Israel at War: Calm Like a River

My dear son,

After weeks of resigning ourselves to the fact that you aren’t leaving Gaza anytime soon, we’ve just had some strange and exciting news: a break is in the works!

Of course, nobody knows anything for sure.  One mom in our WhatsApp group reported late last night that she spoke to those in charge (Matan? Adir?) and your battalion would probably be exiting Gaza this morning.  What would happen afterwards was a big question mark.  It was reported that you’d probably spend eight hours cleaning and organizing your weapons.  Then, they’d release everyone, either to one base or another…where you’d either be resting and going back in or dividing up and getting new assignments.  Only one thing seems to be certain: you won’t be coming home.  Aside from that, it’s all a big mystery. Nobody seems have any clue what’s going on, and the morning is almost over.  So, I’m guessing things are still not settled. No surprise there.

I know that you’ve experienced this Way of the Army World since your conscription.  Since the very first day, you never seemed to know exactly when you would get a long break, or what the conditions of the break would be.  Circumstances were always up in the air, changeable at a moment’s notice. I guess you’ve gotten used to that.

 If there’s anything this war has taught the rest of us, it’s how to deal with uncertainty.  We’ve learned to live life one moment at a time, at least as much as we can.  I know I’ve learned not to place too much weight on updates from your liaison or changing news headlines – they never come frequently enough and are almost always disconcerting.  There aren’t any really great updates, so it seems better to focus on the things in our lives that are good at that moment.  Why focus on the fact that you may come out of Gaza, but I probably won’t be able to see or hug you? That makes my heart hurt. Instead, I focus on the fact that you are currently okay.  I think about your siblings, who are generally healthy, happy, and doing well.  And I appreciate the many things in life that bring us blessing.

You are very good at this.  During our one real phone conversation from Gaza, I remember you reporting that you’d been listening to the radio in your Puma, the one we brought back from Savta and Papa’s house in New Orleans.  It sounded like you and your friends were just happy that you had some way to connect to the outside world, through music and talk show broadcasts.  I also remember what you said about your day: you described how you made an arduous and pointless trek to blow up tunnels (which turned out to just be some holes in the ground, no explosives required).  Afterwards, you got to hang out with some fifty-year-old reservists.  They were eating beets, and they shared some with you. “That was great,you reported. I could tell you were smiling.

I don’t remember you ever eating a beet in your life, but I loved that that made you happy.

I feel fortunate as a mother because I know you are a go-with-the flow kind of guy.  I have never had to worry much about you. You were the only one of our babies who managed to fall asleep anywhere, no matter what was going on.  You slept through our Aliyah flight at 8 months old, despite the relentless noise and chatter. Nobody else slept at all. At age four, you fell into a deep sleep on the floor of an extremely crowded and loud dining hall, during a weekend bar mitzva.  You were tired, there was no option for a bed, so you managed with the resources at hand. All the other guests looked on in awe.

No one else in our family is particularly go-with-the flow.  We pride ourselves on resilience, on quick pivots.  Surprise arrival of many guests? No problem! We will handle it.  Plans for the day were foiled? That’s okay, we’ll make new ones.  But it takes a lot of effort for all of us.  We are not particularly adaptable or flexible, at least not naturally. Nowadays, an uncertain life may be the reality for everyone.  But it’s never easy. You, on the other hand, seem like you’ve figured out how not to get attached to any particular set of circumstances.  You make plans, but you’re also flexible. Whatever happens, happens.

Today, our tentative plan was to attend a funeral, then deliver boxes and bags of supplies to the liaison for your unit.  Then, this morning, after waking up to the news of your possible release and reorganization, it seemed wise to wait on the supply delivery – better to get the stuff to your unit when solid plans were formed. 

The funeral was still on though.

Then again, we seem to be in the middle of some definite change.  Something new is in the air, and nobody is sure what to make of it. For weeks, the report from the front was: Doing good work in Gaza.  Morale is good.  No exit date planned.  Then the hostage deal made headlines.  We mothers assumed that surely, your battalion would be let out for a break.  But alas, we received the same update as always: Morale is good.  No exit date planned.

Now, on the fourth day of the planned hostage release, it seems that some sort of shift is happening.  We’re not sure whether your projected break is due to the sudden rainy weather or something more significant.  And we have absolutely no idea what will happen next.

I feel it in my chest: the stress, the unknown.  It feels tense and uncertain. When I feel this way, I take a deep breath and try to remember that God is in charge. If I believed that I had some sort of control before this war started, I know for certain that I have none right now.  The only thing I can really control is my attitude, my own mind.  If I let the unknown control my mood, my emotions, my thoughts, then the world will feel like a dark and scary place.  If, on the other hand, I focus in on the good, the joyful, the soothing, life will feel okay.  And that’s better for everyone.

Thankfully, you are a champion at self-regulation.  I feel certain that you are managing, whatever the circumstances out there. Never a complainer, you always seem to appreciate the good things around you, maybe more than anyone else I know.  You don’t let the difficult, the bad, or the unknown ruffle your feathers. Like a river, you are both steady and tranquil and also strong and determined.  Without worry or hesitation, you move forward through life with uncanny calm.

Today, it is pouring rain.  I’m listening to the music of falling raindrops outside as I sit inside our warm, pleasant home.  I know for a fact that you aren’t nearly as dry or comfortable as I am.  But I imagine that whatever life brings you today, you will take it in with the unwavering optimism and acceptance that you always seem to master.

I hope it brings a break from the front lines.

I can’t wait to see you or hear from you (whenever that will be).

 And I love you so, so much,


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