Sirens in Israel, Make Me Grind My Teeth.


A difficult road… to peace
Image: Principessa

Let me be very clear at the outset of this post: I refuse to get into the politics of this situation. This is a tale from the Mother land, not a story of sides. It’s hard to discuss Israel and Palestine without taking sides, or talking politics… unless your child is living there. Frankly, the politics, which are stated and restated on the news— hour by hour— are inescapable, but to a mother’s heart it is really only about whether my baby is safe. Of course, that is not purely true either. There are mothers and children on both sides, and when I’m thinking of my own child, it’s impossible not to think of all the others. The images of the civilians, on both sides, remind me that there are plenty of mothers and children worrying like me. I think of my girl, and the others, but not the politics.

In our house, it is nearly impossible to discuss Israel and Palestine, and keep things calm. It’s been that way for all of my children’s lives. Peace in the Middle East, only existed way back when Smart Guy and I were first dating… it was a tenuous thing even then, but it hadn’t always seemed that way—it does not exist at our dinner table. When I was in college, I told everyone I knew that I wanted to go to Israel and live on a kibbutz. It sounded so exotic, so unique. I knew a few people who had done it, and the idea was incredibly romantic. Today, my daughter would find that hard to believe, as she begs me to visit and I stall. Instead, I graduated college, fell in love and went to grad school. In the mid-80s bombs began to go off in market places in Israel, and it looked a lot less exotic to me.

Instead of going to Israel I married a Jewish man, and my kids have gone to Israel. They have been raised on a very different image of Israel, a political and religious image. It has not been the foreign, mysterious place to them, that it was to me. They’ve never mentioned kibbutzes, but both Middle Man and Principessa have gone on Birthright trips (a program that pays for Jews around the world, to visit their “home” in Israel), and our daughter spent an entire year of college studying there. My daughter, who is nearly 23 now, has spent nearly two years there in the past four years. She loves Israel and imagines living there full time at some point. This year she is there studying religion and following her own dreams.

Jerusalem, the city my girl loves
Image: Principessa

So, as things have amped up this week between Israel and Palestine, just as things have done in the Middle East for a couple of years now—the “Arab Spring” blooming all over the region— I began watching the news a lot more. Yesterday, I found myself turning on the news throughout the day. I was grateful when my girl called to say that her school group was headed back to Jerusalem, out of harm’s way. Out of harm’s way? Smart Guy reminded me that Jerusalem and Gaza are not that close. “Imagine if this was happening in Seattle?” Uh, I’d rather not. If this was happening in Seattle, we might not fear for our lives, but we’d certainly feel it. We’d be very uneasy. “But it’s not that close. We wouldn’t be very worried.” Really? Really! I tried to eat my dinner despite my rising sense of unease. It’s hard to argue his rational positions against my gut anxiety. But I do.

First of all: The distance from Seattle to where I live is more 89 miles. Jerusalem to Gaza is 48 miles. I looked it up. Twice. I’m not a math person; so for me that is basically half the distance. Forty-eight miles is not far. It is not far at all, when missiles and my child are used in the same sentence. Second of all: he is not her mother. We are wired differently, and not just because I have hot flashes and a womb; though I believe the womb trumps all. That is my baby, my girl over there, and they are firing missiles in her direction. After Smart Guy assured me that Hamas couldn’t really “reach very far,” I woke to news this morning that there is smoke just south of Jerusalem and Hamas claims that they fired the rocket that caused that smoke. Hello! My womb aches and I’m grinding my teeth.

People who live in Israel see all of this very differently. My daughter sees this very differently. They live with this situation all year, whether it makes the news or not. The are savvy; they are practical; they do not grind their teeth… they go about their business and are aware of their surroundings. My daughter has told me countless times: “It’s much bigger in the news there (here) than it is here (Israel). We are fine.” She is her father’s daughter in so many ways. In December, Smart Guy will travel there to visit our girl. We both wanted to go, but we have another child at home and only one of us can be there at once. I’ ll be taking care of Hanukkah and holiday preparation here.  I’ll be relieved that he’s with her, but worrying that they are both there.

My superstitious nature it getting the best of me, in my anxiety. I dial my girl’s number and a message in Hebrew tells me to leave a message. Why isn’t she answering her cell? Where the hell is she? My eyes fill with tears as the sirens blare on the news. My baby can hear them I’m sure. As sense of panic rises in me, and my mind goes to dark, dark places. I tap on the table. Then I remember that with the time difference, it is now dark there; it is Shabbat, the sabbath. Her cell phone is turned off. She will not turn on her computer, her TV or electronics until sundown on Saturday. I should do the same. Turn it all off. The CNN updates are not easing my mind; the images from there do not bring me peace. Thoughts run through my mind and I knock on the (wood) table beside me. I put on my angel necklace, given to me by my aunt for troubling times. When any one of us needs it, we call an “Angel Alert,” and I know that several woman I love, and who love my girl, will wear their necklaces too. Superstition. I know that wrapping my knuckles on tables and door frames will not keep anyone safe. It’s hard to believe that this delicate necklace will have any concrete impact. But both ease my mind, a bit. That is something for now.

I am not immune to the politics. They are central, key, to what is happening there. However, in the midst of all this, I want only to know that my child is ok and that my friends there and those they love, are safe. My views do not sit easily at our dinner table; I feel alliances to both sides. There are mothers and fathers, children and loved ones on both sides, that are suffering—as the soldiers on both sides soldier on. Missiles are being fired from both sides, and that can only cause loss on either side. Each loss is paramount to a mother and father on either side. As I knock wood, and grind my teeth, there are Palestinian and Israeli parents, who have much greater cause for sleepless nights.  My womb cries: Can’t you all just play nicely? You don’t have to like each other, but try to get along. As foolish as tapping the table.

