Anita Hill, Christine Blasey Ford, and me

I was too young then… too small and insignificant to understand what bravery looks like… to know the pain of disbelief…

I was too young to see her… too young to be moved to act on her behalf.

I was not young enough to escape her fate.

9,853 days should be long enough to figure this out.

9,853 days should be time enough to change.

And yet here I am… 9,853 days older and more broken than I ever knew I could be, watching history repeat itself while my heart pounds in fear and my voice falls back into my constricted throat.

I was too young to feel the waves. I was too young to see the rippling effect.

I was not young enough to tell the truth. I was not young enough to report, report, report!

I was too young to find the common thread that wove through our private places in secret spaces where demons like to graze.

9,853 days ago happened again today. Too young then… too scared now to let this moment pass.

I am brave enough to take a stand.

I am strong enough to carry this.

I am weary enough to scream for an end.

I am no longer letting warrior queens fight alone against a revolving world of lines so blurred they turn into laughing devil emojis flying out from the fingertips of some damn internet goblin who hides his masculinity beneath the desperate urges of his groin.

I say enough.

I say it louder and clearer and a hell of a lot meaner than I’ve ever said it before.

I say time’s up, and I mean today because the clock kept ticking for 9,853 days even though the brake was pulled by so many broken bodies and tortured souls.

I say we change our rhetoric and up our ante and refuse to remain the children we were when the alarm bells were ringing, and we went out to play because we were too young to have a say in what our future would bring.

Today I am old enough to know that my children are not too young to add their voices to the scream that will tear down the fabric wrapping the illusion of change these past 9,853 days tricked us into believing was real.

Join me. Stop the clock and reset time. Change the direction this crazy train is on. And let’s see what we can do when we stop holding our breath and rise out of these ashes.

I am Anita Hill.

I am Christine Blasey Ford.

And you will hear me roar.

Originally published on The Times of Israel.

Taking a Stand for Sarah Tuttle-Singer

This is a sacred space.

It is my quiet – where my thoughts flow across a clean, white screen with no smudges and smears.

It is a private space with a door opening to the outside allowing others to peek in within the safety of words drawing boundaries with their intimacy.

I write boldly about my feelings in the most cautious way.

I use words that make it clear I am in control, and you have no place here.

I don’t get many comments or likes.

I get viewers…readers who peek into my soul and know that they belong on their side of the glass…watching and listening while minding the signs.

KEEP OFF

PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH

DO NOT CROSS RED LINE.

I drew the lines carefully and consciously when I first began finding myself in this sacred space. I was afraid of any response – afraid someone else would enter and rip me apart. I wrote deeply always from a place of feeling…of individual perception…of no judgment.

I feel…I am…my heart…my soul…

Rarely you…you don’t belong here in my innermost feels.

It was a good strategy, even though it isolated me in the blogosphere and kept me under the radar.

But I need to shatter the walls for a moment to talk about Sarah Tuttle-Singer.

For years I read her words with an eagerness pulling at my heart.

Her sentences painted pictures I could immerse in; her thoughts turned me inside out and forced me to re-examine where I thought I fit in.

And I watched her sacred space fall prey to hate.

Vicous, horrifying hate.

But I’m a coward, so I continued lurking and quietly congratulating myself for keeping my little corner here empty.

I don’t want to be a coward.

I want to stand up and say how much I respect her as a writer, how much I admire her courage to face off against all the assholes. I want to stand beside her and swing at each jerky fastball heading her way. I want to claim how little of a shit I give about our differences and how much I connect to our similarities.

The thing is, I’m scared of you.

Here’s the biggest secret I hide beneath my broken past…

In my here and now, with all the pain and suffering behind me, I am what you some of you would call a liberal fucktard. I am so open-minded my brains sometimes fall out. I lean wildly to the left even as my roots try to pull me towards the center. I fight for equality and understanding and acceptance. I’m not always articulate, and I don’t have an academic background to lean against. But I’m a severe empath, and I get ravaged by other people’s feelings.

I’m also deathly afraid of you yelling at me.

I retreat and retreat until my head is deeply embedded in any sand it can find just so I don’t have to defend the thoughts I can barely control.

And then I read words I recognize as my truth, and I have to stand up and join the fight.

I don’t know if I can do more than this.

I don’t know how much my heart can take.

I may go back to bleeding all over this space the way I always have.

I may seal myself in and curl into the ball on the floor you don’t have to address.

But for this one moment, I am standing up and screaming out to the world from inside my warm, safe cave.

Just shut up.

