On Equality in a Kindergarten

She wants to make the gan Reform,” she says to her assistant.

I feel my cheeks burn and I almost turn away.

But…I can’t leave my son this way…in a room where he is taught subtle discrimination and stereotypes.

So I speak up because this is where it starts…in this room with 3 and 4-year-olds running around an incompetent teacher who doesn’t understand me.

That was not my intention,” I say loud enough to assert myself and so that my son can hear.

I just don’t think the boys should always be the chazan [prayer leader].  There is nothing wrong with a chazanit.”

The assistant smiles.

You know my sister-in-law was a gannenet in a Reform gan.  I know what you’re talking about.”

I breathe deep and try to control the feelings rising up within me.

No.  You don’t understand.  My son told me that only boys can be the chazan.  And when I said a girl can be a chazanit, he laughed.  This is not about religion.  This is not even about prayer.  This is about my son believing that girls can’t be a chazanit.  This is about my son believing there are things girls cannot do just because they are girls.

Oh…I see.  You know you really are a unique mother that you think about this.

I almost lose it.

“I want you to know that if he were a girl…this conversation would have happened the first week of gan.  I want you to know that I am angry at myself it took so long for me to speak to you about this.  I want you to know that I believe in equality.  I want you to know that as much as I aim to empower my daughter, I aim to teach my son what it means to be equal in a world that sees him as something more because of his gender.  And it starts here.

She smiles.

“You know, I heard a segment on the radio about discrimination in the workplace.  They said that people are discriminated against all sorts of things.  The color of their skin…where they come from…their religion.  If I hadn’t heard that I wouldn’t understand you!

“Yes, but here is where you start!  Here is where you educate the children about equality!  In this room!”

She has this blank look on her face and I know that she thinks I’m some sort of crazy feminist burning bras and damning the man.

I look around the room.

The boys and girls are all mixed up together…and they come from different parts of the world…and in so many shades of skin-color…and they speak different languages at home…and they pray differently…and they love like equals…and they fight like equals…and they feel like equals.

I tell my son there will be a chazanit because everyone can lead a prayer to a God Who sees them as equal.  I say it loud enough to ensure that the gannenet and her assistant can hear me…and I walk out of the room, wondering who I was begging to be educated.

Intifada: Take Three

Today, I was on a bus.  And I had my headphones on because I like to listen to music on the bus.

But the driver…

He was in a bad mood…and I couldn’t tell why.

I didn’t know if it was because he had a fight with his wife…forgot his lunch at home…had to go through a checkpoint to get to work…was pissed off because I am a Jew…was frustrated that no matter what he does he is judged terribly…or because he is a radical Islamist who wants to kill Jews so he can be a martyr.

I couldn’t tell.

So I kept taking my headphones off and checking his face and his body language…and he was driving fast and I was waiting for him to crash into a bus or a truck or a tree and there were only old women and young girls on the bus and we didn’t have a gun and then I thought maybe I’d be the one to knock him out and grab the wheel but I wasn’t sure I could even turn the thing or reach the brake…and then Goodbye Yellow Brick Road came on so I put the headphones back on and cranked up the volume and thought it was a good song to die to.

On the way home the driver was a nice Ethiopian man and I smiled widely and thanked him profusely and wasn’t in the mood to listen to music anymore.

Because when there is an intifada…you do as you feel.  And you try to stay alive.

Brave

They are so frigging brave.

She never wants to go to school when she knows there will be a siren.  Yom HaShoah…Yom Hazikaron…and the days when it’s a drill.

Why do we have to practice?

So we’ll know what to do…in case it’s real one day.

She cries and we tell her to be brave and she comes home and says she clung to her teacher and covered her ears and that next time she’s not going to school.

The first time…we grab her and her brother out of bed.  We are on autopilot.  We don’t even remember how we know what to do.  We put them on the bed in the secure room and we shut the door and the window and we see that she’s sitting up and she’s sort of confused.

