaganda.’

Stats. Infographics. Diagrams of missiles. What the IDF is doing next. How much we all appreciate the Iron Dome technology. What we should be doing next. What we shouldn’t. What we feel. What we don’t feel.

I don’t think we have to take away from all of that – especially the stress and pain at watching our friends and family get called down to the front line – in order to recognize this next point.

Gazans… ordinary Gazans – who do exist – Gazans… have none of it.

No Iron Dome.

No government that actually cares truly to make their nation function.

No safe rooms.

No privacy.

The fact is… no matter what propaganda, theories, or the truth we don’t know yet dictates -

Innocents are dying.

But Hamas takes its own citizens hostage!

Children are dying.

But Hamas uses them as human shields!

But an entire people – yes, a group that lives together and dies together deserves to be called, and very much is, a people – an entire people is being tortured by multiple forces, pulling at them this way and that.

And I’m not saying we have to spend hours arguing over whose fault that is. I’m not saying it’s one way or another. I’m not trying to get into a political shit swamp because if I cared for that, I might post hasbara after hasbara after hasbara… on Twitter.

I’m saying in the name of our collective value for life, in the name of our fortunate circumstances that our leaders do care for our safety, in the name of existing as beings on this Earth,

that surely – surely – among the infographics, the op/eds, the ‘fuck you Hamas’, the hashtags, the rocket outcry – we ought to take a moment or two or million and grieve over what’s become of our, of their, humanity.

On sheep in wartime

While driving back from Beit Shemesh, where I dropped off Tzur Hadassah’s contribution to the collection of toys and food for kids and soldiers stuck in shelters and bases in the south…

I saw this scene and it took my breath away. The sound of hundreds of hooves crunching against the grass; watching hundreds of sheep and goats moving together in the same direction; for some reason it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in a while.

Life will go on, with or without our conflicts, our mess, our perspectives, our hate.

I’d rather be a part of it.

Meat counter convo liz: So I guess I’m that person now

Standing at the meat counter in the local supermarket.

Guy to meat counter girl: “Yeah, everything is crazy, how are you doing?”

Meat counter girl: “It’s so scary!”

Me: “Hey, at least we know exactly when it’ll hit, it’s been evenings and that’s it.”

Guy: “It’ll be quiet till tonight, till they’ve eaten and organized after Ramadam fast.”

Me: orders chicken

Guy: [in english] “Maybe I’ll just go back”

Me: [taken by surprise] politely smiles

Guy: “You’re from the States?”

Me: “Yeah. You?”

Guy: “Yeah. I dunno. What is this? I think it’s time to just go back.”

Me: “What are you nuts?!”

Guy: “What do you mean, this life isn’t normal. This isn’t normal.”

Me: “What do you mean – America is crazy! Did you hear what just happened on July 4 weekend in Chicago?!”

Guy: “No…”

Me: “There were 82 people shot! 14 died!”

Guy: “Muslims?!”

Me: “No, nothing like that! Anybody! That’s the thing! Here we know our enemy, there it could be any crazy guy off the street!”

Guy: “Yeah, but this…”

Me: “No way, you couldn’t pay me… I’d rather know who my enemy is, we can prepare… There, everything is crime, anyone can take out a gun…”

And while we agreed in the end that perhaps, if we were to leave, Australia would be a fine choice…

…I couldn’t believe, with 100% meaning everything I said, without thinking about what I was saying, I had just been that person.

 

 

The 4th kidnapped boy: that’s called disgust – go ahead and feel it.

Four kidnapped boys

Disgust. There are a lot of things to be utterly disgusted with around here. I feel disgust constantly. It’s usually aimed at opinions that differ from mine; minute triggers related to lifestyles that differ from mine; ways of communicating I don’t agree with.

Shame. That is something I feel less often, but it does come up. There’s plenty of shame where you seek it. Things are not perfect. Things are not even great. But on the whole, they tend not to veer toward inhuman.

Silence. That’s something I cannot tolerate, especially among people so quick to accuse, to blast, to take down. You can’t cry foul and then turn away when it’s one of your own who has brought shame to each and every one of us – across the entire world.

Jews don’t murder? Jews aren’t terrorists?

And how about those times I’ve heard some of my peers joke, or actually call, for revenge, for showing who’s boss, for exerting our right, for taking it into our own hands?

Words actually do kill, when spoken enough, when combined to form an attitude, when condensed into a plan, when sparked into action.

These Jews who kidnapped and murdered – burned alive - 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir are a stain on all of our souls, no matter what we believe, express, do or not do.

People we considered brothers – whether we agreed with them or not, dressed like them or not - took up revenge against the kidnapping and brutal killing of innocents with the kidnapping and brutal killing of another innocent.

We need to face these horrific facts. There are now four grieving families across our land, in addition to countless others who have grieved, are grieving, and will, inevitably, grieve.

To those who are keeping silent in this case – it’s warranted to weed out the cold blooded among us. To separate them. It’s our responsibility to stare down shame in the face and pluck it from among us.

It’s absolutely natural and necessary to feel washed over in sickness at this news.

Anything that happened before this doesn’t matter. This is not who we are.

If we want to truly continue the much-lauded legacy of unity our three kidnapped boys granted us in their untimely and cruel deaths, we must stand together in condemning the very same of yet another.

Never normal.

image

Living here is not normal.

Life here pushes through – the normal, the stubborn, the ups, the downs – the not normal, the horror, the grief, the methods, the madness.

Life here is limbo. Life here is business as usual. Life here is waiting. Life here is death.

Life here is moving on. Life here is no tear wasted. Life here is blessing god despite death. Life here is worshipping life.

Life here, after the worst is realized, is never normal again.

Life here will live on despite that.

ברוך דיין האמת.

What’s more complicated than kidnapped teens, baby heart surgery, and life in Israel?

Day 10.

My god. This country. What is more complicated than this goddamn country?

This is a news segment on Channel 10 [Hebrew] profiling a father of a Makor Chaim schoolmate of the two 16-year-old kidnapped boys. He is also Dr. Dudi Mishali, a 20-year Tel HaShomer baby heart surgeon. He opens the chests of infants to cure them of heart conditions.

He does this for any baby that comes through hospital doors. That includes Jewish babies, Israeli Arab babies, Palestinian Arab babies, refugee babies.

So the father of a schoolmate has to contend with the fact that he’s now operating on the 4 month old of Arab Hevron residents while his son’s schoolmates are likely being held captive – assumed alive – somewhere in the very same area.

The parents are terrified of what will be with their baby. The parents are… parents. Like Dudi. Like the three sets of parents waiting to hear the fate of their kidnapped children.

Of course he operates. Of course he goes about his business. Of course it tears him apart that this is the way he has to work right now.

Who – who – can look at a child and not save his life?

But he, and his wife, raise painful points, torturous questions.

This video is uncomfortable.

It’s kind of just life here at the worst of times.

Watch the video.