If there’s a teudat zehut (ID card) in your pocket, it’s like this: whether you were born here or moved here a year ago, your life is intertwined with whatever is happening outside your own mind and body. Whether you asked for it or not, whether you agree with or not, whether you fully comprehend it or not.
In 2006, as friends and colleagues dropped off from our wedding guest list, as the band played on even as half were called to serve, we understood this is how it is…
We understood it, in theory.
As we heard about more and more dead 30 and 40 year olds, it hurt.
But we were in our 20s.
Now I realize, we didn’t yet understand it in practice.
Today, nearly 20 years later, I’m in my 40s, most males I know who shifted into reservists after mandatory service are now sitting on bases in green uniforms, kids at home, wives at home, bad backs and (apologies, we’ve aged) pot bellies – waiting for instruction, and whatever else comes next.
Normally a news junkie; normally, during un-normal times, I sit glued to screens large and small, streaming the headlines in my ears while strolling through images on Twitter, scanning headlines in Hebrew and English.
This time I couldn’t bring myself. From the talk around me of what actually was happening, I realized I had seen it before – in my horrific worst-case nightmares, the nighttime tax you pay as an innately morbid empath, as a Jew spoon-fed Holocaust accounts year after year since kindergarten. I had seen it before in wild daydreams I couldn’t talk about out loud because I assumed I was crazy.
I told myself I’m being crazy. Stop it.
So the confirmation, the validation of my nightmares, it is too painful to see, in real daylight, in image after video after scream of horror.
I don’t even watch them now. I’ve seen them before,
when I thought I was the sick one.
The Ukrainians I’m working with are wishing me well. This is an old joke in reverse.
The airplanes overhead are constant. Many are passenger planes rerouting. Many are payload-free jets u-turning for their next round.
Each time we’re in this situation, I say a silent prayer towards the planes. They remind me that I can afford not to duck, not to hide as they barrel over me.
I sigh. Only just sigh.
It’s time for someone in our family to register for a gun license. Scroll back up two paragraphs.
The different ways different kids process:
- Zooey does self-instructed play therapy
- Nettles is oblivious but then comes to me 36 hours in, ‘I feel weird. Also can we spend time together alone?’
- Bebe experiences outward anxiety
- Koala asks every single question
A tale of two teenage boys.
One puts a jet plane as his home screen; he’s decided in the last two months he wants to be a pilot. He is glued to tales of his camp counselor in pilot training and testing. He’s googling, he’s reading, he’s watching YouTube videos. He works out now, like his peers; gym membership is the ultimate 14 year birthday present. There’s a future in which he becomes a pilot, or at minimum, tries his damn hardest. And if not, well, there’s always anything else. The whole world spread before him.
Another has no future; he’s the next in line watching the older boys in his community – along with his brothers, father and uncles – choose a path of celebrated violence, murderous rage. His destiny has been written on the wall of some crumbling building, leftovers from May 2021. He remembers 2014 – he was only five, but it’s etched into his hands, which are familiar with the ridges of a gun. He won’t go to university, he won’t have job prospects worth toiling over. Or any prospects. His future is laid out, and it is a minefield of horror, internal and external. A prison of the optionless.
To battle with futureless ghosts is to lose every time.
The worst part is (ha ha psych but you know figure of speech) –
the grief hasn’t even fully begun.
This is pre-grief. This is ramping up grief. This is slow, drawn out, tortured grief, coated in a frustrated brand of anger so foreign to me. Anger born out of betrayal. Out of broken trust.
There’s so much more to say. So much more hair to tear out. So much more to claw at.
This… is only 72 hours in.