Consistently, there is a new normal and then a newer one here in Israel. You don’t want to get used to problems, but you also have to learn to get through them. I am revisiting this theme pretty consistently. I said, back on February 8, 2013:
I have talked about it a lot, I know (okay, here and here and alllll the way back to here, with many many others), I revisited about how easy it is re-acclimate to the new. How the new normal is so normal so quickly. And how we often pretend that our ability to adjust is what gets us through the day.
So what do I have new to add to it?
This is a new situation that I’ve experienced this week in Israel. Let me first say that I’m glad to be here. The hardest thing for me, when Israel is under attack, is not to be here. I also need to know if I can handle the stress of being here, if I’m thinking of living here permanently.
And it is stressful.
I had a clever title, but I forgot it. I’m pretty tired, even though I did sleep the last few nights, or at least for a few hours.
When we got to Israel, we were consumed with our missing three boys. Then we lost them. Then we lost the Arab boy through our loss of values. And then, this week.
Hearing the siren for the first time was very consuming. You are aware that you need to do something, but you also can’t believe it could really be happening. You also are meta-thinking about other people having to do this all.
And then, since we are silly silly American rabbits, when we heard another siren in the middle of the night two nights ago, we calmly picked ourselves up, gathered the still-sleeping kiddies, and went into the safe room, where the 2 bigger kiddies were sleeping. And we waited the designated 10 minutes to pass before going back to our beds, to sleep or not to sleep.
It turns out that that second siren was probably a car alarm. Okay, better safe than sorry. But not really, because it wears you down. Being vigilant is exhausting. I go back to my meta-thoughts of how in the world people can handle this on an ongoing basis?
Okay, there is a great article on Israel21C about how Israelis are using humor to stay sane. But it highlights the insanity.
The Israeli Home Front lists steps to take in case of a “conventional” threat. What in the world is conventional about this? Okay, it’s not a threat of chemicals (THANK G-D!!!) yet, but this is crazy to have to define threats.
I thought it would be easier being here and not having to be glued to the news to find out what is happening, but guess what? I’m still glued. We want to know what is happening in all the different parts of the country, not just in our own pocket. I am so grateful for the incredible technology of the Iron Dome, which has been so successful so far in neutralizing the rockets before great damage. We are all aware that things can change if there are more fatalities. So far, there are only rumors of one death. Even a rumor, even if only one, it will change everything. I’ve been searching for the name of the man burned badly in Ashdod so I can say some prayers for him, but of course, that’s not being released.
A few days ago, the first day after the first round of sirens here in Efrat, I could have recounted the rest of the silliness; that I didn’t sleep more because of the mice that were running around the room I was staying in and enjoying the terror that they were putting me through, or so I imagined.
Because that’s what terror is. It’s the backfiring of a car that makes you jump. It’s the set-up of the anxiety that turns into PTSD, so the consequences are very far-reaching. It’s the spiral of the lunacy of lessons never really learned.
Rabbi Yuval Cherlow tries to teach the lesson that we, the whole world, or at least the cousins, the children of Abraham, need to learn. He says on Facebook that we need to learn from Abraham that sometimes you need to go to war–to save the captured; which becomes the first principal of a just war. Not everything is allowed in war, but that is because of our dedication to following the Torah, not because we give in to the pressures of the “human rights committees, which are based on lies and politics only.” We are created in the image of G-d, and therefore we have to limit ourselves to war only that is necessary and not beyond it.
And Daniel Gordis writes similarly in his essay called “We have all been here before”, extending the metaphor to include the upcoming fast day of the 17th of Tammuz this Tuesday, remembering the breach of the walls of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and then again by the Romans:
Of course Bibi is right that we abhor the horror and they celebrate their murderers. Of course he’s right that we arrest the perpetrators and they name streets and city squares after them. Of course he’s right that we’re surrounded by an evil the world simply refuses to understand. Yes, that’s all true. But it’s also utterly irrelevant.
Moral equivalency makes a mockery of truth, but moral superiority makes a mockery of responsibility.
Being better than them is not good enough. “Not being revolting” is not a standard that will get our children to believe in this place. Either we build something that reflects the very best of what our tradition has stood for since those first walls were breached long ago, or we will exile ourselves – not because the walls were penetrated, but because the shame was simply too great to bear.
For we have been here before, and we dare not go back.
Our walls are not impenetrable; we will forever have to go to war, we will forever endure periods of fear. So first, we must win this war (whatever that might actually mean). But then, when the dust settles and the clock begins to count down to the next conflagration, we must ask ourselves what has happened to us. And we must fix it – to its very core.
Our walls have been breached, but so, too, has our heart. Something about us has been defiled and polluted. So first we must prevail, and then we must be better.
For this time, our temple must not fall.
With dreams of a Shabbat Shalom for all of us.