Sarah Tuttle-Singer should be able to pour herself out onto blank pages without you telling her to die, or that she should be raped, or that she is evil.

You don’t have to like what she says, or who she is if you want to make it personal.

You can disagree with her and try to debate whatever you want with her.

Enough with the hate I can feel sizzling through my screen.

Maybe try to listen.

To open up and see her soul. It’s right there in front of you.

It’s beautiful.

 

 

 

When the Children Cry – Rise Up!

There is a soundtrack to my life. There are an endless amount of lyrics and tunes stored in my brain and the second something happens that triggers a feeling, a song begins to play.

Today, I heard the White Lion ballad stirring around as I listened to an audio clip of children crying out for their parents in a US Customs and Border detention facility.

“Little child, dry your crying eyes…how can I explain the fear you feel inside…”

The idealism of my teenage years when ’80s ballads did me in came flooding back at me, wrapped in the cynicism of reality. I used to think people wrote and sang songs like this because you could rally up the people and they could make a change.

“No more presidents, and all the wars will end…one united world, under god…”

It’s laughable how I had hoped for a better world for my children. I’m wondering now how to incorporate a possible war into my summer plans so that my kids don’t get excited about something that can be derailed by rockets. I used to think cheesy lyrics meant something.

“When the children cry, let them know we tried…”

No, you didn’t. I was a crying child then. While the adults around me were composing songs about saving the world and feeding all the hungry children, I was curling up in my room learning not to trust anyone.

“Little child, you must show the way, to a better day for all the young…” 

Uh-uh. Not this time. I’m so tired of children taking up the role of our future. I don’t believe that…not anymore.

I’m all grown up now. I heard you sing and chant and claim to fight for me. I saw you fail time and time again.

Children are still crying and my head is filled with the bullshit of a generation who thinks my generation is too fast-paced, too demanding, too selfish and too damn technologically advanced to know how to stoop down to eye level with children and tell them that we fucked up.

You raised us with the wrong songs. You made us think we had to fix your mistakes. You told us you were sorry for leaving us something so damaged and you slithered off into retirement while refusing to let your fist loosen on the ideals you carefully cultivated for yourselves.

We’ve taken the seeds of your ideas and we’ve grown them into worlds you never could have imagined. We’ve become innovators and problem solvers and creative geniuses and you still scoff at us.

I need a new soundtrack.

I can hear the drums, I can feel the beat picking up. I think we might have something special churning around out there, something that can produce a sound I can be proud of.

Listen up, kids. I know you’re hurting and scared and worried about your future.

We got this. This is not our fight but we’re going to make it ours. You are the children of today. You should be learning and laughing and living your best lives. You shouldn’t be in detention facilities. You shouldn’t be separated from your families. You shouldn’t be worried about war or how long it will take for the environment to give up. You should be singing the songs we write for you.

Listen to them; they are glorious.

I’m not going to leave you with something I can’t be proud of. Hold on just a little longer while we kick some butt.

We will rise up.

Originally published on the Times of Israel.

Dry eyes

My grandmother ran out of Poland towards Russia with only the summer clothes she was wearing and spent the next five years seeking warmth in a world that had frozen over.

I was raised on her story, as well as all the stories of my generation’s grandparents. We were their proof that it had been worth it and we were reminded of that as often as possible.

Black and white images of striped prisoners dominated my youth and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that my life was a living testimony to six million corpses.

I devoured memoirs and drew black and white sketches of emaciated Jews melting in pools of blood. My drawings hung on the walls as trophies, as though they meant we had won.

I knew what gas chambers were before I had ever watched a Disney movie. I scoffed at Socialism before I learned about Democracy. I could recognize Hitler and Stalin and swastikas before I ever saw a picture of JFK. I wasn’t brought up in the shadow of the Holocaust, I was brought up in the tangible fear and hope and pain and joy of a generation who went through something they either couldn’t stop talking about or never mentioned at all.

I didn’t think death and destruction could faze me; I was basically a survivor.

Almost 11 months ago, my ninety-something-year-old grandmother walked across the green grass leading up to the hole they were lowering my 17-year-old sister into. She stood as tall as possible for a 4 foot-something woman and looked straight ahead. “Dayeinu,” she stated. She remained stoic and unmoving throughout the week, solid as a rock. When someone told my father that we don’t ask questions; we just cry, she marched over and made another statement. “We ask questions,” she said, “we don’t cry.”