Did you know?

We look at each other…we choose truth because there is no lie to explain this…

No…we didn’t know.

So it’s real?

Yes…it’s real sweetie.

Oh.

She lays down and pulls the cover up under her chin.  We make the beds in the room and they sleep there.  They sleep there every night now.

We go to a carnival.  We have fun…we try to be normal…we smile and laugh and play…

We are on the way out when the sirens wail.  We turn around and run into the building…down the stairs…on the floor…it’s ok..it’s ok…it’s ok…

Hey guys…you ok?

My voice is not mine…it is calm and cool but it is not mine.

She whimpers for a minute…then she smiles.

I’m ok.

He grins.

I’m ok.

I am not.

It is night…they have already been tucked in.  We run in and close the door…and the window.

He jumps up and starts dancing on the bed.

Get down…get down…we have to stay down.

He laughs.

Everyone is in our room.

It’s so normal.

It is so damn normal.

She asks what we should do if there’s a siren on our way back from our long walk…we walked for half an hour…played at a park for a bit…walked back…and only when she sees our building from the path does she voice her concern…

We’re outside…where should we hide if there’s a siren?

We tell her.  The bushes…next to the wall…we have to lie down and cover our heads.

She nods and clutches my hand a little bit tighter.  And we keep walking.

He is in the kiddie pool on the porch.  I grab him and a towel at the same time and try to pretend it is ok.  We close the door and the window and we sit with the man who was working on our air conditioner and had been about to leave.  He babbles about the siren and the war and the soldiers.  I smile and hold him close…my clothes absorbing the water I pulled him from…and when it is over and we call his father…he tells him it was scary and then builds an Iron Dome out of clics.

She wonders if a siren sounds in the middle of dinner…whether we should take our food.

He says he’ll be in the army when he’s a big boy and he’ll go in a tank.  He makes tanks out of chairs and boxes and brooms…and he shoots the bad guys and tells his sister he’ll make sure not to die.

They hide their disappointment when I say we can’t go to the beach.

It’s ok…it’s because there are no bomb shelters near the water…right?

No…but there are missiles floating in the water.

And I don’t want to be on a bus…or a train…or out in the open…because I am afraid.

But they were born in this land…and so they have breathed in her air…they have dug her earth up with their hands…they have covered their toes with her white sand…they have splashed in the waves of her blue sea…they have felt her sun warm their bodies…the clouds cover her sky and bring them bountiful rain…they have eaten her fruits…and have grown roots firmly in her soil.

So, of course, they are brave.

They are so frigging brave.

Don’t.

Don’t…
Don’t tell me to stay safe…
not to read the news…not to check each siren…not to think about it…not to worry…
Don’t tell me not to be afraid.
Don’t.

Because it is my prerogative to be afraid.
Because it is my country under attack.
Because it is my children I am scooping up into my arms as I run…run…run.

I cannot stay safe.
I cannot make sure a missile doesn’t rain down on my head.
I cannot rely on the incredible Iron Dome to keep me alive.

I will not rely on miracles…I do not know if I believe in them.
I will not stop my life and hide…but I will be paranoid and afraid.
I will not lie to my children…I will answer their questions openly.

I do not stand with Israel…I crouch with her…
In shelters…in stairways…on the side of the road…in trenches…in ditches…
In war.

So I say…
Stay strong…stay low…and push forward.
Be afraid…be brave…and protect this land.
And don’t…
Don’t’ ever give in.

Tears

 

The words are piling up behind my eyes…

pushing past resistant eyelids…

spilling…

letter by letter…

down my cheeks…

where I angrily brush them aside.

I don’t want to write…

I don’t want to feel in text…

I don’t want to say the things my heart is dictating.

So I rub…

I destroy the words that must never be spoken…

the dreams…

the hopes…

the why….

the how…

the deafening shriek filling my mind…

the absolutely gut-wrenching pain I have no right to believe is mine.