Singing Matisyahu and hoping for a good outcome. One Day, one day.  Jerusalem.

About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
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22 Responses to Sirens in Israel, Make Me Grind My Teeth.

  1. Susan Chase-Foster says:

    Beautifully written, Dawn. My heart aches for you and for the dangerous and exhausting conflict that your daughter is living so close to.

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  2. I’m aching for you too and so understand. Enough to make us all pray a bit! Not kidding.
    Yeah the whole mother /father wiring is annoying at times. Thinking of you.

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  3. Oh, Dawn. I will keep your family in my prayers. I can only imagine what you must be feeling.

    During the summer months I met a lovely Jewish woman (I won’t tell you that I met her at a Mitt Romney Rally- I’ll leave that part off) Anyhoo… she was telling me that she visits Jerusalem once a year and that she always feels perfectly safe. Like your daughter, she said it was her favorite city. She talked about it with such love that I was ready to ask to her to make me an itinerary, right then and there. I’ve never been but I’ve always desperately wanted to go. Her attitude about the fighting and potential danger was very casual, dismissive almost. This must be some of what your daughter is feeling. I guess we do make it big news over here? Maybe it’s been going on so long there that they’ve learned to live without the tension? I don’t know.

    Your daughter is happy and in the place she loves. Given the little I know, and the people I’ve talked to over the years, I think she’ll be just fine. I know there’s no way to ease a mother’s worry, so just know that I join you – mom to mom. 🙂

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    • Thanks Lisa. I hear that a lot, though the fighting does not usually get this close to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I will be glad when I talk to her, and I hope things are resolved peacefully for all involved. Not likely, but a mother can hope. Thanks for your thoughts.

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  4. kjlangton says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us…very powerfully written. ❤

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  5. Maryanne says:

    Thinking of you every time I listen to the news and how much harder it must be for you. My heart reaches out…

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  6. My heart goes out to you and mothers (and fathers) everywhere who, with justification, worry about their children. My youngest is about the same age as your daughter, and I worry about her, too, and she doesn’t even live near a war zone. I think its impossible to completely let go as our children grow, especially in a world that seems so different, maybe not as safe as the one we grew up in. But then my parents wanted to build a bomb shelter in our back yard.
    I have to remind myself this is their time, and they are much better equipped to deal with this world at this time than I am. That’s not very comforting, is it? And I meant for it to be. Let me just say I know we did our jobs as parents well enough to equip our children to face whatever they must. We did, didn’t we?

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    • Your comment is indeed reassuring. Thank you! You’re right, our children are much better equipped to deal with the world today, than we are. That is a reassuring though, and I am indeed proud of how she was raised and who she is. I appreciate the sound, and caring feedback. Many thanks Mike.

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  7. I can’t watch the news without thinking of your daughter. Hopefully she’s safe and sound. Just know that my thoughts are with you.
    Lisa

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    • Thanks Lisa. She is as safe as any other Israeli, living in Jerusalem. She points out that that is safer than most people in major US cities, but that doesn’t sound good to me. Ugh. Thanks for the kinds thoughts and support.

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  8. Cory Skerry says:

    Best wishes. I think the feeling of helplessness is one of the worst. As a writer, I always try and channel that nervous energy into writing, but I confess about half the time it turns into manic cleaning binges. In fact, I actually came to your blog since I might see you tomorrow at the Bellingham Writers Group meeting, expecting the typical writerly updates of “I wrote 2K today!” and such. Instead, I was given the profound gift of this intimate peek at what it’s like to experience maternal love and worry. Thank you for sharing.

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    • I am so glad you took the time to read some of my posts and comment. Thanks for the feedback and support Cory. I write a lot more about what’s happening in my world, than I write about my writing. As for manic cleaning, well… I’m falling behind in that. You can come spend your energy on my mess any time! 😉 Thanks for stopping by.

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  9. Valery says:

    This must be why you’ve been writing up a storm. I feel a little sliver of your angst every time I turn on the news. The maternal instinct may adapt to the older, independant child but it certainly doesn’t disappear (or diminish!) What can I wish you, only strength and a whole lotta luck! ❤

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  10. etomczyk says:

    I dropped by specifically to find out how your baby was doing. Everytime I’ve seen something on the news about the on-going turmoil and the tremulous cease-fire, I’ve prayed for peace and for your daughter. Hang in there, Mommy, and keep writing because I think it can’t help but deal with the universal anguish that all mothers feel at one time or another when their children sprout their wings and engage in their destiny. Maybe someday you and your daughter can write a story or book about this time (alternating chapters) of your different perspectives of her in the midst of what she must consider a grand adventure and you representing every mother’s heart that is torn between letting go and wanting so desparately to pull her home. Take care. ET

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    • You are a good egg E! Thanks for caring and for keeping my girl in your prayers. I am always grateful for a well placed prayer 😉 The cease fire has been a big relief for us all, no doubt. I will try writing some more, but have been stuck lately with piles of distractions, and seem to not be writing much of anything. Smart Guy is flying over for a visit this Friday, and will spend Hanukkah with her. I hope to go in January… and hope even more that peace prevails, then and onward.

      As for a book by both of us… hmm… great idea, but we’ll have to see about that one! Thanks for your thoughtful comment and for taking the time to check in. xox

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