Ceasefire

In between war and peace, there is a space where words like ceasefire float around as though they mean something more than pause.

For me, a ceasefire is like a Stage IV cancer diagnosis. You know it’s something you’re going to have to deal with. You just don’t know how long you have to brace yourself for whatever this ultimately means.

I remember the pit in my stomach that formed when we knew my sister was full of colon cancer. For 22 months, it sat and grew thorns that jabbed at me incessantly. When she died, the mass inside me emptied so fast that I was left with a gaping hole I didn’t know how to live with. It took me a long time to replace it with things that brought me pleasure and comfort.

I’ve been here through intifadas and wars. I’ve seen the cycle enough to know what it means to be given a ceasefire. And the pit is growing again. This time, I feel the entire country twisting around with me in discomfort. I don’t know the answer. I wonder if there even is one. But I know that we cannot go on much longer like this.

This is what Ceasefire means to me.

* * *

I have been here before.

So many times before.

Words depicting bloodshed and war shot from the only weapon I’ve ever held comfortably in my hands exploded in empty fields of papers no one will ever read.

I wrote of pain and suffering and heartache and confusion and the humanity inside me that is ripped apart by my need for safety and my need for peace.

I am flesh and bone, so I duck and cover, but I am heart and soul, so I rise and resist.

I don’t understand any of it.

I don’t know why I am chained to my history and my people any more than I understand why I am sympathetic to mothers on the other side of the wall I hate but hide behind as I teach my children tolerance and love and how to communicate effectively to end conflict.

This region at the center of turmoil and battles in the name of gods who don’t have the decency to show up and put a stop to this endless loop of hatred and fear eats me alive and sustains me at once.

Sinatra croons in my head as I watch my country flirt with war.

“Bang bang, she shot me down

Bang bang, I hit the ground

Bang bang, that awful sound

Bang bang, my baby shot me down”

Bang bang.

Ceasefire.

Bury the dead. Bandage the wounds. Build another wall and burn another bridge.

Ceasefire.

Regroup, reload, relaunch.

Cease.

Cease to what? Hate? Exist? Believe?

This land has hooked me, reined me in and entangled me in her torment. I cannot pry myself away from her now.

Ceasefire.

Simmering in the quiet air, raging deep beneath broken trust, our fire holds still another day.

Ceasefire.

Hanging for a moment in time, it is too heavy to remain suspended between hope and reality and will come crashing to the broken ground.

And I…

I am here, planted in a land that was buried alive in a shallow grave. She is slowly decomposing, her stench cannot be masked. I can’t describe how her wretchedness roils my insides yet fills me with a yearning hunger never satiated. This is not prose – it can’t be written from imaginative thoughts. It is a vivid description of the land I feel beneath my feet. It is more real than I will ever be.

This land cannot cease to fire; it is the only way she knows how to breathe.

Originally published on The Times of Israel

I Am Israel

They want me to live in fear as great as their hate

To cower as I walk

To tremble every day.

But I will not.

For I am stronger than they can ever understand

Taller than I seem

Fearless as I’ll ever be.

I represent love

Beauty

Peace.

I am filled with purpose

I am resilient

I am powerful.

I am Israel.

And no matter how many wounds I lick

No matter how many bodies I bury

No matter how much blood seeps into my core

I WILL NOT DIE.

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.

 

 

 

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.

When Conflict Strikes Its Weary Head

So this guy walks up to another guy at a bus stop.

Guy at the bus stop is on his way to a rehearsal for some sort of theater group…he’s creative and fun that way.

And this guy likes to let loose because he lives in the heart of a conflict and it’s good to live life fully when you never know what the guy who walks up to you at a bus stop might do.

Well, anyway, this guy walks up to this guy at a bus stop.

He’s only been a free man for a bit.  He should be living his life and maybe joining a theater group because he also lives in the heart of a conflict and it’s good to live life fully when you just never know what’s next.

But this guy has a problem because he believes in a code that tells him that if his relative is accused of something it’s up to him to prove the family still has honor.

So he walks up to this guy at a bus stop.

And he stabs him enough times in the abdomen to make sure he will die.

Then he steals his gun, which the guy who is dying at his feet has in order to live his life fully in that tiny place at the heart of a conflict with a bit less fear, and shoots at a bunch of young soldiers, gets himself moderately wounded and arrested.

So the guy is going to live for a little while in a prison where he’ll get an education, food and political promotion and most likely will be traded for something intangible like a good will gesture and his family will have their bloody honor back and all will end well for a guy who stabbed another guy at a bus stop where he was waiting to be picked up for rehearsals.

Evyatar Borovsky was laid to rest along with his full life and dreams of theater while his wife and five children wept and my land twisted and turned and a fire raged on and on in the heart of all this conflict and no one in the entire world said a word about the man who just wanted to live.

So I’m telling you the story about the guy who dared to walk up to another guy who’s name was Evyatar and who had a wife and five children and family and friends who loved him and a life that was full and vibrant and loving and who had to die at the feet of a guy who didn’t give two shits about the life of the man he stabbed at a bus stop in a little place that’s the heart of a conflict that killed a man for daring to live.

Evyatar Borovsky

This Is ISRAEL

I am listening to the radio.  A woman is on.  She is talking about life.  About gratitude.  About unity.

She is saying how we are all family.  She is reiterating the need to act as one nation.  To help one another.  To reach out to one another.  To connect with kindness.

She is interrupted.

AZ’AKA (alarm) Tel Aviv.

AZ’AKA – Ramat Gan.

AZ’AKA – Bnei Brak.

She is back on.  She talks more.  About love.  About family.  About what’s important.

There is a catch in her throat.  She wants to cry.  I want to cry.

Instead, she talks and I listen; waiting for another interruption that will tell me where my brothers and sisters are running for cover and will warn me, if need be, to join them.

AZ’AKA – Ashkelon.

AZ’AKA – Ashdod.

AZ’AKA – Sderot.

The next segment is coming on.  I lean a bit closer, straining to hear the sound of normal as an advertisement is played.  There are no interruptions for another twenty minutes.

I hang my laundry slowly, cautiously, as the radio drones on inside and jets fly overhead on their way to protect me.

This is war.

This is terror.

This is the life I am forced to live.

This is the sound of a nation held hostage

Because there are people who hate the right I have to say:

This is Israel.

But I say it.

LOUD.

STRONG.

THIS IS ISRAEL.

And the wails I hear are the same sounds

As the sirens I stand up for

When we are reminded

Three times a year,

one time in honor of those who died before we existed to fight for them,

one time in honor of those who died because we fought,

and one time in honor of the State we pick up arms for,

THAT

THIS

IS

ISRAEL.