At one point I escaped the crowds and went upstairs to the room with the candle where we watched my sister die. I took out her paints and brushes and covered one of the canvases she never got to use in the colors of my pain. The release was more powerful than a thousand tears. I brought it down to share with my family and someone said, “show Bubby.” I sat down at her feet and held up the painting. She stared at it and patted my hand. “Bubby, I can’t share any other way,” I said. I wanted her to know that my eyes dry up when it hurts, but the words caught in my throat. “I know,” she said, “I see you crying.”

My grandmother survived more than the Holocaust. She survived immigration, she survived the loss of her mother, she survived the loss of her son, she survived the loss of her husband and she just survived the loss of her granddaughter. Dayeinu.

For two years I held my breath as I waited for my sister to die. Then she died and I stopped breathing. For almost a year I have built up a tolerance to air filling my lungs. I can learn to live.

The siren blared yesterday and rang in my head all day. I wanted to think of the lives lost…I really tried…but I have carried their memories in my essence since the day I was born and yesterday I suddenly felt like I wanted to break away.

I turned on the TV and the images of my youth jumped out at me on every channel. Nothing made my soul churn, it was like flipping through a worn out photo album and knowing each picture before getting to the next page.

Without warning, images of Syrian children flew across the room at me and slammed against my chest.

I thought of a child running for the border with just the clothes on her back towards a future she could never be certain of. I thought of her grandchildren, raised on her losses. I thought of her eyes drying up.

The ringing of the siren subsided. I took a deep breath and I reached for those paints and brushes.

My grandmother’s story was told. It is time to tell the ones that are screaming out at us from behind our screens.

Source: Dry eyes

When Terrorists Die

On December 1, 2001, my husband stood on an unfamiliar street in the heart of an unfamiliar country.  He had just turned eighteen and his life was shit.  He just wanted a little something to numb the pain.

This was the place to be, he was told.  Here was the action.  By day, a bustling pedestrian mall, by night, a refuge for the down and out to come nurse their pain with whatever was available.  This was where the action would be.

The street was full.

He was standing in an alleyway, right next to Burger King, when the first bomber blew up.  He told himself it was a sonic boom.  Then he walked a few feet forward and saw the carnage.

A man lay on the floor in front of him with blood pouring out of his head.  People ran past, up and down the street, oozing blood, their clothes torn…their hands holding pieces of themselves.

He walked down, to the right, propelled by the masses of people.  There were bodies on the floor.  It was surreal.  Smoky.  Dark.  Chaos.

And then the other bomber burst into a shooting flame, rising above the buildings, right into the crowds running away.

That’s when he realized there was nowhere to go.

That’s when he realized what it means to live with enemies.

By the time the third bomb, hidden in a car up the street blocking access to emergency personnel blew up, a new reality had formed in his mind.

Half a bottle of vodka later, as he watched the news play the scenes he witnessed over and over again, he noticed he was still shaking.

He was eighteen, in an unfamiliar land.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

We’ve been reading the news and following up on what happened in Boston.  I don’t know if we have a right to comment.  I don’t think it’s fair to compare.  But I do have one thing on my mind.

That night, back in 2001, 13 people died; 11 civilians and 2 terrorists, and 188 civilians were injured.  When the death toll is counted, there is always a pause before this is said, but it is said.  Two bodies, however mangled and destroyed they are, are gathered and taken care of.  I don’t know if they are buried with anything more than a shovel and a box, or how often they get returned to their families, but they are not left to rot.

Because the dead, despite who they were before or what they did, deserve a bit of dirt to disintegrate into.

It’s not the least or the most we can do.  It’s not a favor.  It’s not anti-justice, or pro-terrorism.  It’s humane.

We live in Israel.  We suffer at the hands of people who think we have no right to live.  But we maintain a spirit of humanity that we can’t deny.  We come from dust and we return to dust.  Once we are nothing but flesh and bone we must return to the ground, despite our breathing moments.

There is a terrorist who is nothing more than a body now.

As long as he lies on a table with nowhere to go, he has taken away an entire country’s ability to rise above in the fight for a higher ethical code for humanity.

Jonathan Pollard and a Coloring Book

We’re going to the US in two weeks.

It’s a big trip.  It’s a huge trip.

We haven’t been there for three years and when we left last time we were a family of three.  When we went to get our son’s Report of Birth at the US embassy the consular clapped as she declared our son the newest American.  We get to travel with eight passports.  It’s a big deal.

Traveling with two children halfway across the universe is scary, and exciting – mostly scary when I think about getting there – but when I get past that first day of hellish traveling, I get excited.  About the wedding.  And the other wedding.  And the grandparents.  And great-grandparents.  And Chanukah with real, biological family.  And SNOW.  And Wal-Mart.  And Target.  And malls.  And outlets.  And museums.  And zoos that take longer than an hour to get around.  And flea markets.  And used bookstores.  And cheap, cheap clothing.

