Day 8 – Shabbat
Friday night. Shabbat. Shortly before setting my phone up for the special shabbat-during-war mode, I noticed that people were suggesting lighting an extra two candles for the women who were in captivity or serving on the front lines, who wouldn’t be able to light candles for themselves. I decided not only to do that but to also light a yahrzeit candle.
A yahrzeit candle is a long burning (they come in 24, 48 and 72 hour varieties) candle which we light when someone close to us has died. We also light them on the anniversary of their death and on 4 biblical holidays when the prayer service includes a section specifically for those who have lost a close relative.
I’ve decided I’m going to keep a yahrzeit candle burning until all of the hostages are released. There was a meme going around social media that said if you are a Jew who lives outside of Israel and someone asks if you have any family in Israel, the correct response is, “yes, seven million of them.” When push comes to shove, and it often does in families, we are all family.
Before lighting my candles, I light the yahrzeit candle. And the tears start to flow. I light my shabbat candles, but as I light the two candles for the other women, I just can’t make the blessing. I have no words left, only tears. It’s hard being a person who can easily feel what others might be feeling in a situation. I guess the positive side of that is that I can rest assured I’m not a psychopath. I silently ask God to watch over my son and my SIL, and the women for whom I am lighting shabbat candles for, and…the…yahrzeit…candle. I’m done.
My husband is at prayer services and will be at least an hour. For tonight’s meal we are alone, and I’m okay with that – I need to decompress. My phone is “on” but it is in the bedroom with the ringer turned up in case there’s an emergency call I need to answer. But it’s in the bedroom, so for now I am without screens, without social media, without the news, without the constant updates and without the buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz that has punctuated my life for the past week. Has it really ONLY been a week? As my daughter said, this week has been the longest two months of my life.
I decide to take out a novel I’ve been reading. During the week I don’t really have time to indulge in fiction, but on Shabbat I allow myself that little indulgence. As it turns out I am able to lose myself a little in the book and for the next hour I am not thinking about war.
Shabbat dinner when it’s just the two of us is quiet. We talk and we bounce thoughts off each other. There’s actually not that much to say that hasn’t been said during the past 7 days. After dinner and a little more reading we head off to bed. And I sleep.
This is the first full night’s sleep I’ve gotten this week and I wake up feeling somewhat refreshed. After coffee and a short but heart-felt conversation with the One who is overseeing this mess, I start getting ready for lunch. It’s actually more like brunch here in Israel. The Shabbat morning prayer service is over around 10:30, so lunch is usually around 11. Today it goes a little longer because they’ve added in the recitation of some Psalms for all our people who are in harm’s way – soldiers and civilians alike. We are having my DIL and kids for lunch. My daughter is eating at her in-laws, who also live in the same village we do. As I’m writing this I’m actually a little sad that my other two sets of kids don’t live here, too. I know it’s old-fashioned – older than I am, in truth, but I love the idea of us all being physically so close. I can’t judge, though, when my husband and I got married, we moved a few thousand miles away from our parents. This is the normal way of things nowadays. Adult children make adult choices and sometimes (often) that means moving away.
Anyway, neither of the girls wanted to eat alone while their husbands were away so they did Friday night dinner together and then each with their in-laws for lunch. As it turns out, my SIL got a last-minute pass to come home for Shabbat, which was good for the family, but I can’t imagine it will be easy to go back on Sunday morning.
Lunch is beautifully loud and chaotic. Grandchildren are life. Today, though, they are having a hard time. Not having their father around for a week is hard enough, but this isn’t the first time they’ve had to deal with that – reservists have to go on exercises once a year – but this week is different. There’s just something in the air. I want to call it stress, but maybe it’s all that audio “smog” from the planes, rockets and bombs combined with the emotional “smog” of the situation. We all feel it, even when we don’t think about it. Even when we don’t have sirens. Everyone is on edge. Adults manage to keep it mostly inside, for better or worse. But kids – they reflect it all back to us.
After a loud and chaotic lunch, my DIL takes the kids home and I try to take a nap. I end up reading for a few hours and only nap for about 15 minutes, but that’s fine. Any longer and I’ll have trouble sleeping tonight, and I do not need that.
For the evening meal, my daughter and her family come to us. Friday night and Shabbat morning meals are fancy – they are supposed to be a festive meal (think Thanksgiving dinner – yes, every. Single. Week.) But the evening meal is less formal. I reheat some leftovers from the other two meals on the warming tray (we don’t cook on shabbat), and cut up some veggies. The mood is somber. I want to talk. I need to talk. Probably, I talk too much and I know it was too much for SIL. It was probably too much for the little ears listening as well, but it’s so easy for me to talk with my daughter. Still, I realize after they leave that I really shouldn’t have talked quite so much.