I want to say…

that I cannot say…

anything at all.

 

Arise

I wanted to write about it…

My problems.

My silly issue with our apartment and our need to move…

and the stress and the anxiety and the fear we’d never find another place and the panic that we can’t cover the costs and the frustration that this is just going to be the story of our lives year after year after year

But then there were the boys.

And their mothers.

Three strong women.

Broken men standing beside them.

Lives forever changed.

And my silly little issue seems like a blessing.

Because I’m in this together with my husband…and my two healthy children.

So, dear beautiful women with your heads held high,

I rise up and I stand.

In solidarity I stand – my broken pieces connecting to your broken pieces…

A mosaic of pain and suffering…

Heartache and heartbreak…

Colorful stories merging with the black and grey…

And we are lost…

and we must be found…

so our collage can fill the world with light…

and right the wrongs…

and fight the dark…

and illuminate the way…

for our boys to come home.

SILENCE!!!!

HEY!  Tzfira!

He yells it across the crowded store and everything goes quiet.

Almost.

Beep…beep…beep.

One cashier is still working.

The quiet gets to her and she looks up in surprise.

Slowly, she stands and lowers her head.

Two women continue their conversation.

Hearing English during these moments of silence is making me cringe and I try to focus.

The bread machine goes on as a man in a long black jacket slices his loaf of bread, oblivious…or maybe not.

I try to remember.  I try to stand at attention and feel.  I try to imagine the pain and sorrow this country manages to live through every second of every day…but all I can think of is that they have no damn respect!

I just want to shake them and scream and flail my arms out as I let that burning desire to wish all that excruciating pain on each and every one of those people, who can’t even stand still for two minutes and show a little respect, pour out of the carefully scripted mantra I hold…

The idea of love and mutual understanding…of debating softly and disagreeing amiably….of living with people who think and feel differently…of never, ever, wishing anyone harm no matter how they act.

But I can’t.

I can’t respect them.

I can say it’s because they don’t respect me.

I can say it’s because they don’t let me live my life peacefully.

I can say many things.

But really…it’s because they can’t give two fucking minutes of their time to shutting up and letting me mourn.

So damn you stupid people in the grocery store…damn you.

Black and White and Green All Over

It’s hard to write this.

I don’t really want to, but I saw something today that made me realize there are people out there that cannot say what I am going to say, but desperately need to.

So I’m voicing it.

A few days ago, my husband took my daughter to the bus.  We need to go to a bus stop in a different neighborhood – one where we don’t belong.

There were signs plastered to the wall behind the bus stop.

Cartoons…pictures of scary looking monsters in IDF uniform chasing sweet looking kids with side-curls…and of course, three young boys were standing in front of the posters, taking in every minute detail…absorbing someone’s agenda casually.

We’ve seen this before.

Once, my daughter picked up a piece of paper in the park.  I didn’t notice until she had already pointed out the bad chayalim.  I ripped it up in anger and couldn’t explain any of it to her.

I just said it was garbage…and we don’t pick up garbage from the floor.

My husband tore down those posters as if that could change anything.  People walked by and looked, but no one stopped him.

Today, I was on the bus.  I got on at the beginning of the line, near the train station.  A soldier sat in the seat in front of me.

I barely noticed him until I saw the flash of white and green…

And I realized that he was changing, on the bus…

He buttoned his white shirt up to his neck…and it was only then I noticed the beard and the black kippah.

He fiddled with his shoes and peeled off his pants, revealing the black pair he had on under the green.  Then he began to tuck in his shirt.

Two minutes.

It took two minutes for him to transform.

The green was stuffed into a giant shopping bag, and a man wearing a different uniform sat in front of me.

I messaged my husband.

There’s a chareidi soldier on the bus changing into a white shirt.

He has to or a 4-year-old will call him a Nazi.

