There’s no one who should be more anticipant then me – an Ashdod resident who is experiencing a generous brunt of the Protective Edge warfare in Israel – of the end of this terrible period of time we are enveloped in. And of course, I am. I feel a huge relief that our soldiers are no longer in the lion’s den (and won’t have to go back in). And on a more mundane but personal note, I am delighted that I am no longer locked in the house with three little kids who need to desperately frolic in the sand. I will whoop with joy when my weekly shiur finally restarts, after a too-long timeout. I will breathe easily, knowing that a siren won’t surprise me any moment. I will no longer worry where my husband is when the siren sounds. I won’t hear ominous booms anymore and wonder where the rockets are falling.
All this, of course, is massively understated. I should really say: If I could, I would kick up a dance in the street and embrace every woman I see in a tearful bear hug. I would throw a bash and invite enough women to fill each square foot in my home (but no kids, please. We’ve had enough of entertaining them indoors for who-knows-how-long from morning to night. I shouted that, by the way.).
But in reality, the end will be bittersweet. There are two sides to the coin: relief and grief.
So many families are mourning, and all along we mourned with them. Many more are dealing with wounds on all levels, some of which remain for life, and we cry for them. Will we now throw off the war and its memories like a heavy, unwanted sack, while others deal with it on their own?
With all its insecurity, unpredictability, and inconvenience, the war was a special time. We in Israel walked the streets with a feeling of kinship: everyone was hearing the same news, thinking the same thoughts, brooding over the same worries, praying the same prayers.
Hours after the abduction of Sergeant Hadar Goldin, the quiet of Shabbos muted the blaring news and we were left to peace and panic all at once. On Shabbos one isn’t supposed to cry, but that week it proved extremely difficult. The questions hovered like an impenetrable fog: Is he alive? What is he going through? Did they get him back (for the optimists only)?
After candle lighting, I left for a Shabbos stroll with my kids, now that we were relatively free to walk outside, being in central Israel for Shabbos, and the same tune played for all us. Abductions, tunnels, soldiers and Gaza were the words you heard from the clusters of men, women, boys and girls on the street corners.
I had listened to the news just before Shabbos, and cried through the loudspeaker message that blared from a car around the neighborhood: “Eis tzarah hi l’Yaakov…Pray for the chassan Hadar ben Chedvah Leah and for all our brothers who are now in life-threatening danger…” But then the Shabbos bell sounded, and I had to wipe my eyes and usher in the Shabbos Queen. On Motzaei Shabbos, I turned on the news immediately, although I usually try to keep an extra few minutes. But no, there was no clear verdict, and definitely not the happy ending of “We have him and he’s safe and sound” that I’d wished for. Some said he was alive, some said it couldn’t be. So we all continued to worry.
When else would I have fretted with this motherly concern for someone from a totally different sector of society than mine? At what other time would I panic for the welfare of boys in different circles of society other than during the war? Now, this is almost all that occupied my mind.
It wasn’t only me. Jews from every spectrum of society talked about how the soldiers were doing and worried for their families. Everyone sought ways to contribute and show support, and indeed, many did so by praying for soldiers whose names were provided by a special organization that made that its mission.
My question is, what will happen afterward? Will the end of the war herald the end of this beautiful ahavas chinam – loving others for no other reason other than because they are Jews? This time, love and respect were not dependent on our identification with these Jews’ lifestyles and choice. It was plain, baseless love. Will we still have that? I desperately wish the answer will be yes.
The war will, indeed, be remembered fondly.
The war has also inspired our deep yearning for Mashiach. Never before had I, personally, been so convinced that this was “it.” The subtlest change – a sudden noise and any unusual piece of news sent me into a frenzy of adrenaline. Mashiach! Mashiach! Mashiach is really coming!
The signs were so convincing. It was the Three Weeks of mourning, the time we hope for the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash. Jewish love on one hand, and the odds against us on the other, were so great. Anti-Semitism reached an unbelievable peak. There seemed to be no more practical solutions to our centuries-old problem.
Early one Shabbos morning, just after my husband had left for davening (don’t things always happen then?), the floor under me began to quiver. Then the windows jumped. I shot out of bed. My first thought was that rockets were falling without any warning sirens. I felt sick to my stomach, sure that the Arabs had deactivated our siren system so no one would take cover. Again the windows trembled. Should I schlep my kids and run to our safe area? I groaned. I wanted just a little bit more of Shabbos quiet. But I didn’t have it anyway – the windows kept trembling, and so did I.
Then it hit me. This must be a sign of Mashiach! Something is happening. The world is shaking. I jumped up again, and now my knees were shaking too.
What should I do? Should I get dressed for Mashiach’s arrival? (But if it’s not Mashiach, then I’ll want to go back to sleep and will have to change back again…the sheer worry of it!)
In the midst of my excited thoughts, the trembling stopped, after almost an hour. Dejected and still wondering, I fell into bed and grabbed another few snatches of sleep.
Later, my husband reported that the shaking indeed reverberated all around the area, and that it was claimed to be vibrations caused by the huge bombing going on in not-so-far Gaza! This was chilling “regards” from our brothers and enemies down south. So the vibrations were the sounds of war, not Mashiach.
But I continued to wait. Mashiach was the topic at breakfast, lunch, and supper. (We discussed if I’d still need parenting classes when Machiach comes, or if I won’t, and then will my mentor return the money for the prepaid course? And what about my niece’s wedding in a few weeks from now? Would it be in the same hall or does another hall in Jerusalem have to be booked? And what about my plans of flying overseas? These were the burning issues.) I was certain we wouldn’t fast on Tisha B’Av, and even when the fast began, I waited breathlessly for the moment. I was grateful that the fast went well but frustrated as well. Now that the Three Weeks of mourning and the war have come and (almost) gone, where does that leave me?
I guess it leaves me to gather the precious war “spoils” of Jewish brotherhood and yearning for Mashiach and savor it in the long days ahead.Malka Katzman
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