As shabbat is ending, I am grateful for the 25 hour respite. Shabbat is 25 hours, not 24 because there’s about an hour between when the sun starts to set and when it is completely set, so we keep that hour as shabbat on both sides of the day. It’s often referred to as an “island in time”. This week it was an oasis. I needed it, and am grateful for it.
After Shabbat I check my phone to see what’s been going on. My sister-in-law has messaged the family asking for a check-in. It’s so interesting how a war designed to destroy us has managed to bring our nation together as well as families. I’ve spent more time talking to my sisters-in-law in the US this week than in the past 10 years combined. It’s terrible circumstances, but feels nice to be connected to family.
My son, who is in the north, updates us that Hezbollah attacked Israel from Lebanon during the day and his unit took care of the problem. His shabbat was not quiet. But I am glad to hear he’s fine. He also informs us that the military is preparing for an extended war (not one of those six-day things of the past) and so they are working on rotating the guys out so they can be with their families every other week or so. He says he may be able to come home on Tuesday. I can’t wait to hug him.
Written by Penina Taylor
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Is that thunder? I think that might be thunder. Or is it an explosion? Or is it just the kids upstairs playing? People who have never lived in a war zone, under the threat of missiles impacting their homes, have no idea what it is like to live in a constant state of hyper-awareness. Is that the beginning of a siren? Do I need to run to the safe room? Oh, no, it’s a whiny motorcycle. Is that Arab in my grocery store carrying a knife? Or is she a person I can trust? Is that Palestinian car slowly pulling up beside me trying to pass, or am I about to be shot at? Are those Arab kids on the side of the road just hanging out, or am I about to have a Molotov cocktail thrown at my car?
It’s been a full month since the massacre. The country is in mourning. Yesterday marked the end of “shloshim,” the traditional 30 days of mourning that a family observes after the death of a loved one. Only this time, it isn’t only those who have lost an immediate relative who have been morning for 30 days, it’s been the entire country. Because, when you attack our people, you attack every last one of us.
No, really. I mean it. This piece will trigger you if you are even 10% human.
I haven’t been writing much this week, which is a good sign, I guess. It means that for those of us who don’t live near the front lines, life is slowly returning to some version of normal. Many businesses are still open shortened hours because of a lack of manpower, and there’s still the business of our community asking for volunteers – physical and financial resources – to help soldiers, soldier’s families, displaced families, massacre victims, etc. But the kids are in school, most of us are working (at least those of us fortunate enough to be able to) and life goes on.
We are home again. Our visit to the Kinneret was odd.
It was quieter up there. The sounds of action to the north were absorbed by the mountains that surround the sea. Every so often you could hear muffled sounds, but not much at all. Most of the sounds at the resort were the sounds of children playing.
It never ceases to amaze me how resilient children are. Children live in the moment. They weren’t home, but they made “here” their home. They ran, swam, and rode scooters. They played. Even in the midst of war, even while evacuated from their homes and squashed into one room for the whole family, children play. It’s what they do.
It’s shabbat morning. The resort, which is filled to capacity with evacuees from the North, doesn’t appear to have organized a morning prayer service. My husband trots off to the designated “synagogue” to go see if there is anyone praying there. He decided that even if there isn’t an actual service, that he would do his Shabbat morning prayers there, as there is a concept in Judaism that certain places have an inherent holiness to them, and a place where there is a Torah scroll, or where people have regularly had prayer services, is one of those inherently holy places. Besides, as lovely as our bungalow is, it’s very small and I’d be in his way, and probably a distraction. While he’s at the synagogue, I grab a cup of cold tea and go sit at the table in front of the bungalow to meditate. I’d like to call it prayer, but most of the time it’s more of a one-sided conversation. We are really very fortunate as our bungalow faces the water, so sitting there is definitely a spiritual experience. As I sat there, admiring the beauty and the deceptive peacefulness of the lake, I start my conversation with the Creator of it all. “Why, oh why, did You create humanity with the capability of such evil?”
It’s finally Friday. Today is the day that we are going up to the Kineret for our weekend getaway. But before we do that, we are going out for our usual Friday morning breakfast. Only today, we have a small guest with us. Last night our DIL mentioned that with her husband away, she hasn’t really been able to give the apartment a good cleaning and was wondering if we would be willing to take one of the kids so she can try to get some work done in the house. We agree to take her middle son – he just turned 7 – to breakfast and shopping with us this morning.
I’m still reeling from the things I read yesterday evening. Sleep last night was intermittent and fitful. I suppose I should be grateful for the fact that I almost never remember my dreams. Although, I do remember waking up many times during the night. It wasn’t anything specific, I just think that at this point my nervous system is so overwhelmed by the constant anxiety that it doesn’t seem to know how to relax anymore.