He’s changing everything, even his shoes.  And he has black pants under his uniform.

My husband responded.

Can you blame him?

I looked at him again.  He wasn’t even that young.  He probably had a family.

No, not at all.

Just makes me sad.

I really wish I could tell him he looked holier in green.

I got off the bus a few minutes later.

There were posters hanging on another wall…

And I am certain I won’t live to see redemption.

Orange

It was summer and we were young and somewhat naïve.

Marriage was new. Living in Israel as responsible adults was new.

Political talk was new.

It was an orange summer.

We were so convinced that orange would be heard.

We wore it everywhere. We raised our orange banners and we screamed so loudly it was impossible to be ignored.

Orange, the color of hopes and dreams, dissolved into the color of fire it has always been.

We were young and life was new.

There was another soul we were thinking of at the time, so the orange sort of faded and turned into the long nights of winter.

We went to an appointment. At 25 weeks gestation, it was a big one. The doctor pointed out every limb and told us how healthy and whole our son was.

In the cab ride home we heard the news.

Arik had a stroke.

There was a moment we had, where we looked at each other and thought it, but the driver said it first.

Thank God.

I squirmed.

But the child inside me did too so I forgot all about it.

We didn’t know what the future would hold.

We didn’t know that our son was healthy and whole inside me, but didn’t stand a chance two days later in an incubator.

We didn’t know a man could lie in a bed for eight years and never wake up.

Thank God, he said.

We were young. We didn’t know anything. We didn’t know him.

We knew about orange bracelets and a land we would never give up.

We knew there was a man who was hurting us, so we thought he was bad.

We didn’t know.

Tovah knew.

She said she was sure.

She would know.

She knew what it was like to drive through a town every day and interact with the locals like neighbors do.

She knew what it was like to suddenly have to change your attitude and begin a safety method which involved locking the doors of your car and hitting the gas as hard as you could, praying you would get out through the neighboring town alive. You weren’t supposed to stop for anything.

She also knew about a man they called the butcher.

She knew to trust him.

She had to trust him.

Everyone had to.

So she knew exactly what happened.

She told us about the man.

She told us he would never give in.

She told us he couldn’t give in.

She said he had to have had a plan.

He was going to leave the land and wait…however long it took…and then when that first rocket hit our soil he was going to rise up and strike.

He was going to raze down buildings and hunt down the people who dared defy him.

He was going to take it all back with a vengeance and fill that land with all the orange he could find.

Then he would turn to the world and say, see? I told you so.

Tovah knows this to be true.

I have to believe it, too.

He didn’t roar…for eight years he didn’t roar…and then he faded away and took all the orange with him.

If I don’t believe with Tovah, what am I left to believe?

AS IF

Have you seen the picture of Eden Atias?

eden atias

He is facing the camera…beautiful…young…looking full of life…with a slight smirk that suggests he knows about his beauty…youth…and the full life he has.

And then, have you seen the picture of the seat he was sitting on as, exhausted from the beginning of his basic training, he fell asleep on a bus, never imagining that his beauty, youth and life would be cut short by the 16-year-old terrorist sitting beside him?

Eden's seat

This is Israel.  I’ve said that before.  This is where I want to live.  This is where I am entitled to live because it is my God-given birthright.  This is MY land and I will not leave.

I am here in my land with my people and we are suffering together as we kindly smile at our enemies and talk about peace and negotiations in the hopes of a different sort of future.  But I’m tired of it.  I am so damn tired of writing out how tormented I feel, trapped in my land surrounded by a world that produces a sixteen year old capable of stabbing a man – a BOY – to death on a bus.

I am so so very tired…

of this

and this

and this

and this

and this

and this

and this

all I want to do is scream…shout to the heavens…roar ENOUGH!

For now, I sit…in my safe little home…and try to live a normal life…like the rest of my people…who have no choice…but to lay a boy in the ground…and move on…as if…life can go on…

As. If.