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

Our Dying World

The world is bleeding.

She is heaving her last breath…convulsing in pain…as she tries to heal wounds she doesn’t know how to lick.

She has been beheaded…stabbed…shot…

She had been blown to bits…burned alive…ravaged…

She has been raped…sold…defiled…

She has been trampled on…spit on…stoned…

She has been through every imaginable torture…and even more unimaginable deceits…

Yet she still struggles to survive…even now as she slips away…

Because she only knows how to love…how to give…how to believe…

She will not understand that to stop the pain she will have to open her core and swallow humanity alive so that she can continue to exist.

She will never do that.

She will die.

And we will die with her.

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.

Eighteen

Lines form on my face and hands

lines form from the ups and downs

I’m in the middle without any plans

I’m a boy and I’m a man

I’m eighteen

and I don’t know what I want

eighteen

I just don’t know what I want

eighteen

I gotta get away

I gotta get out of this place

I’ll go runnin’ in outer space

I got a baby’s brain and an old man’s heart

took eighteen years to get this far

Don’t always know what I’m talkin’ about

feels like I’m livin’ in the middle of doubt

cause I’m eighteen….

~Alice Cooper

 

Eighteen.

Old enough to care.

Young enough to be carefree.

Old enough to be independent.

Young enough to be dependent.

 

Eighteen.

The age of freedom.

The age of youth.

The age of joy.

 

Eighteen.

Young enough to hit the gas

Push the limits

Fly.

 

Eighteen.

Old enough to drive

Cars, motorcycles

Tanks.

 

Eighteen.

Young enough to believe

In a cause

In an ideal

 

Eighteen.

Old enough to understand

A reality

That makes no sense.

 

Eighteen.

Young enough to stand tall

In uniform

Armed and ready

 

Eighteen.

Old enough not to question

And to go

When called to duty.

 

Eighteen.

Young enough

Old enough

To die.

 

Lines form on my face and hands

lines form from the ups and downs

I’m in the middle without any plans

I’m a boy and I’m a man

I’m eighteen

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.

STOP…In The Name Of God

With each report…of sirens…rockets…terror…

My heart constricts…shrinks…and trembles…

And I try…to be strong…to be fierce…to believe…

That this land…our land…my land…

Is protected…by a power…an Almighty…

Who is determined…to let us…prevail…

And as these thoughts…float through my head…

They meet another train…of wandering words…

That say…that it sounds…eerily similar…to the rhetoric…they use.

And I am confused…because God…the same God…is being launched…

As a weapon…for both sides…of a war…with no end.

My thoughts…attack each other…until I realize…the solution…is only…to be rid…of the thought…altogether.

I am left…empty…hollow…afraid.

But then…my daughter…chanting Psalms…as she asks the God she was taught to love…to keep…everyone…safe…all the soldiers…all the people…everyone…allays my fear…with her simple…pure…convictions.

I am struck…with a new thought…of right and wrong…good and evil…and the God…the same God for everyone…who also gave my brain…the abilities…the opportunities…to make choices…to find my way…through…around…between…the thoughts…that collide…and explode…and confuse.

The children sleep…in relative safety…for now…and I align myself…with the side of this war…that will ensure their safety…and reaffirm my belief…that my God…wants me…to do what’s right…for me.