The past three weeks, we have worked hard to stay strong, and this week was no different, packed tightly with emotion. I’ve turned to breathing exercises, to try to manage the feelings I’ve experienced this week: fear in the face of joy, deep sadness in the face of pride.
My 3-year-old daughter, Ofir, managed to express her mixed feelings with impressive purity and innocence (about which I could write a book), in a conversation we had a few days ago:
“Mommy, you know what? Yesterday I met Fear,” she said.
“What does Fear look like?” I asked.
Confidently, having survived her encounter with him, she said “He looks like a monster THIS BIG.”
“And what did you tell him?”
“I told him to go away.”
“Did he go away?”
“Yes . . . but he didn’t really want to go away.”
“So what happened to him?” I asked.
“In the end we all went downstairs, and there was a birthday party with Hello Kitty cakes, and balloons, and a magician, and surprises, and a lot of children..."
Ofir went on, describing her birthday party that we recently held despite the situation, in a shady spot in our neighborhood, near a “protected area.” Sweet Ofir, who is only three years old, and who has already met “Fear.”
For at least a little while, Mr. Fear was banished, and we felt great happiness instead.
The waves of emotion ebb and flow, and they hit me again when we visited injured soldiers at the Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva. They were “lone soldiers,” immigrants who came here to Israel to build their lives, and to serve the IDF in combat.
The halls of Soroka are filled with the goodness of the State of Israel. Home-cooked food, chocolates, baskets wrapped in colorful cellophane, packages of clothes, toiletries, drawings by children, prayer books with written dedications to the soldiers, too many gifts to describe. Every available space contains a bear hug from someone trying any way he can to thank these children who put on IDF uniforms and, with feelings of love, and connection, and a huge responsibility on their shoulders, went out to protect our home at an intolerable price.
Who can keep a dry eye in the presence of a mother whose son is in intensive care, and his condition is unclear? Or a family whose son just woke up after complicated head surgery, opened his eyes, and recognized his mother standing next to him?
I visited these lone soldiers together with Mira Keidar, the Jewish Agency Director of Social Services , so we could express our support, give them gifts (backpacks containing supplies and gift vouchers), and find out what they need and how we can assist them – including assisting their families, who have come from abroad to be with their loved ones.
We met with the mother of a lone soldier from France, who was badly injured. His mother rushed to be with her son, straight from Paris to Soroka hospital, and now must deal with the fact that her son has been injured, while living in a strange environment.
Our eyes have not even dried from all the sadness, when they are filled again with tears of pride, because we are here, and we are part of the big hug that is the State of Israel.