It’s Wednesday morning. Shopping day. This is the third shopping day since the war began. Our local supermarket – a large grocery store and part of a country-wide chain, serves the region where I live. This consists of approximately 80,000 – 100,000 Jews, in about 20 communities. I have no idea how many Arabs live in the area, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a similar number.
Except for the rare terrorist attack, Jews and Arabs in our area interact and live side-by-side not only without incident but without hatred. No, in general, we don’t socialize with each other, but we ride the bus, go grocery shopping, clothes shopping, eat out, see movies, and do all those public things in the same places, giving an occasional smile or friendly hello and being polite. In fact, in general, in my community, I’ve observed that Arabs and Jews interact more politely than many of the people in New York. So much for apartheid.
When I was a child I remember milk cartons sometimes being printed with the picture of a missing child. The idea being that if enough people saw the picture, maybe someone would remember their face and recognize them if they see them somewhere and help in recovering the child.
This week Israel’s main milk producer, Tnuva, did something similar, with the pictures of the 212 known hostages. It says on the box, “Kidnapped” (on the top) and underneath the pictures it says, “kidnapped since Sat, Oct 7th” “last seen in Western Negev” and 1-BRING-THEM-HOME. While posting their faces on the carton may not make them come home any quicker by being recognized, it’s a reminder that there are real people – A LOT of real people – suffering, being held hostage. More than 20 of them are children, some babies. Many of them are elderly, not capable of enduring the same hardships a younger adult can…
I’ve gotten behind again on my journaling. When a wound is fresh, when the anger is sharp, it’s easy to express yourself. The burning inside acts as a propellant for the words to come out. But as time goes on the fire gives way to hot coals and what remains where the burning used to be is exhaustion. I am so tired on so many levels, sometimes I feel like I have to push the words out like trying to roll a boulder uphill.
A new week has begun.
Before the war began, and before the Fall holidays, my daughter and I had the custom of spending an hour together every Sunday morning to have coffee and chat. We’ve been doing it for years. Over the holidays, we paused our weekly coffee date because the kids were all home and it was just too difficult for her to get out. The war extended that hiatus. But today we are finally getting together for coffee. I really treasure this time together, and in many ways I feel like my daughter is my best friend.
Buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz
I had shut off do not disturb mode from my phone so that if the security needed to send emergency instructions, I would get the call. I still haven’t figured out how to do the configurations correctly so that the things I want to come through will and the things I don’t want to come through won’t. Maybe by the time the war is over I’ll have it all figured out.
It’s 3am and the buzzing of a rocket alert wakes me up. Boom. I hear the booms. In the end it turns out that the rockets were over on the coast, near Gaza. I did a little research and according to what I found, I shouldn’t be able to hear the booms all the way over here, but I do. My husband thinks my research was faulty. It’s very possible. But I heard the booms and then drifted back off to sleep.
Hard to believe that this has now been going on for two weeks. It’s Friday, and time for us to get ready for shabbat.
I look over to the shelf where I light my shabbat candles. The seven-day candle I lit on Wednesday is still burning and I am reminded that no, it’s not over yet. We still have no knowledge about the condition of our hostages, the red cross has made no effort to see them.
When I woke up this morning and checked my phone, I was shocked to find that there hadn’t been any rockets fired from Gaza since 10:00 last night. In fact, the first alarm today wasn’t until after noon. I’m guessing that we must have done a reasonably good job at destroying their terror infrastructure. But maybe I spoke too soon. Buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz…
Boom. That was close. But we didn’t get any sirens.
Wednesday morning, shopping day. This week venturing out to go grocery shopping at our local supermarket wasn’t as scary as the previous week. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly a frightening situation can become “normal” given enough time. Wow, just saying that to myself is a different kind of frightening. No one should have to get used to rockets going boom overhead, or the threat of violence in the streets. No one should have to get used to not knowing if food they need for their children will be available when they get to the store. No one. And while I’m writing this I’m thinking about the people who live in Gaza…
I wake up feeling more focused today, I think it’s going to be another productive day. I’ve fallen behind on my blog posts, and I’m getting messages from people who say they really appreciate them, so I should keep writing. Well, when you put it that way…
It’s Tuesday. My SIL went back to base on Sunday morning. I know it’s only been a few days, and he’s working in a logistics unit now – which can be stressful at times, for sure, but he’s not in the same kind of stressful situation he was last week. I’m relieved about that, but still feeling like I want him to know how much he is loved and how much we care about him.
