An Emotional No Man’s Land: Between Death and Life

1 Jul

Once again, it is a day of national mourning in Israel.  Yesterday we received the devastating news that the army found the bodies of the three kidnapped teens, Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel.

The news confirmed our worst fears. And thus, heartbroken, we as a nation begin the familiar process.

As I sat down to watch the news last night, part of this collective mourning, I received an SMS from a good friend announcing she had given birth “with love” to a girl.

I was expecting this news, and of course was very happy to hear it. Yet, it wasn’t real happiness. It was superficial. I couldn’t feel it. Stuck between this amazing, essential, life-sustaining news and TV images of West Bank fields, army troops, and vociferous politicians gesticulating and threatening, I didn’t know what to feel.  I wasn’t overwhelmed by two conflicting emotions; I was blank. I was in an emotional no man’s land.

I imagined my friend in the hospital with her husband, on a post-partum high, receiving the evening’s grim news. She should name her daughter after one of the boys, I thought immediately. Will she? What would I do? I wouldn’t. Why should I tie an innocent, newborn life irrevocably to national tragedy?

This isn’t the first time I have celebrated a life-cycle event while at the national, political level Israel mourned. In 2008, on the eve of another friend’s wedding, a Palestinian ran over several people and vehicles with a bulldozer, killing three before a bystander shot him. Back then, I thought how sad it was for my friend that her wedding was taking place on a day of national tragedy. However, Israelis more than anyone know how to carry on; the beautiful wedding went on as planned.

I also went to a wedding the night of the Mavi Marmara incident, feeling deep shame at my country for carrying out such a deadly and disproportional attack on the passengers of that boat, while revelers danced to happy music around me.

In fact, my friend who gave birth to her third child last night was married at the height of the Second Lebanon War, in a lovely ceremony, as soldiers died many kilometers to the North.

Today, though, I feel different. I am fed up with this emotional war. I used to think that I felt more alive in Israel because I experienced all the range of emotions in a dense and acute manner. After 11 years of living here, I am in emotional burn-out, unable to feel even the most basic, private joy of  a close friend on a day like this.

Enough. I want this to end.

This is a particularly vulnerable time for me; June is a month of mourning. My family and I mark my father’s sudden and untimely death 14 years ago in a laborious slew of depressing dates: the Hebrew anniversary of his death, the “real”anniversary of his death, my parent’s wedding anniversary, Father’s Day, the day of his funeral, etc.  Perhaps it’s because I have suffered premature grief that in the past I have empathized deeply with victims’ families, both Israeli and Palestinian. Untimely death is destructive and painful and unnecessary.

The boys’ murders are heinous and unforgivable. I extend my deepest condolences to their families, which will never be the same.

At the same time, the kidnapping was not unexpected. The Palestinians have lived for 47 years under Israeli occupation, in the midst of a complicated and bloody conflict.  Their lives are hindered and often destroyed by constant military operations, violence, and restrictions on the most basic daily acts such as working, going to a doctor’s appointment, or enjoying a good night’s sleep.

With the Israeli reaction underway, this latest round of violence will only push us deeper into the pit of death and mourning. When will both sides take the brave step of saying “enough”?

When will the national mourning ritual stop? When will we be able to rejoice about the important things in life?

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4 Responses to “An Emotional No Man’s Land: Between Death and Life”

  1. Zachi Dvira July 1, 2014 at 9:24 pm #

    “At the same time, the kidnapping was not unexpected. The Palestinians have lived for 47 years under Israeli occupation, in the midst of a complicated and bloody conflict. Their lives are hindered and often destroyed by constant military operations, violence, and restrictions on the most basic daily acts such as working, going to a doctor’s appointment, or enjoying a good night’s sleep.”

    And how do you explain the Palestinian violence before 1967 and before 1948?

    • perpetualnomad July 2, 2014 at 6:10 am #

      Zachi, the occupation of the Palestinians is an unsustainable venture. This reality of holding another people against their will cannot continue. Unfortunately, our government has ignored this fact and has instead laid the foundation for a one-state solution including Israel and the Palestinian Territories. This is a disaster on many levels.
      Palestinian violence before 1948 and 1967: there has been a violent conflict here for a century or more. As horrible and unjustifiable and unforgivable as the murders are, we cannot ignore the context behind it. We are in effect in a highly asymmetrical war with the Palestinians, and the longer the occupation continues the more the violence will escalate. At this point, it’s no longer important who started or the reason for it. This is the reality on the ground.

      • Zachi Dvira July 2, 2014 at 6:22 am #

        “the has been a violent conflict “. That’s a nice way to say that. Jews never initiated attacks against the local Arab residents. It was Arab violence against Jews, which gradually learned out to retaliate.
        The West bank occupation, was as a result of an Arab attack. Not something initiated by Israel. The failure to achieve peace with them is also because of their violence. Do you really think they will stop attacking us after a Palestinian state will be established in thr 1967 borders? Why aren’t the Palestinians rebelling against the Hashimite Occupation in Jordan?
        It’s not about Palestinians leaving under occupation, it’s about Jews controlling Arab land.

        Regarding your comment about being ashamed of Israel actions in the Marmara affair. This is the first time I hear an Israeli justifying the Turkish claims. Do you think that the soldiers should have retaliate with knifes when they were attacked with knifes just for the sake of keeping proportional measures? This is not a sport game it is about our survival!

      • perpetualnomad July 3, 2014 at 7:37 am #

        I have never before heard that this conflict is one-sided – clearly, there are two sides involved in initiating violence, one with a clear military, physical, and legal advantage over the other. What do you think about the occupation? Is it healthy? Is it good or beneficial for either side? Zachi, if you ignore the occupation and the reality on the ground for Palestinians by claiming that it is the result of attacks (of course the situation is very complicated and the result of many factors, not just one), then you ignore the suffering of millions of humans. We cannot hope for an end to the conflict while the occupation – and thus perpetual Palestinian suffering – continues.

        Mavi Marmara – if this is the first time you hear an Israeli condemning the attack, then I suggest you start reading more varied media outlets 🙂

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