So we made lists.  Essentials (shoes, underwear, socks, pajamas), Needs (dishes, knives, towels, bed sheets) and Desires (toys, books, art supplies, accessories).

I also allocated space in the four suitcases we plan on bringing back for a few neighbors to order some of their Essentials, Needs or Desires.

The passports are all in place.  America is waiting.  All we have to do is sit tight and try not to add anything to our lists.  And we also have to live the next two weeks out in a semi-normal fashion even though the excitement/fear is overwhelming.

Tonight my daughter’s Yemenite, extremely Israeli friend ate dinner with us.  The prevailing topic has been the upcoming TRIP and tonight was no exception.  He got involved in the conversation, asking when we were going and for how long.  My daughter was letting him know all the things she is excited about (the gigantic dinosaur made of bones we promised she’ll see at the Museum of Natural History and snow, real snow not imported from Northern Israel, but real falling snow) when she offered to bring him something from the great U.S. of A.

He smiled sheepishly and shrugged his shoulders.  But when I reiterated the offer he looked at us, and in all seriousness, asked for the one thing he wanted from big, ol’ America:

Jonathan Pollard.

Yup.  Seven year old Chizkiya, the boy next door who plays on-again, off-again with my little girl, the kid who covets the little playmobile king that came in her princess set, the child who dresses up as a cheetah and pounces around the house as she dances alongside him in her Cinderella dress, wants us to free Pollard and bring him home.

The silence was broken by my little girl asking me who Pollard is…and as I tried to stutter a reply my list seemed to shrink and become just a bit silly and meaningless.

We offered to buy him a coloring book with cheetahs in it.

He accepted the compromise.

My list still stands.

My awe of all things American, however, does not.

Why Beit Shemesh Means Nothing To Me

Back in September, I wrote a post about the situation here in Beit Shemesh.  I wrote mainly out of frustration with my new hometown, and because mothers were bringing politics to the park.  I responded to a conversation held in front of children on this blog, although looking back maybe I should have kept my personal ideas as locked in as I did when confronted with the angry shouts and accusations against Chareidim, while sweet Chareidi boys played less than two feet away.

I heard some things that day that made me cringe.  Later on, I read worse thoughts on a Facebook group I wanted to join.  The group was formed to show support for the girls and parents of the school, something I felt was a positive, wonderful thing to be a part of.  Except, comments such as “a dead Chareidi is a good Chareidi” and “let’s project scenes from Baywatch on their buildings” made me feel so disgusted and embarrassed that my opinion changed.  My disgust and frustration flew from my fingertips, becoming, as usual, a blog post.

Life in Israel was hosting thoughts on the Orot Banot saga and welcomed guest posters.  I submitted my post, hoping that it would reach a wider readership, particularly the mothers who shared the park benches with me and who were part of a community I thought I wanted to join.

Then I received a panicked phone call from my friend.  She begged me to come to be at her side as her sister lay dying.  I rushed out the door with an apple and my computer, thinking I would spend some time writing and possibly provide my friend with a distraction.

The intensity of that day ripped me apart and I completely forgot about my life or the lives of anyone living in the war-zone that is Beit Shemesh.

It was long past midnight and an angel’s life was drawing to a close.  I sat in the waiting room, taking a break from the pillar of strength I had morphed into.  I wanted to check back into reality.  I needed to connect with the real world, where people took deep breathes, related to each other, and didn’t have to say goodbye to their daughter, sister, and friend.

I checked in with the blogosphere and noticed that people had commented on my post.  I was excited and curious to see what sort of response I had generated.

My hands were shaking as I read comment after comment of what felt to be people telling me I’m stupid and invalidating my opinion. My words were picked apart and harshly criticized.  Although most of the article was my ranting thoughts, the point that I wanted to give over was summed up in the last paragraph.

“Let’s protect all the children.  Maybe we should start by leaving this sort of discussion outside the park.  I moved here so that my children could be raised in an environment of tolerance and acceptance.  That my children could be accepted and so that they could accept others is dependent on what they hear at home, in school and in the park.”

No one managed to hear that part.  They just went on about me and my ‘groundless’ opinion.

I closed my computer, refusing to respond, walked into a hospital room and watched a young girl die.

In my soul, I lost a little bit of faith in humanity.

In my heart, I lost respect for both sides of the story.

In my mind, I made a promise not to care.

I live in a home full of warmth, love, and tolerance.

And I do not go to the park.