I’m finally sleeping better. I guess in some ways I’ve grown a little numb to the buzzing of my phone and the horrors of last Shabbat have begun to get duller around the edges – if that’s a thing. It appears that the massacre was so horrific that it’s caused global leaders’ humanity to overtake their normal apathy and even bias against Israel, meaning that we are getting support (or at least not being condemned) in ways that Israel has never before experienced. So I guess I’m not feeling the threat of complete annihilation the way I was last week, and that’s relieved some of my anxiety. Last week I was paralyzed, this week I’m just very (very) distracted.
After a pretty restful shabbat, for which I am very grateful, I wake up ready to start the week. Or so I think. In Israel the weekend is Friday and Saturday (Shabbat) instead of Saturday and Sunday, so Sunday is the first day of the work-week. One of the few things I actually do miss from the US is having Sunday off. Somehow, even when I had to work on Fridays, I managed to get ready for Shabbat and then I had Sunday off. It’s good to have a day between Shabbat and the work-week. In Israel, it’s different. Friday, which should be like Sunday, isn’t really a day off if you are religious because there’s always the looming deadline of sunset when everything has to be ready for Shabbat. In spite of my best efforts to start the week off being productive, there’s a million other things vying for my attention…
I wake up and check my phone. No sirens since 1am. That might be a record since the war began.
Normally, on Friday morning, my husband and I go out for breakfast. Friday is a day off in Israel, and being without small children at home, this is something we can do. It’s our sacred time. We’ve always advised married couples, young and old, that they must make time for each other. Date night – once a week or at least once a month is a necessity, not a luxury. Being a little on the older side, I find the idea of going out in the evening exhausting, just the thought of it. So we decided that instead of date night, we’d have date breakfast. Sometimes we have friends join us, sometimes we have family join us – like last week. It was my birthday on the secular calendar, so all the kids in the area (not our one set of kids who live in the center of the country, because it’s just too hard). It seems like months ago, not a week.
I’m still having issues with sleeping, but I managed to get almost 6 hours last night. That’s not bad, honestly.
First thing I do is check my phone. Is everyone ok? And then the news sites. And then I make a mistake that I make over and over again – I check social media.
On my Instagram feed there’s a famous speaker and author that I really respect speaking out about what’s happened here. Amazing. I knew this guy was great. But then I make the real mistake. I look at the comments. NEVER ever look at the comments. I know this. I know there’s a lot of awful people out there.
Every Wednesday morning my husband and I go grocery shopping early, so we can avoid the crowds, get in and out quickly and get back home in time to start our work day. I wasn’t sure we’d be able to go shopping this morning. But we are fortunate, our local supermarket is open and relatively well stocked, all things considered.
What was that? I mean, obviously it was some sort of aircraft, but it was really REALLY loud. At 3:15 in the morning, I had only had a few hours sleep, but the jet passing overhead sounded like it was close enough to scrape our apartment building. Ok, well, maybe if I don’t think too much I can get back to sleep. After all, I haven’t actually had a good night’s sleep in several days now.
I closed my eyes and had barely drifted off to that place that feels so good when I was awakened again by a very loud jet. This one wasn’t as close as the first one, but super loud. Enough louder than the air traffic we’ve been hearing 24/7 for the past 3 days that it woke me up. I squinted to check the time, without my glasses on, and really still ¾ asleep, that was not an easy task…3:18. Wait…what? Only three minutes since the last one? I must be mistaken.
I managed to get a few hour’s sleep. Not enough to function well, though. I’ve got to get more work done or this month is going to be hard in more ways than one. I check Facebook again to see if I can mark myself safe in the crisis – this will help lower the amount of people asking me if we are okay. I appreciate the concern, and it’s heartening knowing that so many people care about my welfare, but it’s hard to answer everyone. Facebook still hasn’t listed the war as an option and I am livid. There are ways of doing this that don’t have to be about “taking sides”, but ignoring the situation is abominable. Nope, still no option.
Drawn like a moth to light, I cannot put down my phone. I cannot shut down my computer. What’s the latest count? Who has been found? The booms continue, although much more distant now. The buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz of my phone has a few more minutes between each set. But it’s 1:30 am and I have to work in the morning. So reluctantly I head to bed. Sleep is fitful, but I’m exhausted.
I get up, get dressed, as usual. I get my coffee and sit down to work. One website…just one…no, I need to work. I try to work. But websites and LinkedIn profiles seem so trivial at the moment. I am so distracted.
It’s Saturday morning, Shabbat, but also the last day of the festival of Sukkot in Israel, called Shemini Atzeret and also Simchat Torah. This is the day we celebrate the greatest gift God gave to the Jewish people (and the world, really). I’m laying in bed and my phone begins to buzz – buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz.