Shloshim

by | Nov 7, 2023

Day 32

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.

The first seven days after a loved one has died (it actually begins when they are laid to rest) is called “shiva” which literally means “seven.” During that time, a person who has lost an immediate family member observes a long list of restrictions. After shiva, the shloshim are observed. The restrictions lighten up, but the mourner still refrains from doing many things that give them joy, including wearing new clothing, listening to live music, and attending social events. The whole country didn’t necessarily observe the restrictions of shloshim, but our entire country has had a somber cloud hanging over us. If you greeted people with a “How are you?” as is commonly done, rather than the usual, “Fine, and you?” you were more likely to get an “as good as can be expected,” or “like everyone” in response.

Not that the atmosphere has gone back to normal after reaching the 30-day mark – we are all still reeling from what has happened. And really, until the hostages are released and our soldiers are home, we will continue to be in a state of semi-mourning.

The truth is, that even once we get the hostages back and the war is over, nothing will go back completely the way it was. Which may not be an entirely bad thing. But we are changed. We are changed as a nation and as individuals.

But things are slowly changing in our everyday lives. Some stores, which have been operating on very limited schedules, due to a lack of manpower (with an extremely high percentage of our workforce being young men who have been called up, foreign workers who have left the country, and Arab workers who are either not allowed or choosing not to come to work) as well as security concerns, are starting to extend their hours a little. Food availability is still hit and miss, but the area that is most noticeable is in the produce aisle. We have a several-pronged issue – the farmers lack workers to harvest the produce, there aren’t as many trucks available for bringing the produce to the stores, and there aren’t enough workers to get the produce on the shelves. While this is an inconvenience for us consumers, who may have to alter our menu plans to adjust to what’s available, it’s a big problem for the farmers, who are not only losing their livelihood, but they have rotting produce still in the field – fields that need to be harvested and cleared for the next planting season, otherwise, the farmers will not have the crops planted in time to feed the country moving forward.

So, yesterday, it was announced on the news that a bunch of “cowboys” from Montana and Arkansas are volunteering to come here and work the farms and help our farmers. Such an incredibly beautiful gesture. And say what you will about Jews and our caricature-esque cultural behaviors, we appreciate when people sacrifice to come to our aid. Not only are the cowboys going viral on social media, they are being treated like celebrities, with events in their honor, gifts, etc. Good for them. They deserve it.

Each day our regional council issues updates to let us know what is going on – anything relevant to the war, local violence or traffic issues to be aware of, local citizens who have fallen in battle, etc. Today’s update included a little bit of interesting information – in the past 30 days, the council has issued over 1000 resident permits for those applying for gun licenses. In Israel, private citizens are allowed to own guns, but they have to have a good reason. Good reasons include having a business that takes you to dangerous areas or living in an area that could be dangerous because of proximity to Arab villages. If you live in one of those areas, you not only have to provide proof of address but that you have permission to live there – that permission is issued by the regional council. Of the 1000 resident permits issued this month, 40% were to women.

There are likely 2 reasons for the huge percentage of applications being from women. First, with their husbands serving on the front, many women are feeling unable to protect their children should an attack similar to October 7th be attempted in our area. Second, a really high percentage of the men in our area already have guns, so most of those who don’t are women. One of those 1000 permits was mine. I used to have a gun, but let my license lapse. I’m getting older and wasn’t feeling the need for it as much as I had 5 years ago. October 7th changed that too.

My oldest son posts an update to our family group – “Thousands of Gazans are evacuating from the northern part of Gaza heading south with white flags, guarded by the IDF.” As we were preparing for our ground invasion, the IDF sent messages, made announcements, and dropped flyers instructing civilians to head south because we were coming in. What other army in the world announces an invasion ahead of time? It endangers the mission and the soldiers, giving the enemy information they need to prepare and set up booby traps, etc. But despite claims to the contrary, Israel does care about Gazan civilians. It’s Hamas that has been using civilians as human shields and not letting them get out of harm’s way. In fact, during the first attempts of Gazans to move south, Hamas had snipers along the route, killing people trying to make their way to safety. So now, Israel has set up a safe corridor for Gazan civilians to use, and we’ve lined the corridor with tanks – not to threaten or shoot at civilians – but to keep Hamas from killing them.

I find that I am less paralyzed than I was during the first few weeks of the war. I didn’t get nearly enough hours in at work for October, but now I am having more and more days where I can actually function and get a lot of work done. I’m also learning how to limit my reading of the news so that I don’t have any surprises that hit me in the face. I also think that at this point, we’ve learned the extent of the horrific details from October 7th – there’s really not so much left to surprise and shock us. And while I hold out hope that the hostages will all be returned alive, and soon, I’m somewhat prepared for whatever news may come out about them.

After work, my husband and I were having dinner when suddenly the home front command app on my phone began making loud noises and flashing the flashlight on the phone (that’s what it’s supposed to do if there’s an emergency alert for my location). I started freaking out – oh no, is there a terrorist infiltration? A long-range missile from Lebanon? What’s happening? So, I opened the app, and it turns out it was an “alert” to iPhone users that the app would be updating during the night and they wouldn’t receive any alerts during that time, so they should make alternate plans for emergency information. Well, I probably don’t need to tell you that I thought my heart was going to jump right out of my chest. It took me a few minutes to calm down after I realized it wasn’t important. I know I’m not the only one. That wasn’t their best plan.

And that’s something that I don’t think anyone who doesn’t live here can even wrap their brain around. Yes, where I live is no longer under threat of rocket fire on a daily basis (there are still those in the country who are), but you never know when that could change. You never know when there might be a terrorist attack on the road, or when a few thousand pro-hamas Arabs from a local village might decide to infiltrate a community. You just never know. So we are all living on the edge, in a state of hyper-awareness, ready to act at a moment’s notice. Living 24/7 in fight-or-flight mode is not healthy, humans are not designed for this.

Written by Penina Taylor

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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